By Any Other Name…

Jonah Goldberg has sparked a minor blogospheric furor for a recent column in which he castigated Barack Obama, John McCain, and others for promoting a compulsory national service program, which he compared to slavery.

There’s a weird irony at work when Sen. Barack Obama, the black presidential candidate who will allegedly scrub the stain of racism from the nation, vows to run afoul of the constitutional amendment that abolished slavery.

For those who don’t remember, the 13th Amendment says: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime … shall exist within the United States.”

Most of the outrage directed at this column deals directly with these two paragraphs. And, frankly, I do think that Goldberg did employ some bad rhetoric here. But it’s bad rhetoric used to make an excellent point. Namely, that there’s something un-American about compulsory national service. As Goldberg points out:

In his speech on national service Wednesday at the University of Colorado, Obama promised that as president he would “set a goal for all American middle and high school students to perform 50 hours of service a year, and for all college students to perform 100 hours of service a year.”

Now, Obama’s plan, like most plans of this type, doesn’t outright mandate that all students perform national service. It merely makes such service a condition for federal education dollars. So in a technical sense, these types of plans probably don’t run afoul of the 13th Amendment. But they’re still pretty appalling, and I think that Goldberg does make an excellent point here:

This is the real problem with national service mania: It seeks to fix what ain’t broke. No, national service isn’t slavery. But it contributes to a slave mentality, at odds with American tradition. It assumes that work not done for the government isn’t really for the “common good.”

I agree with this sentence wholeheartedly. Both Obama and McCain’s service plans serve the nefarious idea that people ought to be forced to help somebody else, which is something that is anathema to the rights of “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” that this country was ostensibly founded upon. I can’t be the only one who shook his head in disbelief at John McCain’s essay about ‘patriotism, in which he said:

Patriotism is deeper than its symbolic expressions, than sentiments about place and kinship that move us to hold our hands over our hearts during the national anthem. It is putting the country first, before party or personal ambition, before anything. [emphasis added]

Yes, in John McCain’s worldview, country reigns supreme. Above religion. Above conscience. Above the human race as a whole. At least, that’s the conclusion you have to reach if you take his words at face value. But that’s the very ideology that drives the clamor for compulsory service–the idea that the lives of young people are not their own. That their dreams and their ambitions should be shunted aside in the name of some vaguely defined “greater good.”

Look, if a kid wants to spend 50 hours a year volunteering at a soup kitchen or building a house for habitat for humanity, then more power to him. If she wants to spend that time playing video games or basketball, or even *gasp!* holding down a part-time job well, that’s her choice, too. The point of America is that you got to make the choice about what you want to do with your life, not have some bureaucrat decide for you.

Clunky prose aside, I think that Goldberg was dead on in condemning compulsory service. It’s an antiquated, un-American notion that should by no means make its way into federal law.

FILED UNDER: Education, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    Most of the outrage directed at this column deals directly with these two paragraphs. And, frankly, I do think that Goldberg did employ some bad rhetoric here. But it’s bad rhetoric used to make an excellent point.

    Goldberg’s offense is saying something which shakes up the status quo… with something taht when analyzed fairly, is ultimately the correct thing to say.

  2. Boyd says:

    Regarding McCain’s patriotism quote, military folk have a somewhat different view of patriotism than a lot of other people, such as yourself, Alex. While I think “before anything” goes a bit too far, most of us are of the opinion that our patriotism puts our country before ourselves.

    You could even make the argument that for many of us who are serving or have served in the military, we put our country before even our families.

    You obviously view patriotism differently. *shrug*

  3. Alex Knapp says:

    Boyd,

    It’s worth mentioning that, by McCain’s definition (and apparently yours) of patriotism, then our founding fathers were traitors.

    Loyalty to one’s country is definitely an ethical good–to a point. But there are higher ethical considerations, considerations that one commits one’s “life, fortune, and sacred honor” to, regardless of national ties or loyalties.

  4. Michael says:

    Now, Obama’s plan, like most plans of this type, doesn’t outright mandate that all students perform national service. It merely makes such service a condition for federal education dollars. So in a technical sense, these types of plans probably don’t run afoul of the 13th Amendment. But they’re still pretty appalling, and I think that Goldberg does make an excellent point here:

    Wait, making people work for you before you give them money is appalling?

  5. Tlaloc says:

    I don’t get how you (or Jonah) can say that voluntary national service supports “a slavery mindset.”

