This week's winner of the most ill-conceived and
downright aggravating mainstream media article is, hands down, an essay
titled "Let's Draft Our Kids" that appeared in the New York Times.
This fascist manifesto was penned during what must have been a psychotic
break by one Thomas Ricks who fashions himself as something of an authority
on martial matters.
To get the full sour flavor of the article, you
should read it yourself, but to give you a taste of what Mr. Ricks, if left
to his own devices, would subject his children to – that is if he were
actually able to find someone to mate with him, about which I am skeptical –
here's the CliffsNotes.
- Every child, upon graduating high school, will
be taken from their family and made a slave in the service of the
military for a minimum of 18 months.
- It would not be mandatory (at least not if
there weren't an active war going on… which there pretty much
always is) for these slaves to actually fight if they didn't want to,
but instead, according to Ricks…
could perform tasks currently outsourced at great cost to the Pentagon:
paperwork, painting barracks, mowing lawns, driving generals around, and
generally doing lower-skills tasks so professional soldiers don't have
As part of their training, perhaps Mr. Ricks would also require that the
recruits be taught to sing such classics as "Swing Low, Sweet
Chariot," "The Gospel Train's a-Comin'"
and "We Will March Through the Valley" in a harmony the generals
- If, for some reason, a teenager proved
recalcitrant about the idea of being a slave to the military, he or she
could opt for being a slave to the greater good, serving civilian
masters for a longer period than 18 months and doing tasks such
"…teaching in low-income areas, cleaning parks, rebuilding
crumbling infrastructure, or aiding the elderly."
This, according to Ricks, seems a grand idea, because…
government could use this cheap labor in new ways, doing jobs that
governments do in other countries but which have been deemed too expensive in
this one, like providing universal free day care or delivering meals to
And it gets better, because…
pool of cheap labor available to the federal government would broadly lower
its current personnel costs and its pension obligations — especially if
the law told federal managers to use the civilian service as much as
possible, and wherever plausible. The government could also make this cheap
labor available to states and cities."
This is such a good idea, it is shocking to me that
no one has tried it before. Oh, wait, they have: The Khmer Rouge.
Lazily quoting Wikipedia (now 67% accurate!): "They [the Khmer Rouge]
forced many people out of their homes and ignored many basic human freedoms;
they controlled how Cambodians acted, what they wore, who they could talk to,
and many other aspects of their lives."
Sounds kind of like being dragged off as a slave to me.
mention that many NATO countries had a similar conscription scheme in the
past, but – hopefully seeing the error of their ways – all but
eight phased it out in recent years, in favor of all-volunteer armies.)
- Mr. Ricks does make one small nod in the
direction of the idea that the US is the land of the free by offering an
opt-out. In his own
libertarians who object to a draft could opt out. Those who declined to help
Uncle Sam would in return pledge to ask nothing from him — no Medicare,
no subsidized college loans and no mortgage guarantees. Those who want
minimal government can have it."
Let me stop there, because I think Mr. Ricks has
handed us enough rope to hoist him up on his own petard.
We don't need to break much of a sweat to do so as
the cracks in his critical thinking yawn wide. For instance:
- The last time I checked, the US was not a
communist slave camp. That Comrade Ricks, with the wave of an imperial
hand, chooses those graduating from high school as his most desirable
slaves is just a policy decision. His core principle, however, is that
the state will have the right to force anyone into labor camps against
their will. Need computer programmers? Think how much the state could
save by drafting up a passel of those!
- Mr. Ricks cleverly offers libertarians
"who declined to help Uncle Sam" to opt out and thereafter
eschew any state benefits. You can almost see him puffing up in his
chair as he adds what he thinks is a threat by writing, "Those who
want minimal government can have it."
not that! With hardly a flip of a synapse, even a legitimate moron should
spot that Mr. Ricks is being completely disingenuous. For proof of that
contention, let's ask Mr. Ricks a few questions and try to divine how he might
"Mr. Ricks, glad to have you with us today."
"Nice to be here, I think."
"Your plan would allow 'libertarians' to opt out. Out of curiosity, why
did you single out libertarians as those most likely to opt out? As opposed
to, say, Quakers? Or, perhaps, anyone who actually felt they had something
better to do with their lives than submit to being marched about or having to
clean public urinals?"
"Ah, well, you know those libertarians… always complaining about
the size of government and encroachments on personal liberties and all that.
I guess they just popped to mind as a group that true patriots will
understand as being uncooperative in these sorts of things."
"Thanks for clearing that up. So, let's get to the terms of your deal.
If anyone wants to opt out of being a slave, they can."
I don't think I'd go so far as to call them a slave."
"Shut up, I'm asking the questions here."
"Whaaa? Okay, that's it! This interview is
over, I'm out of here!"
but I'm in charge, and you're not going anywhere. See, that's how the whole
slave thing works. Now, get back to my question before I make you strip down
and run laps in the rain! So, if someone opts out of being your slave, then
they will be detached from the benefits offered by the state, right?"
that mean that they get to stop paying for benefits they will no longer be
getting? For example, taxes related to Social Security and Medicare? I'm
betting that if you made that offer to the public at large, millions would stand
in line for days to sign up for it."
no. They still have to pay. They have an obligation to this great nation of
ours, a nation founded on the principles of shared sacrifice and justice for
answer the question, or it's out in the rain with you. And for the record,
the nation was founded on the principle that citizens have the unalienable
right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Now, being forced to
serve in the military seems to carry the potential to step on all three of those
you admit that under your plan, an individual would still be expected to pay
all taxes but get minimal benefits in return. So despite your claim that an
individual can opt for 'minimal government,' in actual fact, they are still carrying
the full burden of the bloated bureaucracy?"
"Ah, I guess. Yes."
"As I suspected. Now drop your clothes and get running, and keep running
until I tell you to stop."
There is much else wrong with Mr. Ricks' article,
including the reality that there are minimal, if any, savings in a slave
economy once you factor in care and feeding, plus the loss of taxes that
would have otherwise been paid by productive young people pursuing their
dreams, versus being hijacked for the sick fantasies of Mr. Ricks and his
ilk. Then there's the reality that slaves don't make the most enthusiastic of
workers, which translates to a poor return on the investment.
Of course, it's not all about economics – Ricks tries to frame the argument as a win-win because, in
addition to the cost savings to be gained from enslaving the youth, it is his
contention that doing so will also make the PMIC
(Political-Military-Industrial Complex) think twice about starting wars.
Hey, here's a concept: just stop starting wars.
After all, 99% of the other countries of the world seem to manage to do
without. Wonder what they know that the US doesn't?
Remarkably, this idea of a draft continues to be
trotted out. It's not just sloppy thinking, it is dangerous. It is also,
sadly, far from being alone in the spotlight of stupidity