In March, a federal agency named the Commission on Military, National, and Public Service issued an official report on whether America’s system of conscription should continue and, if so, whether women (along with men) should be subject to being drafted should circumstances warrant it.
After months of study and deliberation, the commission answered yes to both questions.
That shouldn’t surprise anyone, given the overall composition of the commission. It includes two former members of the House Armed Services Committee, a former White House Director of Communications, an advisor to corporations that wish to “engage” with the Department of Defense, a former director of the Selective Service System, a former counsel to the Senate Armed Services Committee, a former undersecretary of the Navy, a former deputy national-security advisor, an advocate of national service, an advocate of a “strong national defense,” and a former Navy commander.
No libertarians there! Just a pack of Washington, D.C., establishment types whose worldview is oriented toward protecting the U.S. government’s dominant role in the world. The chance that this commission would recognize the evil nature of conscription was close to nil.
Conscription goes against every founding principle of America except slavery. It is a system by which the government claims the authority to seize a citizen and force him to serve the state. That’s essentially what slavery was all about, even if slaves were being forced to serve private masters instead of state ones.
There is no way to reconcile conscription with genuine freedom. Freedom entails the right to live your life any way you choose (so long as you are not initiating force or fraud against another person). When the state seizes you or forces you to report for duty at some military installation, that interrupts your right to live your life the way you choose. The fact that the government forces a conscript to kill or be killed only make conscription that much more evil.
Conscription raises an important question: Who is the master in this relationship, and who is the servant? Conscription holds that the state is the master and the citizen the servant. But that’s not what freedom is all about. Freedom holds that it is the citizen who is the master and the state the servant.
That’s certainly what Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence. He wrote that people call government into existence to protect their liberty. He also wrote that they have the right to abolish government, should they choose to do so. That sure sounds to me like the citizen is the master and that the state is the servant. We the people called the federal government into existence. Those people work for us. Who are they to force us to work for them?
In a genuinely free society, you don’t have to force free people to defend their nation, their families, and their liberty from an invasion. Free people are always the fiercest fighters. That’s because they have something important to fight for.
Oh sure, some citizens might refuse to fight, but that’s their right. That’s what genuine freedom necessarily entails — the right to say no. When the state denies people the right to say no, then they are no longer free. Thus, conscription automatically destroys the freedom that people are supposedly be forced to fight for.
Conscription has been used to wage wars in faraway lands. That’s because many Americans decided that killing and dying in foreign wars wasn’t important to them. Thus, the state, which purported to know better, grabbed them and forced them to kill and die in lands thousands of miles away from American shores.
World War I. World War II. Korea. Vietnam. In all four wars, a vast number of Americans weren’t willing to go abroad and fight, kill, and die in foreign wars. It just wasn’t worth it to them. That’s why the state had to resort to forcing them to do so through conscription. The state said that they needed to kill and die to protect “freedom.” Isn’t that ironic, given that their system of conscription destroys freedom?
During the War of 1812, the U.S. government attempted to enact conscription. Daniel Webster expressed the sentiments of our American ancestors in one of the most powerful speeches against conscription ever delivered. Yes, I know, conscription advocates would say that Webster was a traitor who hated his country, but we libertarians instead consider him to be a great patriot who loved his country. Webster stated:
It is an attempt to exercise the power of forcing the free men of this country into the ranks of an army, for the general purposes of war, under color of a military service. It is a distinct system, introduced for new purposes, and not connected with any power, which the Constitution has conferred on Congress….
The question is nothing less, than whether the most essential rights of personal liberty shall be surrendered, and despotism embraced in its worst form….
Is this, Sir, consistent with the character of a free Government? Is this civil liberty? Is this the real character of our Constitution? No, Sir, indeed it is not. The Constitution is libeled, foully libeled. The people of this country have not established for themselves such a fabric of despotism. They have not purchased at a vast expense of their own treasure and their own blood a Magna Carta to be slaves. Where is it written in the Constitution, in what article or section is it contained, that you may take children from their parents, and parents from their children, and compel them to fight the battles of any war, in which the folly or the wickedness of Government may engage it? Under what concealment has this power lain hidden, which now for the first time comes forth, with a tremendous and baleful aspect, to trample down and destroy the dearest rights of personal liberty? Sir, I almost disdain to go to quotations and references to prove that such an abominable doctrine has no foundation in the Constitution of the country.
Every American, especially young men and women who are subject to a draft, owes it to himself to read Webster’s entire speech. It’s entitled “On Conscription” and can be found on the Internet. Follow that up with Henry David Thoreau’s essay “Civil Disobedience.” If you read both pieces, it is a virtual certainty that you’ll reject the abominable anti-freedom sentiments of the Washington, D.C., political and national-security establishment and instead embrace the libertarian concept of what genuine freedom is all about.