    Slavery isn’t about serving others- it is about people being property. Period.

    Saying that a gentle encouragment to kids, to maybe think about being a tiny bit altruistic, will promote slavery is beyond a stretch. That rubber band is snapped.

  6. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    Does any federal government official understand that we have a Constitution which limits what the government can and cannot do? Where the hell is it written that it has the power to force anyone into do anything against their will?

    Bob Barr keeps looking better all the time.

  7. Michael says:

    Where the hell is it written that it has the power to force anyone into do anything against their will?

    Right next to where either candidate says they plan on doing exactly that.

  8. Alex Knapp says:

    I don’t get how you (or Jonah) can say that voluntary national service supports “a slavery mindset.”

    But that’s just it–it’s not voluntary national service that they support. It’s compulsary national service. There is a world of difference.

  9. mannning says:

    Some form of national service or NS has many benefits for the youth, including: 1)service to the nation; 2)a job right out of school; 3)exposure to many positive influences from contact with people, problems, and solutions; 4)the possibility of job training that would be useful for life; and 5)improved health of the individual.

    There is much merit in making NS a volunteer operation, rather than a compulsory effort, just as the Peace Corps is voluntary. This avoids the accusation of the NS being indentured servitude, while giving many of our young an opportunity they otherwise might not have,and avoids as well compulsory service in the armed forces. Perhaps a two-year stint would be appropriate.

    Besides, the number of students graduating per year is enormous–on the order of 4 million–which is rather daunting to contemplate organizing into service contingents everywhere.

    If just five or ten percent of these students volunteered for NS per year, we would have something like 400,000-to-800,000 NS members in service after four years, which is far more manageable. In fact, it might be necessary to limit the numbers!

    There is an enormous number of possible roles for NS contributions, some being benign, and some being dangerous(firefighting or police support, for instance). Enumerating them is an interesting exercise that I will post later.

  10. mannning says:

    Emphasis was on voluntary service, to repeat the obvious.

  11. Tlaloc says:

    Citizens face a responsibility to serve on juries, does that support “a slavery mindset”?

    What about a military draft? That’s certainly the closest modern analog to slavery (or indentured servitude). Should the next draft (if ever) be challenged on constitutional grounds?

  12. Tlaloc says:

    But that’s just it–it’s not voluntary national service that they support. It’s compulsary national service. There is a world of difference.

    but Alex you admit in the post-

    Now, Obama’s plan, like most plans of this type, doesn’t outright mandate that all students perform national service. It merely makes such service a condition for federal education dollars.

    It is *not* cumpulsary. It is an incentive plan. Do this and we give you that. Don’t do this and we don’t give you that. “That” isn’t something you need to live. That’s pretty much the definition of voluntary.

  13. Alex Knapp says:

    What about a military draft? That’s certainly the closest modern analog to slavery (or indentured servitude). Should the next draft (if ever) be challenged on constitutional grounds?

    Well, as policy, I vehemently oppose the draft, for the same reason I vehemently oppose compulsary national service.

    As for its constituionality, the draft has been challenged on 13th amendment grounds, but the Supreme Court found the draft constitutional. (see Arver vs. United States)

  14. Aaron says:

    It’s worth mentioning that, by McCain’s definition (and apparently yours) of patriotism, then our founding fathers were traitors.

    That’s true, but not terribly enlightening. By what definition were the founding fathers not traitors to the British crown?

  15. Alex Knapp says:

    It is *not* cumpulsary. It is an incentive plan. Do this and we give you that. Don’t do this and we don’t give you that.

    Not quite–the plans both state that, as a condition of receiving federal education dollars, educational institutions must compel service. This includes middle and high schools.

    In most states, school attendance is mandatory for all persons aged 16 and under.

    So for students aged 12-16, this is pretty much compulsory service, unless they are home schooled or attend a private school that receives absolutely no federal funds.

    For all other students, the “choice” is “pursue an education and perform mandatory service, or choose not to perform service and never achieve any degree higher than a GED.”

    So while this may not be compulsary service de jure, it’s certainly de facto compulsory service.

  16. Michael says:

    Not quite–the plans both state that, as a condition of receiving federal education dollars, educational institutions must compel service. This includes middle and high schools.

    We also make teaching a certain level of certain topics a condition of receiving federal education dollars. It could easily be argued that community service is an important aspect of a well-rounded education, certainly as important as physical education or sex education.

