Cato Policy Analysis No. 130 March 22, 1990

Policy Analysis

National Service:
The Enduring Panacea

by Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of Human Resources and Defense Manpower. A former special assistant to President Reagan, he is now writing National Service: The Enduring Panacea, to be published by Transaction Books.

Executive Summary

National service may be but a gleam in the eyes of a handful of philosophers and politicians in America, but it is a widely used tool in many other nations, and it is to those countries that many advocates of national service look for inspiration:

International comparisons also fire some American imaginations. Millions of young people serve social needs in China as a rou- tine part of growing up, many [are] commanded to leave the crowded cities and to assist in the countryside. Castro fought illiteracy and mosquitoes in Cuba with units of youth. Interesting combinations of education, work, and service to society are a part of the experience of youth in Israel, Jamaica, Nigeria, Tanzania, and other nations. The civic spirit being imbued in youth elsewhere in the world leaves some Americans wondering and worrying about Saturday-night-fever, unemployment, the new narcissism, and other afflictions of American youth.(1)

Indeed, the People's Republic of China has traditionally been the model of choice. A decade ago two members of a Potomac Institute study committee traveled to China and returned, according to the institute's final report, "impressed and challenged by the extraordinary mobilization of the talent of young people possible under authoritarian, postrevolutionary conditions."(2) Ironically, shortly thereafter the Chinese government dismantled its system of national service as part of its move away from the chaos of Mao Zedong's bloody cultural revolution. The consequent lack of a system of indoctrination probably contributed to the spread of "bourgeois liberal" ideas and the pro-democracy demonstrations last year. The new hard-line leadership recently announced the return of national service: students will have to spend up to a year in military camps before entering the university, and once they graduate they will have to work one to two years in factories or villages before furthering their studies. The city of Beijing has separately decided to require high school and college students to work part-time in factories in order to bring them in contact with the thinking of the "masses."(3)

Though circumstances in the United States are obviously different from those in China, a number of American philosophers and policymakers have articulated goals similar to those advanced by China's leaders. A century ago Edward Bellamy, in his novel Looking Backward, advocated creating an "industrial army" based on the conscription of young men and women. Hoover Institution senior fellow Martin Anderson calls Bellamy's work, which essentially advocated the creation of a totalitarian military-industrial dictatorship, "arguably the most evil book ever written by an American."(4) Yet Bellamy continues to influence the debate, for, according to sociologist Charles Moskos, Looking Backward "not only first introduced the concept of civilian service by youth, but . . . presented a military analogy to describe the organization of civilian service, a trademark of much subsequent national-service thought."(5)

In 1910 William James picked up Bellamy's theme, arguing that "the martial virtues, although originally gained by the race through war, are absolute and permanent human goods." His means of instilling those values in peacetime was the "blood tax" of national service: "To coal and iron mines, to freight trains, to fishing fleets in December, to dishwashing, clothes-washing, and window-washing, to road-building and tunnel-making, to foundries and stoke-holes, and to frames of skyscrapers, would our gilded youths be drafted off, according to their choice, to get the childishness knocked out of them, and to come back into society with healthier sympathies and soberer ideas." After serving, James argued, participants "would tread the earth more proudly, the women would value them more highly, they would be better fathers and teachers of the following generation." Such was James's "moral equivalent of war."(6)

A few years later Randolph Bourne, a radical who opposed American involvement in World War I, called for creation of an "army of youth" in the New Republic. He proposed that men and women between the ages of 16 and 20 be required to spend two years in some form of public service.(7) There was a ground swell of support for universal military training after World War II, and the Vietnam War gave rise to several national service schemes. In 1967, for instance, anthropologist Margaret Mead argued that universal service "would make it possible to assay the defects and the potentialities of every young American on the threshold of adulthood." The experience would have some unique impacts on women, she observed, since it "would replace for girls, even more than for boys, marriage as the route away from the parental home."(8)

The desire of Bellamy, James, Bourne, Mead, and many others to make the young "serve" has taken various forms in America. The New Deal spawned massive public works programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps. In 1940 Congress instituted the first peacetime draft, which lasted, with one brief interruption, until 1973. Proposals for universal military training abounded in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Starting in the 1960s Congress created a variety of small, volunteer programs, such as the Peace Corps and ACTION. During the Vietnam era Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, Donald Eberly, executive director of the National Service Secretariat, and others proposed appending civilian service to military conscription. In the late 1970s Rep. Pete McCloskey (R-Calif.) devoted much time and energy to pushing a national service program. In 1979 the Potomac Institute published Youth and the Needs of the Nation, which offered a service plan intended to end "the present depression of the national spirit."(9) Voices from disparate parts of the political spectrum sounded a similar call in the 1980s. The Wall Street Journal carried an editorial in favor of mandatory service in 1981 that cited such service as "a means for acculturation, acquainting young people with their fellow Americans of all different races, creeds and economic back- grounds."(10) Four years later the left-wing magazine Mother Jones ran an article calling national service "a social and racial equalizer."(11)

Legislators of both parties have also been pushing for national service. In 1985 Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.) and Rep. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) introduced legislation to create a commission to study the idea. Plans to promote civic service received scattered attention during the 1988 campaign. The Democratic Leadership Council, made up of generally hawkish liberal legislators in the Scoop Jackson mold, proposed an elaborate voluntary plan with great fanfare. Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis backed the concept of national service--and the DLC's specific proposal after the election-- while candidate George Bush advocated his own Youth Engaged in Service (YES) initiative. National service might have become a serious issue in the campaign had not the candidacy of Hart, a private advocate of forced service who publicly pushed a voluntary program, collapsed so ignominiously.

One of the first bills introduced when the new Congress convened in January 1989 was the DLC scheme, and there are now three general approaches--though in these "kinder, gentler" times they are all voluntary--reflected in a dozen different pieces of legislation circulating in the nation's capital. The first and least ambitious approach is represented most prominently by the Bush YES plan, which would create a foundation to pass out $25 million in federal funds annually to local service groups. The second approach, which follows the National Guard model and is being advanced by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), would give $3,000 (to be used to pay tuition or to purchase a home) to those, old and young alike, who spent two weekends a month and two weeks in the summer doing good deeds.

The third and most serious national service initiative comes from DLC members such as Senators Charles S. Robb (D- Va.) and Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Rep. David McCurdy (D-Okla.). They would create what they call the Citizens Corps and condition federal educational benefits on one or two years of participation in civilian projects or the military. With the president and a host of influential Democratic legislators pushing for some kind of national service--Majority Leader George Mitchell has made passage of such legislation one of his priorities, predicting in late January that "we will this year eract national service legislation"(12) there is a good chance that Congress will enact something.

