November, 1997

HEADLINE: The return of the Hitler youth? call for mandatory volunteerism inspired by Pres Clinton is a way to coerce more Americans into doing social work; The Playboy Forum; Brief Article; Column

BYLINE: Bovard, James

President Clinton is crusading for a national kiddie draft--forcing all teenagers to labor in politically approved community service. In April, at the Summit for America's Future in Philadelphia, Clinton announced that America needs "citizen servants" and asserted that "the era of big government may be over, but the era of big challenges for our country is not. We need an era of big citizenship."

Volunteering is a fine thing--more than 90 million Americans give generously of their time each year. But compulsory volunteerism is simply one more scheme to give politicians total control over your life.

The concept is not new. In 1992 Maryland became the first state to require 75 hours of work in politically approved social activities as a condition for receiving a high school diploma. Maryland state school superintendent Nancy Grasmick hailed the new requirement, known as mandatory volunteerism: "I can't think of a better example of character development than the lesson that what we take from the community we give back to the community." But it is certainly difficult to understand how the students are taking from the community when, in most cases, their parents pay taxes to finance their schooling.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the Maryland politico who spearheaded the effort to impose mandatory service, declared that the service-and-work requirement would allow young people to become "resources to their communities." If the Maryland board has a right to dictate 75 hours of service, does it have a right to dictate 750 or 7500 hours? School districts in Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia also force students to labor in approved social activities before they can receive their diplomas. President Clinton endorses such programs: "It is a very good thing for the states or local school districts to mandate community service for kids. I think every state should include community service as part of the curriculum."

Not surprisingly, school districts are selective about what they approve as community service. Volunteering for Planned Parenthood activities gets credit, but volunteering to teach Sunday school doesn't. Lobbying politicians to increase government spending counts, but teaching self-defense gun safety courses does not count. Many school districts have shown a clear leftward tilt in what they approve. Is this education or indoctrination?

Clinton's advocacy of a kiddie draft is part of his new crusade to shame more Americans into doing social work. The president urging people to volunteer is like a medieval lord telling his serfs to volunteer work on a nearby cathedral after a long day sweating in his fields. According to the Tax Foundation, the average citizen must work two hours and 49 minutes each day merely to pay taxes. The government financially cripples people, then politicians generously opine about how those people should use the remnants of their lives.

Clinton champions the idea of volunteers going into schools to teach children to read. But what the hell do we pay teachers for? Each year, politicians confiscate more than $300 billion from people's paychecks to bankroll education. After lousy public schools numb children's brains, the president urges taxpayers to labor more hours to repair the damage.

Consider that Clinton has his own model for volunteerism, one that amounts to just another handout. In 1993 he created a make-work program called Americorps. The kids who joined Americorps received roughly $16,000 a year in compensation-much more than many of these unskilled "volunteers" could have gotten at a real job. In southern California, Americorps workers busied themselves making a memorial quilt for federal employees killed in the Oklahoma City bombing.

The city of Buffalo used a federal grant to hire Americorps volunteers to dress in uniforms and hand out information to tourists in the downtown area. In San Francisco, 40 Americorps groups lobbied against congressional anticrime legislation. And in Denver, volunteers distributed leaflets attacking a city council member during an election campaign. This is virtue?

The citizen-servant scare is typical of Clinton's efforts to create as much confusion as possible between freedom and compulsion--and thus to weaken people's will to resist the further advance of his power. (As Clinton put it in Philadelphia, "The will to serve has never been stronger.")

The Thirteenth Amendment, enacted in 1865, proclaims that "neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States." Apparently, as long as our leaders claim good intentions, servitude borders now on the obligatory. How much servility is in the hearts of the American people?