  17. Boyd says:

    Quite true, Aaron, and that was the first thing that came to mind when I read Alex’s response.

    But I think his point is deeper, more along the lines of “Our Founding Fathers damn sure didn’t put their country ahead of themselves when they started a revolution.” My response, though, is that allegiance to country is not the same as allegiance to government. Further, by the late 18th century, it was becoming pretty clear that “the colonies” were a different country from the mother country.

    So yes, things could go horribly awry such that I could conceivably break with whatever government was going off its rocker, but the situation we’re talking about (and living) here is not even in the same universe as something that bad.

  18. Michael says:

    But I think his point is deeper, more along the lines of “Our Founding Fathers damn sure didn’t put their country ahead of themselves when they started a revolution.” My response, though, is that allegiance to country is not the same as allegiance to government. Further, by the late 18th century, it was becoming pretty clear that “the colonies” were a different country from the mother country.

    In which case you’ve justified the secession of the Confederacy.

  19. Alex Knapp says:

    My response, though, is that allegiance to country is not the same as allegiance to government.

    To which I say, how would you define the term “country”?

  20. Tlaloc says:

    Again that seems pretty tenuous Alex.

    By what means are schools to compell students to service? They have no control over students outside of school or voluntary extracurriculars.

    As a side note, by your thesis isn’t *all* compulsive schooling then slavery, or at least supporting a slavery mindset?

    Do you have a link to the actual proposal so we can see what it says?

  21. Tlaloc says:

    In which case you’ve justified the secession of the Confederacy.

    I fully support any policy that involves the south leaving.

    Really- just let them go.

  22. Tad says:

    Frankly I think calling this slavery is pretty ridiculous. I see it as a pretty straight forward financial offer, you want money for the government then the government expects something fairly insignificant from you in return.

    In most states, school attendance is mandatory for all persons aged 16 and under.

    So for students aged 12-16, this is pretty much compulsory service, unless they are home schooled or attend a private school that receives absolutely no federal funds.

    If you see this servitude as slavery then surely school is easily argued to be the same forced service. The fact that schooling clearly benefits me makes it no less forced, I know I certainly didn’t want to go most days.

  23. Alex Knapp says:

    As a side note, by your thesis isn’t *all* compulsive schooling then slavery, or at least supporting a slavery mindset?

    Why yes, yes it does. I also oppose truancy laws–for the same reason.

  24. Tlaloc says:

    Why yes, yes it does. I also oppose truancy laws–for the same reason.

    Well, at least you are being consistent then 🙂

    Personally I still find it unconvincing.

    For one, and as much as people don’t usually like to consider it, before emancipation (note the term) a young adult is in fact property of their parents/guardians. Children do not have all the rights of adults and legally are more akin to animals than adults, i.e. living property which has certain guards against abuse but no real right to self determination. In that sense either we need to completely up end our current jurisprudence with regards to children or we implicitly accept that children are not covered by the 13th (not to mention most of the rest of the constitution).

  25. sam says:

    Roy Edroso was struck by Jim Geraghty’s take on Obama’s suggestion, and was reminded of something WFB wrote:

    Gratitude: Reflections on What We Owe to Our Country:

    It is feared by many opponents of national service that the use of state power in whatever form, even in a voluntary program, is nevertheless an effort, even if half-hearted, in that direction: an effort to change the human personality, and for that reason to be resisted categorically… Milton Friedman, my hero, was quoted as finding in national service an “uncanny resemblance” to the Hitler Youth Corps.

    This last occasions only the reply that by that token, all youth programs, including the Boy Scouts, can be likened in the sense that they have something in common, to the Hitler Youth program, plus the second comment, that because Hitler had an idea, it does not follow that that idea was bad…

    …Some libertarians will never agree with the Founding Fathers that a responsibility of the polity is to encourage virtue directly, through such disciplines as service in the militia, reverence for religious values, and jury service — the kind of thing Prime Minister Gladstone had in mind when he proposed “to establish a new franchise, which I should call — till a better phrase be discovered — the service franchise.” Opponents of national service must establish, to make their case, that national service, unlike the state militia, or jury service, or military conscription in times of emergency, is distinctively hostile to a free society.

    As Roy concluded:

    Funny, just a few weeks ago [the folks at NRO] were blubbering over the sainted Buckley. Now he’s a liberal fascist.