Strategy One: The Open Checkbook

The first approach is to hand out money to private organizations. President Bush's YES program, for instance, would create the Points of Light Foundation, funded jointly by the federal government and private groups; it would provide up to $50 million a year to promote volunteer efforts to combat illiteracy, hunger, and homelessness. Deputy Assistant to the President for National Service Gregg Petersmeyer contends that "this isn't a federal program. This is a movement."(13)

Rather more expensive is Serve America, proposed by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), which would give $100 million annually through the Department of Education to schools, colleges, and local public agencies to create both full- and part-time service opportunities for young people. The bill would also require federal agencies to use current programs to better provide service opportunities.

Grander still is the American Conservation and Youth Development Corps Act, offered by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D- Conn.) and Rep. Leon Panetta (D-Calif.). They would establish an American Conservation Corps and a Youth Service Corps, operating under the Departments of Interior and Agriculture and ACTION, respectively, to provide states with matching grants for volunteers who did conservation and social service work. Similar in concept is the proposal by the National Service Secretariat's Eberly for a National Youth Service program involving one million or more youths that would be administered by local agencies but primarily financed by a federal national service foundation. "Cadets," as Eberly calls them, would receive $6,200 annually plus G.I. Bill- type benefits for education or training.(14)

A contrasting minimalist approach is provided by Senators Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and Pete Domenici (R-N.M.). Both would provide $1 million to help schools start volunteer programs.

Finally, there is the omnibus Democratic bill, offered by the congressional leadership as a means of combining all three strategies, that relies most heavily on federal grants. The program, announced in July 1989 by Senators Mitchell, Kennedy, and Nunn, would provide $330 million annually to a number of entities for a variety of purposes: to states to promote school-based service plans, to a national service board to fund state public service activities, to a national service demonstration project to provide education and housing vouchers in exchange for full- and part-time service, and to existing federal social service programs to expand their activities. By early 1990 this measure had eudued into a compromise $125 million bill backed by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the ranking minority member of the Labor and Human Resources Committee. Even proponents of national service concede that this bill is largely an incoherent "Christmas tree" that simply allows its sponsors to get their feet in the Treasury's door in hopes of expanding their particular programs in the future.

There is no objection, of course, to President Bush or any other political leader urging people to help one another or, even better, attempting to set an example by being one of the "1,000 points of light" that the president talked about during the 1988 campaign. For instance, the president used his "bully pulpit" at the ceremony honoring a number of volunteers at the start of National Volunteer Week in April 1989 to argue that "from now on in America, any definition of a successful life must include serving others."(15) First Lady Barbara Bush has been providing even more direct service- oriented leadership. If a problem worries you, she says, "then you've got to do something about it."(16)

But a purely exhortative campaign, however well conducted, could never live up to the high political billing given the initiative by members of both parties. According to White House Chief of Staff John Sununu, "National service could emerge as a defining aspect of this presidency. There is no policy area to which the president is more committed."(17) Therefore, President Bush and a large number of legislators want to use an open-checkbook strategy to spend taxpayer funds to encourage personal philanthropy.

What does the administration, for instance, predict federal grants will achieve? "I expect there will be literally millions of young people who will become involved in community service and who would not [have done so] had this initiative not started," says Petersmeyer.(18) Despite the good intentions behind the various plans, they all have the trappings of public relations gimmicks and are potential pork barrels like so many other federal grant initiatives--especially federally funded job programs such as CETA.

Solutions in Search of a Problem

Proponents of the grant-making approach have yet to detail how federal funds for volunteer groups will do more than duplicate the efforts of existing programs such as the Student Community Service Project and the Office of Project Demonstration and Development. Moreover, why is any government program needed? Petersmeyer says the money is supposed to be "seed capital" to "create and stimulate activity."(19) Yet there is an infinite variety of private philanthropic activity already under way that was financed by more than $104 billion in voluntary contributions in 1988. Without a major federal program, approximately 80 million Americans, roughly one-third of the population, currently participate in the activities of some volunteer group.(20)

Evidence of those activities abounds. Newspapers and magazines are full of stories of local efforts that have arisen because people have banded together to help meet the needs of their neighbors. "If the '80s were the Age of Avarice, then the '90s are shaping up as the Age of Altruism," observed a Newsweek special report:

Today's volunteers live in every neighborhood. Increasingly, they are part of a group organized by employers or religious organizations, which still account for a full 20 percent of volunteer efforts. But many of the old stereotypes are gone. Forget the garden club: today working women are more likely than housewives to give time to good works, and many organizations are creating night and weekend programs for the busy schedules of dual-paycheck couples. Men, too, are volunteering almost as often as women, although they are more likely to take part in programs such as Scouts and Little League.(21)

Even the much-maligned Yuppies are donating their time. Between 1984 and 1988 the percentage of people involved in volunteer work increased from 31 percent to nearly 50 percent, and many of the volunteers are well-to-do professionals. Attorney Suzette Brooks, founder of New York Cares, a volunteer organization made up of professionals, says that "volunteering has become trendy."(22)

With such an explosion of private activity, how will dumping federal money on private local groups that are operating successfully improve their work? Several congressmen have focused their efforts on increasing programs for students, yet young people, too, are already volunteering. Hundreds of high schools and nearly one-quarter of our colleges now encourage community service. Private secondary schools have long urged their often privileged students to help the less fortunate; today nearly 300 members of the National Association of Independent Schools have such programs.

In California alone roughly 100,000 university students are now participating in the system's two-year-old service program, and that number is expected to increase in the future. Nationally more than one-third of all college students now work in social service projects, up from 20 percent in 1985. Says Frank Newman, president of the Commission of the States, which has organized the Campus Compact through which 150 different educational institutions promote community service: "The 'Me Generation' is over. College students are becoming more aware that they have a responsibility to the community. They are already responding to the urgent needs they see around them and becoming deeply involved in public service."(23)

Another major umbrella group is the Campus Outreach Opportunity League, created by students in 1984, that coordinates the activities of 450 colleges and 200 local and national organizations. There is also a multitude of individual campus groups. The University of California at San Diego hosts the Volunteer Connection; Stanford University has a TEAM program and Barrios Assistance project to assist underprivileged local children. What makes efforts like those so impressive is that they are voluntary, they have arisen spontaneously to meet social needs.(24)

A Corrupting Federal Influence

When a system is working so well there is an enormous danger that government agencies bearing checks may squelch individuals' volunteer spirit and corrupt service groups, changing their focus from helping people to collecting federal funds. (In fact, because of the control that inevitably comes with government money, the Guardian Angels, cited by sociologist Moskos as one of the most "striking examples of civic- minded youth volunteers," refuse to accept public funds.(25)

Another important issue is the proper level of government responsibility. All of the current legislative initiatives focus on encouraging local efforts; why shouldn't the localities fund as well as run such programs? It certainly isn't a case of the federal government, which ran a deficit of $152 billion in fiscal 1989, having a lot of spare change. True, Uncle Sam controls the printing press, but that doesn't mean he should run it even faster to finance new national service programs.

