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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Is the Draft Really Dead?

The draft was declared unconstitutional after the Viet Nam War. However, with the war in Iraq going the way it is, many people are concerned that the draft will be reinstituted. For his part, President Bush has assured voters that that will never happen. But is the draft really dead?

During the draft if a young man's number came up he was required by law to report and serve in the armed forces. Murray Rothbard said that the draft was nothing more than slavery, and he was not far off. If a young man chose not to report and serve, the government used its coercive power to imprision him.

Today's military is supposedly voluntary - no one is forced to serve. Instead the military uses recruitment tactics such as promising to pay for college and signing bonuses to attract personel. These people voluntarily enter into a contract with the US government to serve in the armed forces. However, under the Stop-Loss program the government can break its contracts and extend a person's tour of duty in times of war. So, can we really say that the draft is dead?

Drafting unwilling people is no longer practiced. But by breaking voluntary contracts the government is essentially forcing the labor of unwilling people.

National defense is often sighted as a reason for government that is consistent with individual liberty. Inother words, people voluntarily give up some of their freedoms to have a government that provides national defense. However, if the government is not bound to honor its contracts with its military personnel, is national defense still consistent with individual liberty?

I would argue that it is not. People's labor, whether they choose to provide it in the free market or to the government as a member of the military must always be voluntary. The government's problem of attracting new personnel can not be solved by breaking its contracts.

Comments:
You discuss several "ifs." As I understand the law, your "ifs" may not describe the situation. I have not checked this for myself, but my understanding is that when an individual's service is extended this is indeed consistent with the contract between government and the individual in the service. I've heard military personnel explain this on radio shows.

With respect to recruiting practices, I've also heard military people explain the recruiting rules they are to live by. Of course, fraud would not characterize a voluntary choice, and as such, the explanation I've heard about recruiting rules is indeed consistent with that conclusion. Further, there have been cases of military recruiters engaging in fraud that were caught and prosecuted, the the recruiter was punished. Once again, I've not checked this on my own, but I think it more likely than not, to be accurate.
 
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