  26. And what is good, Phaedrus, and what is not good – need we ask anyone to tell us these things?

    Ultimately it comes down to what is good and who gets to decide. I prefer it not be the government. That whole pursuit of happiness thing was not about the state or those who command it.

  27. Bithead says:

    Since the 60’s came up in another thread, let’s consider a word… “Draft”.

    Was the left’s objection to the draft, as was stated at the time, against involuntary servitude, or was it simply anti-military?

    Given the reaction to Obama’s JFK act on this subject, it seems it was the latter.

  28. Bithead says:

    Sam;

    Since when does grattitude need to be enforced?

  29. Tlaloc says:

    Since the 60’s came up in another thread, let’s consider a word… “Draft”.

    Uh, the draft already came up in *this* thread.

  30. Bithead says:

    Yes, well, I figured I’d give you another chance to duck the issue.

    Explain to me how, for example, what Obama proposes isn’t a GI bill without the uniform.

  31. Bithead says:

    Oh… and Taloc, you might answer the question I asked, in context.

  32. mannning says:

    If congress declares war in a national emergency, and a draft is authorized, is there anyone here that would refuse to serve? Maybe flee to Canada?
    Go with God, but don’t come back.

  33. Tlaloc says:

    Yes, well, I figured I’d give you another chance to duck the issue.

    Duck the issue? I was one of the people who raised the issue. I thought Alex’s answer was fair.

    Explain to me how, for example, what Obama proposes isn’t a GI bill without the uniform.

    The GI bill essentially pays kids to go to college if they serve. This pays schools that get kids to volunteer. Similar but not really the same.

    Oh… and Taloc, you might answer the question I asked, in context.

    I wasn’t alive in the 60s, nor do I find it a particularly interesting period to study, so I can’t speak as to the motivations of 60’s radicals. Personally I have divided feelings on a draft in time of war.

    A general draft during times of peace is bad.

  34. Boyd says:

    To which I say, how would you define the term “country”?

    It’s not really pertinent to the discussion, Alex. As I also said:

    So yes, things could go horribly awry such that I could conceivably break with whatever government was going off its rocker, but the situation we’re talking about (and living) here is not even in the same universe as something that bad.

    The point is that it’s certainly possible for things to go off the rails to such a degree that a thinking patriot would say, “To Hell with this!” and abandon his allegiance, or even take up arms in revolution, but that’s more akin to some parallel universe than it is to the United States in the early 21st century.

  35. Tlaloc says:

    If congress declares war in a national emergency, and a draft is authorized, is there anyone here that would refuse to serve?

    A justified war or an unjustified one? Kind of makes a difference to some of us.

  36. Alex Knapp says:

    Boyd,

    It’s not really pertinent to the discussion, Alex.

    If you’re going to define patriotism as loyalty to country, rather than loyalty to government, I think that the definition of “country” is fairly pertinent to the discussion.

  37. Alex says:

    Hard to see what is so controversial about this. At the college level, it’s a $4000 incentive to work 100 hours of community service: that’s a hell of a work-study program, or a very, very high paying part time job. And if it improves the community, that seems even better. Below the college level, it’s just a “goal.” Lots of high schools have service requirements (like those private ones that vouchers might get you into).

    If the plan were rephrased like this: “Hire students at high wages during college to spend some of their time doing community service. The amount of time that we will pay them for is limited,” would you have a serious problem with it?

  38. mannning says:

    Let me put it this way. If the President, congress and the majority of citizens agree that declaration of war is necessary, does that satisfy your “justified” condition? If not, then what would? Your own assessment? The minority assessment? A feeling that it just isn’t right?
    What?

  39. James Joyner says:

    it’s not voluntary national service that they support. It’s compulsary national service. There is a world of difference.

    I’m reminded of former Cowboy running back Darren Hambrick who, a few years back, was annoyed that he was being chastised for missing one of the decidedly compulsory “voluntary” offseason mini-camps. His famous refrain, “What do ‘voluntary’ mean, anyway?” remains a classic catchphrase.

  40. mannning says:

    Actually, you would not have a legal choice, except for a CO plea.

  41. Alex Knapp says:

    Let me put it this way. If the President, congress and the majority of citizens agree that declaration of war is necessary, does that satisfy your “justified” condition? If not, then what would? Your own assessment? The minority assessment? A feeling that it just isn’t right?

    So by that logic, German citizens who disagreed with Nazism should have gone ahead and allowed themselves to be drafted, anyway? Is “just following orders” a legitimate moral defense in your mind?