Moreover, the American constitutional scheme envisions cities, counties, and states handling problems that are primarily local--such as aged singles who need help in getting to a grocery store or neighborhood parks that need to be cleaned up. The wisdom of leaving the solution of problems at the level at which they occur is even more obvious when one considers the practical lesson of 200 years of government: programs are most likely to run well if financing and accountability remain together. As long as activities are in essence "free," localities have less incentive to make sure that the work performed is useful. CETA, for instance, turned into the archetypal pork barrel, allowing municipal officials to create boondoggles that local taxpayers probably would not have accepted had they been paying the bill directly. Observes Washington analyst James Bovard:

CETA spent $30,000 to build an artificial rock for rock climbers to practice on, gave $500 a month to a communist agitator in Atlanta to, in his words, "organize for demonstration and confrontation," and paid for a nude sculpture class in Miami in which aspiring artists practiced Braille reading on each other. The usual racketeering abounded. In Philadelphia, 33 Democratic party committeemen or their relatives were put on the CETA payroll. In Chicago, the Daley political machine required CETA job applicants to have referral letters from their ward committeemen and left applications without such referrals piled under tables in unopened mail sacks. In Washington, D.C., almost half the City Council staff was on the CETA rolls.(26)

National service moneys could be similarly abused unless drafters of the legislation now before Congress have discovered a means of taking politics out of political programs. Concern about potential corruption appears to be particularly lacking in the political compromise now emerging in Congress; hundreds of millions of dollars are simply being tossed at each of the various strategies advanced by influential legislators. At a recent Hoover Institution conference on national service one of the discussants responded to warnings of possible corruption with the argument that the problem is ever present with government, so you just "pass the legislation and pray." Surely American taxpayers deserve better assurance than that.

Strategy Two: The National Guard Model

The second approach to national service follows the National Guard model. Senator Mikulski, for instance, expects about 50,000 participants to serve for between three and six years at an annual cost of $250 million as part of a Corporation for National Service. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has offered a similar initiative. Though its details differ-- the voucher would be for $2,000, the monthly obligation would be 24 hours, the period of service would be shorter and the number of participants greater, and the agency's name would be different (the National Service Foundation)--the cost and operating principle would be the same. In the long term, however, there is a major difference: McCain would also require the administration to develop a mandatory program within three years of his bill's passage.(27)

Both of those proposals raise many of the same questions as do the Uncle-Sam-as-banker schemes. Mikulski herself acknowledges that today, without a major federal initiative, there are ample opportunities for people to serve: "We already know how to use volunteers in public service and community projects ranging from Boy Scouts to hospitals."(28) Why, then, should we pay people to help? Doing so would risk turning charitable work into a de facto job; participants would volunteer for the money--Mikulski's $3,000 reward for part-time service is the equivalent of about $12,400 for a standard work year--not because they felt motivated by compassion to respond to human needs.

Indeed, paying volunteers would preclude achievement of one of the most important goals of national service, the inner transformation of individuals. If people sign up essentially to moonlight, and their employers treat their free labor like most institutions treat free labor, it is hard to see what values will be communicated. "Patriotism and citizenship cannot be legislated," argued Rep. G. V. (Sonny) Montgomery (D-Miss.) when he testified before the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources in March 1989. "They must be inspired and the example set by those in positions of leadership."(29)

Moreover, the National Guard approach suffers from the problem of promoting infrequent and episodic service. The strongest case that can be made for a public system, whether at the local or the federal level, is that most people cannot afford to take a full-time community service job unless they receive a salary. In contrast, most people can--indeed, more than 80 million people now do--devote a few hours a week to volunteer work, and some commit their vacations to temporary service work. Thus, Mikulski's legislation addresses the area of least need even by the standards of national service proponents.

Further, Mikulski's program is expected to do far too much, which makes it unlikely that it will do anything well. Warns Hudson Institute scholar Bruce Chapman:

The reason National Service is a poor answer to concrete problems, then, is that it is hardly cognizant at all of the problems themselves. Rather, government-directed National Service is advanced, a priori, as the answer to almost any social ill, as a collection of NS literature will show. It almost is presented as a panacea. What we have in the NS cosmogony is the concept that millions of potential volunteers exist whose own problems --whatever they are--can be solved by putting them to work meeting the needs of the rest of society--whatever those needs are; and that this magical concatenation can occur efficiently only by the hand of the government. The challenge, therefore, is solely to design good works for these putative volunteers to perform.(30)

However, the government is far more likely to fund make-work than useful tasks. As mentioned earlier, the results of CETA and a number of other federal "jobs" programs should be a cause for pessimism. Even if the abuses under a national service system turned out to be less egregious, the result would be unlikely to be worth the cost. For instance, under the Reagan administration's short-lived Young Volunteers in Action initiative some participants ended up working as gardeners' helpers and envelope stuffers.(31) Groups that received free assistance through the Mikulski program would have little incentive to ensure that volunteers' activities were worthwhile; in fact, officials would probably assign participants to tasks that had previously been left undone precisely because no one felt that they were worth doing.

Finally, imagine the potential administrative mess. Who would ensure that participants showed up and did their jobs? Could the local service group fire volunteers who performed poorly? Would participants be guaranteed a hearing before they could be laid off and lose their $3,000?

Strategy Three: Real National Service

The third approach is much closer to what most people think of as "national service." The most prominent of the plans is the Democratic Leadership Council's (DLC's), which would create a Corporation for National Service to administer a Citizens Corps involving an estimated 800,000 young people as well as a few senior members over the age of 65. The latter would receive whatever pay rate was set by the corporation; youthful participants would collect subsistence benefits plus an educational/housing voucher. The Citizens Corps would offer opportunities for both social and military service.

