Slavery for a Better Society

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Slavery for a Better Society

Posted in : Government and Society on by : Michael Maharrey

Washington Post opinion writer Richard Cohen advocates slavery for a better society.

Of course, he didn’t say slavery. But that’s exactly the policy he advocates. Cohen believes “compulsory service” would help Americans mix and learn about each other. That would lead to a more tolerant and understanding society.

Often the virtue of national service is described in the work done — public service projects of one sort of another. Fine. Spiff up the slums. Do some social work. But to me, the overriding virtue is education — learning about fellow Americans, getting past skin color or regional smugness, stereotypes that the rich have of the poor and the poor have of the rich. We need a national service that throws us all together, the urban with the rural, the Fox News types with the MSNBC crowd. That way, Americans can get to know Americans and learn — as previous generations did — that we are all Americans.”

Cohen actually makes a valid point when he observes Americans live in bubbles. They tend to surround themselves with like-minded people of similar backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities. He looks back fondly at his time in the military and how it threw people of diverse backgrounds together and molded them into a team.  He rejects reinstituting the draft because “this generation of gluten-avoiders is not going to happily share a latrine with strangers.” But mandatory national service work – that’s the ticket!

Hey, it works in other countries.

“and they’re not the goose-stepping ones, either. Denmark, Sweden, Austria and Norway have versions of compulsory service.”

The problem here lies in the compulsion. That means force. As the dictionary defines compulsion: “the action or state of forcing or being forced to do something.” The word coercion also comes up. In simplest terms, the government points a gun at you and forces you to work for it.

In other words slavery.

Compulsion lies at the root of all of slavery’s horrors.  A slave can’t leave. He can’t direct his own actions. He must submit to the will of the master. A slave owner claims a property right in another person. He asserts the authority to direct that individual to do his bidding. The owner compels service.

National service is nothing less than slavery. The “nation” asserts ownership over its citizens and the government demands compulsory service on its behalf.

Cohen seems well-intentioned. He wants Americans to get along better. But instituting a form of slavery isn’t the pathway to a better society.  Community is not coerced.  You don’t create a peaceful, prosperous society by pointing guns at people. You don’t make the world a better place through force and violence. Compulsion is not the path to unity.


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