Will the Draft Rise from the Dead?

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Nothing
works as well as a crisis, real or perceived, for bringing discredited,
seemingly moribund ideas back to life. A case in point is Charles
Moskos and Paul Glastris’s plea
(Washington Post, Nov.
4, 2001) for reinstatement of the draft. Not the old draft, of course,
but one tailored to our current “new kind of war.”

Moskos
and Glastris assert that the draft should be revived because during
the war on terrorism more people will be needed to perform dull,
security-related jobs, and not enough people will volunteer for
such employment. How do Moskos and Glastris know that ordinary incentives,
such as improved pay and benefits, would fail to bring forth the
requisite workers? Well, they don’t know, of course; but they have
no interest in finding out, either.

Their
not-so-hidden agenda becomes clear enough in their remarks about
the virtues of the draft in “unifying the country,” about participation
in “our shared national fate,” and about bringing Ivy Leaguers shoulder
to shoulder with less privileged youths. Social leveling, it would
appear, ranks so high that it trumps mere human liberty.

In
a backhanded recognition of the desire of contemporary Americans
for “choice,” Moskos and Glastris propose to satisfy that desire
by recommending a three-part draft in which the young men conscripted
would choose between the military, homeland-security jobs, and a
civilian national-service program. Some choice.

Moskos
and Glastris’s proposal raises several important questions, none
of which they see fit to consider. Perhaps in a followup article
they will tell us: Whatever happened to the idea that every person,
even a young man, has inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness? Whatever happened to the idea that a just
government is instituted to secure these rights, not to crush them
underfoot upon the earliest pretext? What exactly do we gain if
we can defend ourselves only by destroying the very heart and soul
of what it is about this country that deserves defending?

November
15, 2001

Robert
Higgs [send him mail] is
the editor of The
Independent Review
.

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