A much smaller effort is envisioned by the Voluntary National Service and Education Demonstration Act, introduced by Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.). He would provide $50 million annually through the Department of Education to fund roughly 4,000 volunteers in new and established community service programs. A somewhat different tack is taken by Sen. Dale Bumpers (D-Ark.), who would partially cancel outstanding loans to college graduates who worked in the Peace Corps and VISTA or "comparable" private-sector endeavors. (Current law allows for deferred repayment of government loans by Peace Corps and VISTA participants.) Finally, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) would spend $75 million annually to employ 28,000 young people in an American Conservation Corps patterned after the New Deal's Civilian Conservation Corps. The ACC would approve the activities undertaken and cover the cost of corps operations, though, in contrast to the Bush and other grant-making plans, the operational bureaucracy would be state or local rather than federal.

The Real Agenda: A Compulsory System

Underlying most of the proposals for national service is the elitist assumption that the body politic is morally deficient and needs a federal program to set it straight. We live in a "prevailing climate of moral indolence," where "such venerable civic virtues as duty and self-sacrifice and compassion toward one's less fortunate neighbors are seldom invoked," declared the DLC.(32) In his latest book Moskos endorses descriptions of the national psyche "in pathological terms--narcissistic, egoistic, possessive."(33) And commentators have for years poured special scorn on the young. William James wrote of the "gilded youths" he would draft, Margaret Mead predicted that national service would "meet many of the unfulfilled desires" that caused juvenile delinquents to fall afoul of the law, the Potomac Institute contended that "the private and public sectors do not provide sufficient opportunities for young people to become imbued with a spirit of altruism," and Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory complained that the young wear "three-piece suits . . . on their souls. They vote conservative, tune out the world's losers, set their sights on the chilly precincts of Yuppiness."(34)

To effectively counteract such alleged rampant and irresponsible individualism, national service must, logically, be mandatory. "Morally indolent" young people probably aren't going to recognize their needs and certainly aren't likely to volunteer for a civilian program designed to inculcate the values James claims are learned from universal military duty: "order and discipline, the tradition of service and devotion, of physical fitness, unstinted exertion, and universal responsibility."(35)

Serious proponents of national service have not shied from stating the obvious. "Under a non-compulsory and therefore non-universal national service system, the goals of true democracy simply will not be attainable," wrote Terrence Cullinan, a researcher with SRI International, two decades ago.(36) About the same time Moskos argued that "any effective national service program will necessarily require coercion to insure that all segments of the American class structure will serve."(37) Though he has backed away from that position with his new, voluntary proposal, he acknowledged three years ago that "if I could have a magic wand I would be for a compulsory system,"(38) and he says that his current effort is "just this side of compulsion, but doesn't cross the line."(39)

Coercion is a dubious means of transmitting such important social values as charity and tolerance or even patriotism. Whether or not the current generation of youth is narcissistic --and that criticism is hardly new--the notion of compulsory compassion is an oxymoron. Ideals cannot be imposed from above; to permanently transform society, values need to move upward, through the family, church, and community organizations, all of which have been undercut by the self-aggrandizing state in recent decades. True, a mandatory program would teach discipline, but other values that it would impart-- such as the potential for using the state to force one's own designs upon others--might be less desirable. The spectacle of privileged, middle-aged political leaders and academics looking out over America and declaring it egocentric and greedy and in need of remedies from which they exempt themselves would hardly provide an uplifting example to American youth.

Mandatory programs would corrupt not only those who were forced to "serve." Moskos cites the use of 70,000 conscientious objectors in West German mental hospitals. "The mental hospitals are Germany's strongest lobby for retaining the draft," he quips.(40) But is a system of civilian industries implicitly supporting military conscription because it brings them cheap forced labor socially healthy?

Today the argument that conscription should be used to forcibly mold character has been largely abandoned, more because it is unlikely to meet with much public enthusiasm than because of any qualms over principle. Moskos, for instance, now emphasizes that work must be worthwhile to produce useful character changes in those who serve. Most national service advocates argue that the problem is principally a lack of opportunities not an unwillingness of people to serve, but their new-found tolerance would probably vanish if their program were enacted and people did not flock to join.

Why Concentrate on the Young?

Moreover, proponents of the third approach still largely limit their attempt to reform what they see as America's basically selfish ethic by directing their programs at the young. The elderly, too, are allowed to enroll in the DLC program, but only as an afterthought; the other initiatives are designed exclusively for young people. Why? What evidence is there that 18-year-olds are more self-centered than, say, 30-year-olds? Argues William Basl, director of the Washington Service Corps, "I don't think young people today are any more materialistic than we were many years ago. We've just said to young people, 'You go to school.'"(41) Indeed, though the most convenient time for people to serve might be between high school and college (or after they've retired), the impact of service on the servers probably would be greater if they participated when they were, say, investment bankers making six-figure incomes. Bush would encourage and Mikulski would allow those people as well as kids to serve. The DLC plan, in contrast, would ignore the very Americans who are potentially the most self-centered.

The DLC program would be unlikely to do much to enhance the nation's service ethic because it shares many of the practical problems of Mikulski's initiative. The Citizens Corps, too, would pay for service in a land already awash with volunteers, turning supposedly compassionate service into a job rewarded by $100 a week, health insurance, a $10,000 or $12,000 (untaxed) annual voucher for tuition or home purchase, and "such other assistance as the corporation considers necessary and appropriate." University of Rochester economist Walter Oi figures this is the equivalent of $17,500 after taxes, or $8.41 an hour for a 40-hour workweek, perhaps not a great reward for someone bound for Harvard but a definite improvement over pumping gas for a lower-middle-class kid just out of high school. Indeed, according to Oi, mean earnings in 1987 for 18- to 24-year-old high school graduates who were employed full-time were $14,732 for males and $12,180 for females.(42)

Thus, the program would seem to transform today's admittedly obnoxious entitlement ethic--that college students are entitled to a taxpayer-subsidized education--into an even more obnoxious entitlement ethic--that they are entitled to a taxpayer-subsidized education if they perform certain government-approved tasks. Moreover, in practice this obligation would apply only to lower-income youth, those who rely most heavily on federal subsidies for a college education. Complains Martin Anderson, the DLC proposal is an attempt to "force low-income kids to build roads and empty bedpans."(43) The obvious solution to young people's wrongly believing that life is full of benefits and no responsibilities is to eliminate the unjust perquisites, such as a subsidized college education, for everyone, not to impose a new duty on poor kids.(44)

A Blueprint for Make-Work Jobs

A serious defect in the DLC program, at least in terms of accomplishing socially useful work, is that it would fill only jobs that are not worth paying to have done. The legislation dictates that the Citizens Corps not displace any current worker, not impair "existing contracts for services or collective bargaining agreements," nor result in "any infringement of the opportunities of any currently employed individual for promotion." Local national service councils would have to ensure that no displacement occurred; each state would have to establish a grievance procedure. (Other bills, such as Moynihan's American Conservation Corps Act, have similar protectionist provisions.) The result would almost certainly be constant conflict between volunteer groups and labor unions and relegation of participants to tasks with the least value.

