Mises Wire

The Draft: Slavery Re-Imposed


Last week, a most disturbing development took place that should concern all those who value liberty. The House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act and included in it a provision requiring the automatic enrollment of men from 18 to 26 years old for the draft. Before that, men were required to register for the draft when they turned eighteen, but whether to do that was up to them. Many of them didn’t, even though failing to register subjected them to criminal penalties. But the choice was theirs to make, and now, they won’t have it.

No one has actually been drafted yet, but calls for “national service” are in the air. This is an excellent time, then, to go over what is wrong with drafting people into the armed services, and this is what I’m going to do in this week’s article.

The fundamental point is easy to grasp. In a free society, everyone owns himself and his legitimately acquired property. Slavery is the greatest possible violation of your right to own yourself, and making the “state” your enslavers (actually the politicians who run the state) does not make things better. It makes them worse. As the great Murray Rothbard puts it in For a New Liberty, “Surely, for one example, there can be no more blatant case of involuntary servitude than our entire system of conscription. Every youth is forced to register with the selective service system when he turns eighteen. He is compelled to carry his draft card at all times, and, at whatever time the federal government deems fit, he is seized by the authorities and inducted into the armed forces. There his body and will are no longer his own; he is subject to the dictates of the government; and he can be forced to kill and to place his own life in jeopardy if the authorities so decree. What else is involuntary servitude if not the draft?”

There is an obvious objection that I’m sure has occurred to many of you. “If we rely on completely voluntary armed services, the why would people volunteer if we were engaged in war? True enough, people join the military now. But most of them don’t expect to fight, and for many in the military being deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq was an unwelcome surprise.” In fact, as Murray pointed out, our so-called “volunteer” military isn’t genuinely voluntary. You are free to join, but not free to leave. You can’t say, “I don’t want to fight—I’m out!” The “volunteer” army we have now is still slavery, albeit one that doesn’t include all men of military age, but only those who enlist. As Murray says, “While conscription into the armed forces is a blatant and aggravated form of involuntary servitude, there is another, far more subtle and therefore less detectable form: the structure of the army itself. Consider this: in what other occupation in the country are there severe penalties, including prison and in some cases execution, for ‘desertion,’ i.e., for quitting the particular employment? If someone quits General Motors, is he shot at sunrise?”

This point about the “volunteer” army returns us to the obvious objection that I mentioned earlier. Suppose we are engaged in a war and a young man of military age supports the war. Still, wouldn’t he prefer that others do the fighting? People will only enlist, under such circumstances, if they are aware that that the government will draft them if they don’t. In short, there is a “market failure” that the government needs to remedy.

The notion that the market cannot provide for defense is ridiculous. If you can buy anything else, why can’t you buy defenders as well? The real “problem” for the government is that people will fight only for what they really think is their vital interest. They won’t volunteer to spread the blessings of that false god “democracy” to savages and barbarians. As Ludwig von Mises notes in Socialism, people will fight if they think their existence is at stake: “War carried on pro aris et focis [for hearth and home] demands no sacrifice from the individual. One does not engage in it merely to reap benefits for others, but to preserve one’s own existence. This of course, is only true of wars in which individuals fight for their very existence. lt is not true of wars which are merely a means of enrichment, such as the quarrels of feudal lords or the cabinet wars of princes. Thus Imperialism, ever covetous of conquests, cannot do without an ethic which demands from the individual ‘sacrifices’ for the ‘good of the State.’”

Suppose, though, that we don’t get involved in a war. Compulsory national service is still a terrible idea. We should look at the military we have now. The armed services have become welfare agencies, especially for member of “protected” minority groups like racial minorities, ”trannies,” homosexuals. Those in the army are indoctrinated with “wokism.” Here is a sample of what is being done now, taken from a speech by Thomas Spoehr:” Wokeness in the military is being imposed by elected and appointed leaders in the White House, Congress, and the Pentagon who have little understanding of the purpose, character, traditions, and requirements of the institution they are trying to change. The push for it didn’t begin in the last two years under the Biden administration—nor will it automatically end if a non-woke administration is elected in 2024. Wokeness in the military has become ingrained. And unless the policies that flow from it are illegal or directly jeopardize readiness, senior military leaders have little alternative but to comply.

Woke ideology undermines military readiness in various ways. It undermines cohesiveness by emphasizing differences based on race, ethnicity, and sex. It undermines leadership authority by introducing questions about whether promotion is based on merit or quota requirements. It leads to military personnel serving in specialties and areas for which they are not qualified or ready. And it takes time and resources away from training activities and weapons development that contribute to readiness.

Much of the emphasis of wokeness today is on promoting the idea that America is fatally flawed by systemic racism and white privilege. Our fighting men and women are required to sit through indoctrination programs, often with roots in the Marxist tenets of critical race theory, either by Pentagon diktat or through carelessness by senior leaders who delegate their command responsibilities to private Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion instructors.

These indoctrination programs differentiate service members along racial and gender lines, which runs completely counter to the military imperative to build cohesiveness based on common loyalties, training, and standards. Traditional training and education programs used to combat racial and sex discrimination have been supplanted by programs that promote discrimination by replacing the American ideal of equality with the progressive ideal of equity—which in practice means unequal treatment based on group identity.

The Biden administration’s Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Michael Gilday, decided last year to add Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to Be an Antiracist—one of the leading sourcebooks on critical race theory—to his list of recommended readings. To give an idea of how radical Kendi’s book is, one of its famous (or infamous) arguments is that ‘Capitalism is essentially racist,’ and that ‘to truly be antiracist, you also have to be truly anti-capitalist.’”

Once a sufficient number of people have been indoctrinated in this way, the army could be used to suppress resistance movements by patriotic Americans who want to secede from this nefarious ideology. They would be forcefully beaten down and sent to concentration camps.

A compulsory draft would enable “President” Joe Biden and his gang of neo-con controllers to force everybody to accept this malign ideology. And given the racial quotas that now prevail, why would we think that the armed services could defend us anyway?

Let’s do everything we can to fight against this grave threat to liberty. No more draft registration!

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