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Bringing Back Military Slavery

Congressman Charlie Rangel, despite being investigated for major ethics violations, some of which we’ve discussed before, is pushing for a reintroduction of the military draft. The bill is H.R. 5741 – The Universal National Service Act and it has reached committee. The text of it reads as follows:

“To require all persons in the United States between the ages of 18 and 42 to perform national service, either as a member of the uniformed services or in civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, to authorize the induction of persons in the uniformed services during wartime to meet end-strength requirements of the uniformed services, and for other purposes.”

It does at least offer a non-military alternative, but it’s involuntary and coercive “service” nonetheless. And “all persons” includes women too for the first time in American history; a huge step forward for gender equality indeed. You know, kind of like going up to Susan B. Anthony circa 1900 and saying “hey Susan, babe, let’s forget about this whole women’s suffrage thing. I mean. c’mon, women voting, you’re kidding right? Let’s just take the right to vote away from men and then we’ll all be equal.” Equality can suck for everyone.

Congressman Charlie Rangel

The military draft, which H.R. 5741 basically reintroduces, is indefensible in anything other than an extreme national emergency (in which it would be almost certainly unnecessary). The reason it’s indefensible is simple enough, as Russell Kirk said, “the military draft is slavery.” Yes, quite literally, by definition, it’s slavery. Here’s the text of the 13th amendment of the Constitution, and how exactly could the draft not be defined as anything other than a form of “involuntary servitude.”

“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, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Unless its a crime to exist there’s no way the military draft is constitutional. I don’t care if the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional because “compelled military service is neither repugnant to a free government nor in conflict with the constitutional guaranties of individual liberty” and “it may not be doubted that the very conception of a just government and its duty to the citizen includes the duty of the citizen to render military service in case of need, and the right of the government to compel it.”

If that sounds like the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard, it’s probably because it is. A “just government’s duty to its citizens includes the duty of the citizen to render military service”… huh? Are they arguing that its not just constitutional, but actually the duty of the government to conscript its citizens? Indeed, arguments that conscription is anything other than a euphemism for slavery are all quite embarrassing. The very weak arguments could be broken down as follows:

1) ‘Draftees get paid so it’s not slavery.’ [Irrelevant, slaves got paid with food, shelter, clothing, etc. And if slaves had gotten wages, would that have somehow made the institution justifiable?]

2) ‘Military conscription is only temporary, slavery was lifelong.’ [Also irrelevant. Perhaps that makes it a ‘better’ form of slavery, but it’s still slavery. If pre-Civil War slavery only lasted 20 years would it have been OK? What about 10? 5? There were even cases of masters emancipating their slaves, sometimes by contract. None of this justifies the institution or makes it anything other than slavery.]

3) ‘Conscription is you’re civic duty as a citizen, you’re not the property of another person, you’re fighting for your country.’ [State-worshiping nonsense. When did we agree to this civic duty? Has the government or those in government made a similar sacrifice? If the government can force you to fight and die for a cause you very well don’t even agree with, how can anyone say the government doesn’t own you?]

4) ‘We need more soldiers.’ [No, we need less wars.]

5) ‘The draft makes things more fair by forcing everyone and not disproportionately the poor to join or the draft would create and uproar against the war that could bring it to an end.’  [Aside by the fact that the military draft has typically been instituted in a racist and classist manner, this is way too much consequentalist thinking and I don’t buy it. A limited draft could help the United States gear up for a war with Iran that the neo-conservatives want to fight, but lack the resources to.]

6) ‘If the military draft is slavery, wouldn’t jury duty also a form of slavery?’ [This is a red herring. While I’m sure we could find a better way to do jury selection, comparing jury duty to being forced into years in the military with a high chance of being killed or maimed or with chattel slavery is like comparing shoving someone to beating them within an inch of their life because they are both forms of “assault.” Perhaps they are, but the degree is so astronomically different that comparing the two is absurd.]

7. ‘The government knows what’s best for us.’ [So stupid it doesn’t merit refutation.]

So yes, arguing that the military draft is not a form of slavery is quite literally arguing with a dictionary. This is not to imply that military slavery is as bad as the chattel slavery that existed in the United States before 1865. No, that was certainly worse for a host of reasons, primarily because it was typically perpetual. But the chattel slavery in the antebellum south was also worse than the slavery in ancient Greece and possibly better than the slavery in the Stalinist gulags (‘better’ being a relative term of course). There are certainly degrees of evil here, but they are all still forms of slavery and are all unjustifiable.

And unfortunately, Obama seems to like this proposal:

All I can say is I am disgusted. Call your Congressman or Senator, write a letter to the editor, post on your blog or something to stop this nonsense from getting passed.


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4 thoughts on “Bringing Back Military Slavery

  1. Andrew, I agree with you completely – except that I do not allow that conscription is morally justified even in the case of extreme emergencies. But we do agree that under those conditions, volunteers would be many, rendering it unnecessary.

    Our government run educational system has done a fine job of inverting, in the minds of many citizens, the relationship between the individual and their government. Our Declaration of Independence clearly spell out that it is “self-evident” that each sovereign individual possesses “unalienable Rights” including “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. These are inherent rights which we possess as part of our human nature, and are not some gift bestowed upon us by a benevolent state. The Declaration continues: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed”. Individuals are not duty-bound to serve the state; just the opposite! Government is created for one very explicit purpose, which is to serve the need to protect those rights possessed by every individual member of society — and nothing more. Period!

    When some government bureaucrat proposes to force you, me, or anyone else, against our respective voluntary wills, to serve the government’s interests under direction of some state administrator, whether that be for an hour, a day, two years, or a lifetime, this is nothing less than slavery, and no amount of weasel words or Orwellian doublespeak will alter or hide this simple fact.

    If you value your life and the freedom to decide how you wish to live it, then you should be alarmed that this bill is even being discussed in the halls of Congress by a body of elite members who have made it clear that they intend to be the masters, ruling over us and directing every aspect and decision affecting our lives. Do not wait until it is too late to fight back against this tyranny. As Andrew recommends, rise up today in protest over this abomination and work to insure that it never sees the light of day.

    For a full take on this bill, see my article at:

    And for a discussion of the philosophical meaning underlying this issue, refer to the following web page:

    In liberty,

    C. Jeffery Small


  2. Andrew says:

    Good points and a good write up as well there Jeffery. I should note that I did not say I would support a military draft if there was a national emergency, just that I would actually listen to the argument without shaking my head in disgust. But again, as we both agree, its a moot point, because if there was a national emergency, people would sign up voluntarily.


  3. I actually agree with SCOTUS on this one, from an originalist point of view. The Union had a draft in the Civil War, so it seems the Congress that created the 13th Amendment did not consider it slavery.


  4. Pingback: Government Welfare State Reform: Unemployment Insurance | Swift Economics

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