What work, then, would Citizens Corps members perform? (Sponsors anticipate 800,000 participants, but with roughly 3.5 million people turning 18 every year, all of whom would be eligible to serve two years, millions might volunteer.) Proponents of national service argue that there are an enormous number of "unmet social needs" that can be fulfilled only through some form of government-supported service. The number 3.5 million has been bandied about, and extensive lists have been generated to indicate exactly how many people should go where (1.2 million in education, 200,000 in libraries).(45) But as long as human wants are unlimited, the real number of unfilled social "needs," as well as unmet business "needs," is infinite. Unfortunately, labor is not a free resource, which means that most such "needs" cannot be economically met.

In fact, historically the government has never found many useful social service tasks for volunteers. VISTA hit its peak in 1980 when it employed 5,000 workers. The United States put only 30,000 conscientious objectors into alternative service positions from 1951 to 1965. Between 1965 and 1970, 170,000 people were classified as COs, but only about half of them were assigned to service jobs. The depression-era public works programs employed millions of people, but those people were paid to build roads and undertake similar projects, not to "do good." Even today, VISTA, the Peace Corps, and the more than 60 state and local youth service programs collectively employ just 9,000 people. What does the DLC suggest for 800,000 or more? Not only working with the terminally ill, but also helping in day care centers, building playgrounds, handling police paperwork, and installing smoke detectors in the homes of senior citizens. But do those sorts of activities justify a massive new federal program? Warns Rep. William Ford (D-Mich.), the DLC program is "an approach reminiscent of Stalinist industrialization in the 1930's: throw legions of untrained and inexperienced young amateurs at the problem."(46)

That is not to say that young people cannot achieve anything worthwhile; the San Francisco Conservation Corps recently built a 450-seat community theater.(47) They simply cannot satisfy all social needs, which range from health care to education to outdoor construction. Moreover, there are specific social needs that seem pressing but are unmet because people lack the resources to pay for them. Those problems, however, are individual, not a disembodied aggregate. Local volunteer efforts should address such needs; people should be encouraged to acknowledge their responsibility for their neighbors instead of expecting the government to step in. Any government solution should be narrowly focused--for instance, on the problem of families' paying for adequate care for members with Alzheimer's disease.(48) The notion of vast, unspecified "unmet social needs" is meaningless.

Serious Opportunity Costs

Particularly important in this context is what economists call "opportunity cost"; that is, paying young people to sweep floors entails the cost of forgoing whatever else we could do with that money and the cost of forgoing whatever else those young people could do with their time. An additional dollar spent on medical research might be a better investment than one used to add an extra hospital helper; an additional young person who finished school and entered the field of biogenetics might increase social welfare more than one more kid shelving books in a library. Indeed, people "serve" the public by performing all manner of tasks, not just jobs termed "public service."

As our population ages, the opportunity cost of channeling young people into useless occupations for a year or two will grow because it will become increasingly hard for small start- up firms, which provide valuable services and products to society, to attract the lower wage help that they need to succeed.(49) The DLC program would delay the move of hundreds of thousands or millions of people annually from school to the workforce.

Furthermore, in a world in which foreign students regularly outscore American children on tests on a variety of subjects, shouldn't we encourage students to study harder and finish their education instead of paying them to spend a year or two picking up cigarette butts in a park? Except in the case of hard-core ghetto dropouts, any skills learned through the citizens corps are likely to be of little value and never again used after the volunteer reenters school or the workforce. And a new study raises doubts that even the poor would benefit much from this sort of work. After reviewing experience of the military, the Human Resources Research Organzation concluded that "any advantage military service provided low-aptitude veterans over their civilian counterparts did not translate into higher future earnings. . . . Though the military might appear to be an attractive and efficient means to ameliorate the economic ills and skills decline rampant among the nation's youth, [it] does not appear able to turn disadvantage into advantage."(50) Although the average pre-med student will probably continue his education and become an M.D. despite such an interruption, less motivated students might not finish school. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that students are most likely to earn a baccalaureate if they attend university immediately after high school. Worried Eduardo Pena, chairman of the League of United Latin American Citizens' Foundation, a national service program would interrupt "the educational cycle" and create "too many situations that tend to siphon off students from continuing their education."(51) Not everyone should go to college, of course, but it is hard to see the social benefit of discouraging interested students from completing their studies.

Would "service" nevertheless make participants, whether the pre-med or the marginal student who drops out, better people? Almost certainly yes--if they served voluntarily. But advocates of the Citizens Corps have yet to show how paying people to sweep floors in a public library will improve their characters. If that's all it takes to create a sense of civic responsibility, then students presumably could gain the same benefit by taking a part-time job sweeping floors in the campus library. A monster new federal program simply won't create a desire to serve.

That is the case even for the "conservation corps" programs so favored by national service advocates. Argues Chapman: "Whatever else these jobs may be, they are not necessarily character-building or new. Young people have taken similar jobs for years. Maybe they have the value of making a college- bound student grateful that he isn't going to be doing that all his life. But such a lesson is quickly learned and the rest is generally not ennobling."(52)

A Bureaucratic Nightmare

Even if national service made theoretical sense, the bureaucracy required to administer a system involving hundreds of thousands or millions of young people would threaten the viability of the very local volunteer groups that are supposed to help carry out the program. Under the DLC plan there would be a Corporation for National Service that would decide what kind of work was "appropriate" for members of the Citizens Corps and then monitor their activities, especially to ensure that participants completed their jobs.

The corporation would be empowered to make grants to states and local national service councils, and the proposed legislation requires state governments to establish a "national service plan" and to maintain existing expenditures for community service programs. Local national service councils, composed of community groups along with local government officials, businessmen, and representatives of schools and labor unions, would hire staff and prepare plans and oversee their implementation. Council members would have to be cer- tified by the governor; local plans would have to be drafted in conformity with the state plan and approved by the state. The corporation could require groups to pay up to $1,000 for every volunteer they received, and so on.

