July 4th is my Independence Day, regardless of how depraved the government has become. Forty-two years ago, the New York Times printed a satire I wrote on the failure of the All-Volunteer Congress. Some congressmen wanted to revive the military draft in order to have a higher quality army. I showed that the same argument could be used for drafting members of Congress because “it is only the ego-starved who volunteer for Congressional duty now. These people are forced into Congress by their psychological or mental poverty, as no real alternative or treatment exists for their condition.”
Unfortunately, conscription is now fashionable – and the New York Times editorial and op-ed pages are leading the charge. Two months ago, the Times editorialized on the benefits of forcing all young people to “serve.” Two days ago, NYT published an article by the president of Rutgers calling for “compulsory national service for all young people” in order to “make us more self-reliant” and to “secure the blessings of liberty.” NYT editorial page has apparently gotten rid of both its fact checkers and its BS radar.
The fact that the nation’s most respected media and many prominent officials are calling for imposing conscription epitomizes the growing contempt for individual liberty. I’ll write more on that shortly.
New York Times July 4, 1979
WHY NOT DRAFT THE NEXT CONGRESS?
By James Bovard
Blacksburg, Va. –
The All-Volunteer Congress has proved to be a failure. Its cost is extremely high and there is not a proportional representation of minorities. There are also many doubts about the honesty and intelligence of the recent volunteers. Many of Congress’s recent failures are owing the low quality of its composition.
A change is needed .The country can no longer afford the high costs of the volunteer system, nor can it tolerate the low level of performance and reliability. Conscription appears to be the only way to get a decent Congress at an affordable price.
The current Congressional system has demonstrated its inability to deal with crises.
The energy crisis has been endangering our economy and national security since 1973, yet Congress has been incapable of launching a coherent and effective counteroffensive. Any system that fails like this cannot continue except to the detriment of the nation.
With national security problems, inflation, and the specter of a recession, we cannot afford the luxury of a mercenary set of lawmakers.
No one has been willing to defend the intelligence of the current set of volunteers. The fact that this group has not been able to balance its income and expenditures for 10 years straight shows a marked deficiency.
In a society with 50 percent women and over 10 percent black and Hispanic populations, these groups are very underrepresented in Congress. When we consider the injustice of these statistics, superficial objections against conscription are easily swept away.
A viable democracy needs to have a racially, sexually balanced set of representatives. The latest statistics issued last November proved that this lack of representation is worsening.
It is only the ego-starved who volunteer for Congressional duty now. These people are forced into Congress by their psychological or mental poverty, as no real alternative or treatment exists for their condition. Naturally, Congress is psychologically off-balance, because of the nature of the people who currently volunteer.
Most of the members of Congress are between 30 and 60 years of age. There is no group that enjoys the benefits of society more than this group. They have the highest salaries, the nicest homes, the largest cars, and the most power. However, this group is deeply entrenched in hedonism, and has thus far turned a deaf ear to the needs of the country.
Something is needed to restore the sense of honor, duty, service, and patriotism to the middle-aged.
With a service-oriented Congress, every man and woman would be required to register with the Selective Service Commission on their 30th birthday.
Every second year, everyone’s name would be placed in a giant basket, and the Secretary of Labor would pull out the number of names needed for that session of Congress.
The new members would receive a subsistence allowance (an honorable precedent established during the Revolutionary War), as it would not be right to overpay someone for what he owed to society.
The moral caliber of Congress would be improved by conscription. The environmental and personal background of many of today’s volunteers appears to be conducive to fabrication. Randomly picking people off the street would give a much higher level of honesty and responsibility.
Some people object to the idea of conscription in itself. But, rather than being a moral evil, Congressional conscription should be seen as giving an opportunity for service to the middle-aged.
The draftees would have the chance to serve their country and be a part of an important process, and would also learn a lot in the process. The educational benefits alone could justify Congressional conscription, as it is well known that many middle-aged people lack intellectual stimulation or the opportunity to increase their knowledge.
Granted, it would be easy to just let the system go on as it is, hoping that it doesn’t totally break down tomorrow. But, can we allow our national interest to be determined by an overpaid, racially unbalanced, and psychologically unstable pack of volunteers? Our national interest can only be served by a balanced section of people from all parts of society.
TAGLINE: James Bovard is a writer currently in exile in the Appalachian Mountains.
***Hearty hat tip to the late Charlotte Curtis, the NYT op-ed editor who accepted a piece from an unknown writer.JPB NYT 1979 scan driver
A Citizen Legislature
A modest proposal for the random selection of legislators
By Ernest Callenbach & Michael Phillips
Cute idea, but all that would do is further entrench the federal bureaucracy, which is already out of control.
A better, thoroughly vetted source to tap is the US Armed Forces. Choose from officers who have been promoted and promoted second enlistment and beyond NCOs.
Kidding aside, repealing the 17th Amendment would make progress in that direction. The founders had it right the first time.
You said this was going to be a satire. Then it became an instruction manual
If a jury is competent to decide for life imprisonment or execution, it is competent to be a legislature.
As William F. Buckley said, “I would rather be governed by the first 500 names in the Boston phone book than the faculty of Harvard University”.
What do you bet that the support for this “national conscription” from “higher education” is because, just like pre-1974, there will be deferments and going to college will be one of them. What better way to drive people to your over-priced under-performing product than to make it a sanctuary from the draft.
Gen. Hershey, head of Selective Service in LBJ/Nixon years, bragged that one of the achievements of conscription was to spur more people to go to college.