  42. John425 says:

    I am reminded of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers book. No- not that abominable movie version which sucked (except when it showcased Denise Richards). In the book- ALL are born equal and free with rights to pursue life. Only difference is they are all born as “Residents” and only Citizens could vote or run for office.

    How did one become a Citizen? Simple. Military service. Open to everyone-paraplegics and all. A job was made to fit the person. Upon completion of a tour of duty you became a Citizen. You could drop out of the military service at any time also. But…forever lost the chance to be a citizen.

  43. sam says:

    And what is good, Phaedrus, and what is not good – need we ask anyone to tell us these things?

    Ultimately it comes down to what is good and who gets to decide. I prefer it not be the government. That whole pursuit of happiness thing was not about the state or those who command it.

    I suppose we should note that the Crito takes a different tack vis-a-vis citizen and state.

  44. mannning says:

    The next step is for the congress to authorize a draft well before they actually declare war. If my memory serves me right, that is precisely what we had done well prior to declaring war in 1941. The actual date was 1940. So this shows that the government has the power to initiate selective service as exercised prior to a declaration of war.

    Anyone for the CCC camps or the NCCC?

  45. mannning says:

    Finally, the government can initiate some form of draft during peacetime, and call it compulsory national service. If signed into law, all the yammering and hedging will not avail. It will become law, and I would bet that such a law would be upheld in the Supreme Court. Some would serve.

  46. sam says:

    Explain to me how, for example, what Obama proposes isn’t a GI bill without the uniform.

    Well, maybe it is, so? As with our current armed forces, it would be voluntary, no?

    BTW, Bit, just curious–how are you on the government withholding funds from colleges that refuse to allow recruiters on campus? That OK with you? I mean isn’t that a case of the feds saying, “You do X, and you get Y dollars. Else, no.”

  47. davod says:

    “Look, if a kid wants to spend 50 hours a year volunteering at a soup kitchen or building a house for habitat for humanity, then more power to him. If she wants to spend that time playing video games or basketball, or even *gasp!* holding down a part-time job well, that’s her choice, too. The point of America is that you got to make the choice about what you want to do with your life, not have some bureaucrat decide for you.”

    Agreed.

  48. mannning says:

    Well now, the poor German civilian didn’t have a choice, did he? It was serve or be shot. His moral argument would have fallen on deaf ears, obviously deafened by the number of firing squads served on.

    We in the US still do not have the luxury of picking and choosing the laws we will obey and those we refuse to obey. There is a penaly for refusing to obey the law. This is the basis for the rule of law, is it not? Or do you elect to obey only those laws that suit your philosophy?

    Our choice in the US is to obey the law, or dissent, or even to flee the nation. Dissenters could be prosecuted and jailed, as many were, once caught. COs were shunned in my experience. Those that went to Canada might be lucky enough to come back under an amnesty ruling after the war.

  49. Tlaloc says:

    Those that went to Canada might be lucky enough to come back under an amnesty ruling after the war.

    They might even go on to be pretty popular presidents.

    heh…

  50. Tlaloc says:

    Well now, the poor German civilian didn’t have a choice, did he? It was serve or be shot. His moral argument would have fallen on deaf ears, obviously deafened by the number of firing squads served on.

    We in the US still do not have the luxury of picking and choosing the laws we will obey and those we refuse to obey. There is a penaly for refusing to obey the law.

    Uh, you seem to be trying to draw some distinction between the US and Germany and yet your arguments for both are directly parallel.

  51. Boyd says:

    Alex, if you don’t know the definitions of “country,” and which one applies to this discussion, then you’re not nearly as bright as I thought you were.

    Also, I must point out that you’re deflecting discussion of the key points by trying to focus on a detail that is inapplicable to today’s reality. If you want to discuss a hypothetical, I’m not interested in participating.

    I’m merely emphasizing that an important component of patriotism among military folk is placing the welfare of others (one’s comrades-in-arms, fellow citizens, country, what have you) before one’s own welfare. Can we focus on that point rather than trying to argue or game some oneupsmanship over a relatively unimportant detail?

  52. Alex Knapp says:

    Boyd,

    I honor this country’s soldiers. I’ve had many family members who have taken up arms in defense of this nation, and I honor their devotion to their country.

    The point I am making with you is that there are higher ethical considerations than patriotism, and that there are more important ideals than just “defense of one’s country.” This is not to say that those things aren’t important–they are. I simply disagree that they are the MOST important.