Anyone who doubts the harm that may come from Uncle Sam's heavy "helping hand" need only review the experience of the Meals on Wheels program, which started out as a private effort to provide meals for elderly shut-ins. So effective was the program that the government took an interest in it-- resulting in a federal takeover that supplanted much of the private charitable activity that had given rise to the program in the first place.(53)

An unwieldy bureaucracy in charge of local operations that are supposed to be developing innovative and inexpensive means of assisting needy people would not be the only problem. An equally serious difficulty would be the politicization of the entire process. Observes Woody West of Insight magazine, "Can't you imagine the partisan and ideological cat fights in dividing the goodies?"(54) Today if a government agency attempts to close a regional office, congressmen intervene; and if a city council tries to contract out work, labor unions protest; interest groups constantly battle each other over federal dollars and regulations in attempts to pull legislative and executive strings to advance their causes. The Corporation for National Service could drag small volunteer groups into the same sorts of destructive political struggles.

At issue would be not only money and cheap volunteers, important though those would be. Groups would also be battling for official sanction, the symbolic imprimatur or legitimacy that approval as a participant in the program would bring. There is reason enough for government not to favor one form of service over another, and the likelihood of setting one group against another makes government involvement even less desirable.

Political fights would probably spill over into the courts. Questions about job displacement and about whether particular jobs, such as patronage positions, fall within the intent of the law would almost certainly provide a boon for local lawyers. So, too, would questions about the activities of church-run charities, which account for almost half of all charitable contributions. The current legal standard for government aid to religion is complicated and convoluted; a system involving hundreds of thousands or millions of volunteers would result in innumerable conflicts.

Moreover, such a byzantine regulatory structure would offer significant opportunities for corruption. Oi points out that the DLC's voucher is particularly susceptible to abuse; for instance, virtually any real estate agent could launder vouchers by selling property with a buy-back agreement.

The exemptions from service that local boards could issue would also provide opportunities to abuse the system. "Make yourselves strange enough or undesirable enough that the local board will decide not to inflict you on any of their approved charities, and you can just take the money and run," warns Chapman. "If this sounds cynical, it is only because similar manipulations were common under the locally administered draft and contributed to its eventual bad repute."(55)

The final administrative point is more mundane but equally troublesome. What kind of structure will be necessary to handle potentially millions of kids? Where will they live, eat, and play? Who will train and supervise them? National service advocates say that they expect most volunteers to live at home, but that ensures that there will be no common character-molding experience, one of the justifications for the program.(56) There is also likely to be a mismatch of demand for and supply of volunteers, since urban areas typically have more severe social problems. Further, attempting to instantaneously employ nearly 1 million people could lead to logistic disaster. Even Eberly, who supports a large-scale service program, thinks that it would take three to four years to be able to manage even 500,000 people.

Costs to the Taxpayers

Where is the money for national service going to come from? The costs of the initiatives vary, but true national service would be very expensive. Proponents of the Citizens Corps estimate that costs will run about $5.3 billion after the total cost of $13.6 billion is partially offset by $8.3 billion in reduced outlays for educational programs that are to be phased out. However, David Henderson, an economist at the Naval Postgraduate School, figures that a more realistic estimate for just 600,000 workers is $7.5 billion; after figuring the value of the labor performed and efficiency losses to the economy, he projects that costs would exceed benefits by between $3.5 billion and $4.5 billion.(57)

If the number of participants were more than 800,000-- approximately 3.9 million undergraduates alone receive some form of federal financial aid today--the expense would be far greater. In fact, some critics contend that were all present beneficiaries of student loans to participate in the national service program, the cost would run from $30 billion to $50 billion. Moskos and others dismiss such estimates, but "the history of other government programs," observes Chapman, "reminds us that bureaucratic costs are usually higher than predicted by the sponsors. Way higher."(58)

Although some people would forgo student aid to avoid spending a year shelving books at the local library, the DLC initiative would not eliminate student loan and grant programs. It would simply cut off aid for those who hadn't participated in the Citizens Corps, with some important exceptions. Thus, even former DLC policy director Will Marshall estimated that 33 percent to 40 percent of the current loan recipients over the age of 24 would still qualify for assistance. And people who performed their year or two of service could collect their $10,000 annual voucher and then apply for Pell grants, guaranteed student loans, work-study assistance, and any other government education subsidy. The $8.3 billion supposedly saved by phasing out federal educational assistance would probably prove to be largely illusory, pushing net costs even higher.

Citizen Soldiers: Saving the AVF?

A potential justification for the added expense of national service would be to improve the All-Volunteer Force if the military were unable to recruit an adequate number of qualified young people. Proponents of the Citizens Corps point to the provision for the enlistment of two-year "citizen soldiers" who would collect $24,000 vouchers to make up for their reduced pay. However, the AVF is actually recruiting young people who are smarter and better educated than the general youthful population. Indeed, the Pentagon's performance has been superlative: in 1988, 93 percent of its recruits were high school graduates (75 percent of the young population in general were high school graduates), and 95 percent of its new enlistees scored in the top three (of five) categories of the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT), which essentially tests intelligence (only 69 percent of civilian youth scored as well).

Thus, creating a massive civilian service program will not help the military. "We're in great shape and should not tamper with the effective tools we've given the military," argues Montgomery, a long-time hawk.(59) Although recruiting in 1989 proved somewhat more difficult, the military's recruits remain far above average, as they have been for years (see Table 1).

And recruiting will become far easier in coming years, for the military is bound to shrink. Last November the services drafted plans to cut overall manpower levels by 250,000, more than one-tenth of the force. The Army alone proposed eventually slashing 135,000 of 769,000 active duty soldiers, roughly 18 percent of its force. And in January Defense Secretary Richard Cheney announced that the Pentagon expected to eventually dismantle 5 of 28 active and reserve Army divisions.

Nevertheless, supporters of national service are not satisfied. Moskos, for one, has argued that the army is below average, since in 1988 only 46.7 percent of the overall enlisted population scored above 50 on the AFQT and 50 percent of the overall youthful population did so. However, only 0.1 percent of soldiers scored at the lowest level (Category V) whereas 10 percent of the youth in the general population scored at that level, and only 11.8 percent of soldiers scored in Category IV in contrast with 21 percent of all youth. Thus, the average for the army was better than that for the overall youthful population. Fewer soldiers scored at the top or in the top half, but many fewer scored in the lowest categories. Even more important, however, is the fact that 66.5 percent of the army's accessions, or new recruits, scored above average, better than the overall youthful population. If the army has a problem, it is in its career enlisted force, but Moskos's citizen soldiers would be short-term enlistees (see Table 2).

Table 1

Military Recruits (Percentage)
(Table Omitted)
Source: Assistant Secretary of Defense, Force Management and Personnel.
(a) First half of fiscal year 1989, October 1, 1988, to March 31, 1989.

Table 2

Percentage Distribution of AFQT Categories
(Table Omitted)
Sources: Taken from a table prepared by Juri Toomepuu, USARCPAE-RS, May 5, 1989. Data on youth population from Profile of American Youth, OASD (M, RA&L), March 1982, Table 3 (corrected by Toomepuu); data on accessions from USAREC minimaster file; data on enlisted population from DMDC.
(a)As of April 10, 1989.
(b)As of end of December 1988, based on 549,106 records.

A second argument is that the military is made up disproportionately of the disadvantaged. The DLC, for instance, argued in its report on national service that 18- to 21-year- old minorities made up 26.9 percent (in 1986) of the military but just 17.8 percent of the civilian population. Journalist Timothy Noah puts it slightly differently: "The enlisted ranks of the all-volunteer Army are drawn largely from the poor."(60) However, Noah offers no evidence for his assertion, and Chapman points out that the DLC's figures for the civilian population do not include Hispanics, though they are included in the military figures. Adding the requisite 9.5 percent brings the total minorities in the military to slightly fewer than are found in the general population.(61)

National Service Could Weaken National Defense

The Citizens Corps isn't just unnecessary, it would be counterproductive for the armed forces. A federal civilian service program would probably draw people away from the military. "We don't want high-caliber people who might otherwise join the Army off planting trees instead," says Thomas Byrne of the private Association of the U.S. Army.(62) Moreover, an influx of short-term citizen soldiers would reduce the experience and skill level of the armed forces and increase turnover, which would not only hike training costs but also require added reenlistment incentives to maintain an adequate sized career force. As a result, a DLC-type program could actually increase military costs.

That point was made by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Management and Personnel Grant Green, who testified before Congress that national service legislation would "reduce recruit quality, increase training costs and adversely affect the productivity of military personnel," as well as increase "minority participation" in the armed forces.(63) According to a Pentagon-funded study by the independent analytical firm Syllogistics, national service would not reduce the military personnel budget unless accession quality, overall force experience, and effectiveness levels deteriorated substantially; none of the proposals would significantly improve accession quality, and a compulsory or draft-based plan would reduce quality.(64) Moreover, in its official response to Senator Nunn on his bill, the Department of Defense warned:

Because of the large influx of 2-year enlist- ments, the training base (and associated costs) would have to expand markedly. In addition, unit training work loads, personnel turbulence, and attrition experienced in active and Reserve operational units would all increase. Minimum overseas tour lengths would need to be cut, sharply increasing permanent change of station costs. The combined effect of these factors would drive sharp accession and end strength increases, disrupt unit cohesion, weaken esprit and morale, reduce individual proficiency and compromise unit readiness.(65)

Those conclusions have been assailed by Moskos, who contends that polls show that half of the men would opt for military service under a national service system and that including calculations for reserve service would bring the net training costs for citizen soldiers below those for longer term enlistees.(66) However, as David Henderson, an associate professor of economics at the Naval Postgraduate School has pointed out, polls that ask what people would do instead of what they are doing are potentially unreliable, which means that we can't be sure so many men would join the military. Even if most men went into the military, national service might draw the brightest, best-educated youths away from the armed services, leaving a disproportion-ately large number of less well qualified men who would opt for the military-- even today dozens of inner-city kids apply for the military for every one who is accepted. Further, service in the reserves is important, but a year in the reserves does not have the same military value as does one on active duty.(67)

Hidden Costs to the Military

Perhaps the most important military argument against national service is the fact that longer term enlistees both save training costs and are more productive. The DLC study failed to grasp the efficiency value of careerists, citing as a possible source of financial savings the "reduction in the number of soldiers in higher pay grades."(68) It is ironic that the DLC promotes job displacement in the military but forbids it elsewhere, especially since "aging" the force can actually save money by creating more stable and experienced armed forces. For that reason a decade ago manpower experts Martin Binkin and Irene Kyriakopoulos urged the Pentagon to "take steps to improve retention among certain experienced personnel, thereby reducing the demands for new volunteers and for the resources now devoted to maintaining a relatively large pool of nonproductive employees. These steps not only would allow the nation to field more effective armed forces but could save money as well."(69)

Finally, the Nunn-McCurdy proposal fails to meet even its own criterion of offering lower benefits to citizen soldiers. Oi estimates that, because the untaxed $12,000 annual education/housing voucher is provided in addition to regular pay and health benefits, a Citizens Corps member would receive benefits "63 percent higher than [those] paid to a regular enlisted man or woman."(70) As a result, the Pentagon would not only spend more on personnel, its training costs would also rise sharply as the pay disparity drew many people away from longer term enlistments--especially if they could reenlist as regular soldiers after performing their two years as citizen soldiers.

That would be a particularly ironic result of a project endorsed by people who have (mistakenly) criticized the volunteer military for costing more than a draft force. For instance, they compare 1964 and 1986 levels of total defense spending and find more money going for fewer troops.(71) However, the aggregate numbers indicate nothing about the relative costs of conscription and volunteerism: Most personnel spending goes for careerists, retirees, and civilians. Barely one-tenth of that spending goes for draftees and soldiers in their first two years, and any savings from cutting their pay would be more than offset by the costs of conscription, including draft enforcement, higher training costs, and increased enlistment incentives.(72)

In the unlikely event that recruiting adequate numbers of qualified young people becomes a serious problem in the years ahead, there is an easy answer: end or restrict existing student aid programs. That would make military service more attractive since it would then be the only federal source of educational benefits.(73)


All three of the major national service strategies being pursued today involve voluntary participation, but former New York Mayor Ed Koch recently renewed his compulsory proposal and many past advocates of mandatory service have not yet entered the current debate: former secretary of state Alexander Haig, Atlanta mayor Andrew Young, Rep. Robert Torricelli (D- N.J.), two-time presidential contender Gary Hart, former Ford Foundation president Franklin Thomas, and MIT chairman David Saxon, to name a few. Rep. Dave McCurdy (D-Okla.) once backed the draft, and Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) remains a persistent supporter of conscription.