    I know what I think of when I think of defending “my country”. My question to you is, how do you draw the distinction? I know lots of people who say things on the order of “patriotism is serving the country, not the government”, without making a clear distinction between the two. I am not trying to score rhetorical points with you. I am curious to know: how do you define “country”?

  53. mannning says:

    Of course there is a distinction. We don’t shoot dissenters, now do we? But we do prosecute law-breakers–all too few, in some cases.

    You seem to be on the side of those that are willing to break the law, if by your personal definition, the law is immoral. Go right ahead. I suppose there are many convicts (and dead Germans) that thought the same way. You must then accept the penalties afforded by the same law, or flee.

    How about fighting the immoral law within the system and without breaking the law? (Not that this would get you anywhere in Hitler’s Germany.)

    I think the graduated income tax is immoral and absolute theft by the government, but I do not break the tax laws. I dissent and fight to have them repealed and replaced by a flat tax–within the system. (No luck, so far. But, there is progress!)

  54. mannning says:

    Not a President that I would respect or vote for.

  55. Tlaloc says:

    We don’t shoot dissenters, now do we?

    Depends on if we convict them of treason, but generally no.

    You seem to be on the side of those that are willing to break the law, if by your personal definition, the law is immoral.

    Absolutely. I also sometimes jay walk. Should I infer you never break the law with intent to get away with it? Never jay walk? Never speed?

    You must then accept the penalties afforded by the same law, or flee.

    Well you can also try to avoid being caught. I’m not saying it’s the noblest choice but pretty popular.

    How about fighting the immoral law within the system and without breaking the law?

    That’s fine in general. But when the specific law wants me to go overseas and kill other people, without a damn good justification, then I really hope my conscience isn’t held hostage by the system’s institutional resistance to change.

  56. Boyd says:

    As I said before, Alex, I believe McCain’s phrase “before anything” was going too far.

    And as has been demonstrated by many of the comments in this thread, it’s up to each of us to draw our own lines, to set our own priorities.

    With all this pointless side discussion, we’ve gone far afield from my original response, which was, admittedly, incomplete. Patriotism comes from within. It can be “trained” to a certain extent, but the individual ultimately decides for himself. It’s a lot like honor (in fact, is a form of honor): it can’t be imposed from the outside, it can only come from within the individual.

    The reason virtually everyone connected in any way with the military since the inception of the all-volunteer force scoffs at the idea of a draft is because we know the AVF works immensely better than conscription.

    Likewise, if you want to serve, be it in the military or in another type service, it’s generally counterproductive to coerce that service.

    Just because one is a big believer in service to my country, it doesn’t mean one believes that service should be compulsory. As I said before, honor cannot be imposed.

    Sorry if that was a bit (or a lot) rambling, but I hope I made my position clear.

  57. tom p says:

    Been away for a few days, so please excuse my not so timely comment:

    Jonah has a point…., and it is pure hypocrisy.

    He does not mind forcing the poorest people in our country to “earn” their welfare checks, BUT…

    When it comes to making our most well-to-do citizens “earn” their government subsidized educations????????

    “OH MY GOD, IT’S SLAVERY!!!!!!!”

    If he (and all other like minded individuals) don’t like the deal, they can send their children overseas and pay the FULL price of their education…. And stop sucking off the tit of my hard earned dollars. I work harder in one day than most of them do in a week. F*** them.

    As Warren Buffet said, “It IS class warfare, and we are winning.”

  58. Tlaloc says:

    It’s a lot like honor (in fact, is a form of honor)

    I’d dispute that patriotism is anything like honor. I’d also dispute that it is internal. On the contrary it very much can be trained. Patriotism is “the belief that your country is best just because you were born there” (George Bernard Shaw? Ambrose Bierce? I’ve seen the quote attributed to different people). That’s it really. It gets dressed up in all kinds of romantic garbage but underneath is nothing more than a declaration of personal importance.

  59. mannning says:

    Patriotism is “the belief that your country is best just because you were born there” (George Bernard Shaw? Ambrose Bierce?

    At least this makes one think why it is objectionable!

    First, it is cynical, as GBS was, which makes me lean to his authorship.

    Second, it totally ignores the love of country one has and cultivates–one of those intangibles that many people have, and live with.

    Third, it degrades the service many have given for love of country, even volunteered to serve in a dangerous war.

    I do not believe these ideas are claptrap, as some here have indicated.

  60. Boyd says:

    We fundamentally disagree on the terms, Alex. I daresay we have different definitions of honor, too.

    Not much point in trying to continue the conversation.

  61. Tlaloc says:

    Second, it totally ignores the love of country one has and cultivates–one of those intangibles that many people have, and live with.

    And why is country a thing to be loved? It is nothing more than a conspiracy of cartographers. Dotted lines dividing an indivisible world. At best “country” is a useful means of categorization, at worst it is the motive for atrocity.

    Third, it degrades the service many have given for love of country, even volunteered to serve in a dangerous war.

    Personally I would say any sacrifice made for something as ephemeral and alien as “country” deserves to be denigrated. Now sacrifice for real actual people? That’s a different matter.

    There are a number of people I’d kill to protect, and risk death or injury in the process. There are even a few intangible concepts that make the list (not many but a few). But a country? An arbitrary slab of land that exists to dispute the resource rights of neighboring people? No.

  62. Tlaloc says:

    We fundamentally disagree on the terms, Alex. I daresay we have different definitions of honor, too.

    I think you accidentally read my response as coming from Alex. I’m not trying to put words in his mouth.

  63. mannning says:

    That’s fine in general. But when the specific law wants me to go overseas and kill other people, without a damn good justification, then I really hope my conscience isn’t held hostage by the system’s institutional resistance to change.

    You mean that the law is the law? How droll! Or do you mean that your moral compass is pointing South when it should be pointing North?

    You certainly must decide for yourself whether the cause is worth it, but I submit that you will never obtain enough information to satisfy your conscience fully.

    Most of us, I believe, can see the reasoning behind any given conflict well enough to sign up to fight, without any huge analysis.

    I guess what I am reading is that some men do not see it, or want to see it, perhaps for hidden fears that they would be the ones killed, not doing any killing themselves. Not very morally uplifting, that!

  64. mannning says:

    Oh dear! We are dragging the concept of country deep into this chaos. For some, a country is indeed just an arbitrary boundary separating a bit of land from all others.

    That is not what most of us mean when we say we love our country. We do mean the total set of things inside the boundary–loved ones, loved land, loved cities, states and the nation, including the founding ideas of the nation, and the governing bodies, with all of their current imperfections, that, even so, are far better than any other nation on earth.

    That is, something worth fighting for.

  65. anjin-san says:

    That’s fine in general. But when the specific law wants me to go overseas and kill other people, without a damn good justification, then I really hope my conscience isn’t held hostage by the system’s institutional resistance to change.

    Well said. One of our county’s great men, Muhammad Ali, put his ass on the line for his beliefs in just such a case. Would that there were more like him…

  66. mannning says:

    The thought of thousands of great little Ali’s running around the country is daunting!

  67. Boyd says:

    Oops, thanks for pointing that out, Tlaloc. So it’s clear you and I define the terms differently, but I don’t think that’s news to either of us.

  68. Bithead says:

    A justified war or an unjustified one? Kind of makes a difference to some of us

    .

    Justified by whose lights? Yours? As Boyd correctly points out, your terms seem different.

    And no, you really didn’t answer the question I put as regards the draft. We seem to be dealing here with another Democrat double standard as regards involuntary servitude, one you’re ignoring.

  69. DavidTC says:

    tom p

    Jonah has a point…., and it is pure hypocrisy.

    He does not mind forcing the poorest people in our country to “earn” their welfare checks, BUT…

    When it comes to making our most well-to-do citizens “earn” their government subsidized educations????????

    “OH MY GOD, IT’S SLAVERY!!!!!!!”

    No shit. It’s blowing my mind that conservatives are objecting to this. I understand, if you’re very very very stupid, that you can understand what Obama said as ‘And children will be forced to work in coal mines’.

    Instead of how everyone else heard it, ‘Children, if they choose, can work to earn money for college at approximate 40 dollars an hour doing easy stuff like repainting park benches that we pay people seven dollars an hour normally to do. And likewise people in college accepting such money would also be required to do some work to get more of it.’. (Although, admittedly, it would actually be a loan, so it’s not actually that high a pay-rate.)

    I did not suspect there were so many very very very stupid people out there, however, nor that so many conservatives would suddenly object to turning an existing program that gives free money to people, and making it where only civic-minded people get the money in return for responsible community work. Who knew?