Moreover, the reliance on volunteerism by proponents of national service is largely a matter of tactics rather than of principle. Many of them would prefer a mandatory program. As noted earlier, Moskos, the DLC's intellectual guru who recently wrote A Call to Civic Service, has admitted that "If I could have a magic wand, I would be for a compulsory system."(74) Eberly, too, has been very supportive of universal service, though he apparently has not explicitly endorsed coercion.(75)

Many legislators also favor a compulsory program. A decade ago Senator Nunn wrote that mandatory service "for all youth . . . would ultimately be of great benefit to the nation."(76) Sen. Claiborne Pell, author of his own national service bill, would prefer universal service but believes that it is not currently feasible.(77) And at an Atlantic Council forum last year Republican Senator McCain criticized the DLC program because it was not compulsory; Senator Robb responded that he favored a universal system but didn't believe it was politically feasible. McCain subsequently introduced his own measure that would require the president to create a mandatory system of national service.

Support for coercion has not wavered despite the spectacle of China's using its once admired system of national service to enforce ideological conformity. Of course, those who 10 years ago praised "the extraordinary mobilization of the talent of young people" in China said they were committed to devising "a democratic equivalent" for the United States,(78) but it is hard to imagine a democratic equivalent. The very nature of the American system is the shoal upon which the national service armada inevitably runs aground. Enthusiasm for mandatory universal service reflects a conception of the individual's relation to the state that conflicts with the principles on which the Republic was founded: "instead of . . . society for the individual, we have the individual for society," declared political theorist Alfredo Rocco, a favorite of Benito Mussolini.(79)

Our nation would benefit from a renewed commitment to civic service, and, in fact, we see the movement of "little platoons," as Charles Murray of the Manhattan Institute calls them, across American society. An infinite variety of important ties binds us to one another, and those bonds deserve to be fostered and strengthened. But such significant parts of our lives, though "public" in a very important sense, are not properly within the realm of government. If civic values are not developed from below, they cannot be imposed from above. It's time we rejected the metaphor of the "moral equivalent of war"; there is no such thing, and we should not want such a thing. Despite the best efforts of President Bush and legislators and philosophers from different points on the political spectrum, in practice government-sponsored national service, if elective, will probably duplicate private efforts, stifle existing organizations, and waste money, or if mandatory, will subvert the compassionate impulses that animate true volunteerism and violate the principles of what is supposed to be a free society. What we need is more individual service, not a program of government service.


(1) Potomac Institute, Youth and the Needs of the Nation (Washington: Potomac Institute, 1979), p. 28.

(2) Ibid., p. 18.

(3) See, for example, "China Says Educators Sowed Seeds of Unrest," Washington Times, September 11, 1989, p. A9; "Class of '93 at Beijing U. to Go to Army School First," Washington Times, August 15, 1989, p. A9; Nicholas Kristof, "China Is Planning 2 Years of Labor for Its Graduates," New York Times, August 13, 1989, p. 1; Daniel Southerland, "China Orders Manual Labor for Students," Washington Post, September 10, 1989, p. A27; Daniel Southerland, "China Plans Training of Students," Washington Post, August 15, 1989, p. A1; and Sheryl WuDunn, "Chinese College Freshmen to Join the Army First," New York Times, August 15, 1989, p. A13.

(4) Martin Anderson, "The Dirty Work Philosophy of National Service," remarks to the Hoover Institution Conference on National Service, September 9, 1989, p. 4.

(5) Charles Moskos, A Call to Civic Service: National Service for Country and Community (New York: Free Press, 1988), p. 30.

(6) William James, Essays on Faith and Morals (Cleveland, Ohio: World Publishing Company, 1962), pp. 323, 322, 325, 326.

(7) Cited by Anderson, p. 4.

(8) Margaret Mead, "A National Service System as a Solution to a Variety of National Problems," reprinted in The Military Draft, ed. Martin Anderson (Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 1982), pp. 437, 442.

(9) Potomac Institute, p. 19.

(10) "A National Service Debate," Wall Street Journal, May 29, 1981, p. 24.

(11) Pete Hamill, "Let's Draft the Yuppies," Mother Jones, June 1985, p. 60.

(12) George Mitchell, Speech to National Press Club, January 25, 1990.

(13) Quoted in Gerald Seib, "Bush, with 'Points-of-Light' Plan, Calls for Volunteers to Fight Social Problems," Wall Street Journal, June 23, 1989, p. A2.

(14) Donald Eberly, "A Supporting Role for the Federal Government in National Service," paper presented to the Hoover Institution Conference on National Service, September 9, 1989, pp. 2-5. He suggests starting with 60,000 participants to be financed by a reduction of 30,000 in the armed forces. Donald Eberly, "Government Needed to Focus Volunteer Efforts," Christian Science Monitor, June 21, 1989, p. 13. But his ultimate goal is a larger program, and he says that "in 20 years we might end up at the same place" we would with the Nunn-McCurdy bill. Eberly, remarks to the Hoover Institution Conference on National Service, September 9, 1989.

(15) Frank Murray, "Bush Urges Citizen Involvement," Washington Times, April 11, 1989, p. A3.

(16) Barbara Kantrowitz and Ann McDaniel, "A First Lady Who Cares," Newsweek, July 10, 1989, p. 43.

(17) Ralph Hallow, "White House Hopes to Make Volunteerism Its Hallmark," Washington Times, April 10, 1989, p. A1.

(18) Ibid.

(19) Quoted in NonProfit Times, April 1989, p. 10.

(20) Marshall Ingwerson, "Bush Unveils Plan That Encourages Volunteering," Christian Science Monitor, June 23, 1989, p. 1.

(21) Barbara Kantrowitz, "The New Volunteers," Newsweek, July 10, 1989, p. 36. The variety and extent of American volunteerism are illustrated in "A Salute to Everyday Heroes," Newsweek, July 10, 1989, pp. 46-66.

(22) Annetta Miller et al., "The New Volunteerism," Newsweek, February 8, 1988, p. 42.

(23) Quoted in William Raspberry, "Not All Students Are Greedy," Washington Post, February 3, 1988, p. A19.

(24) Mandatory school-based service programs, such as the one advanced by Professor Benjamin Barber at Rutgers University, are becoming increasingly popular at both the college and high school level. But they do not truly represent a national service program as do the various initiatives before Congress. Mandatory service requirements at public institutions, especially secondary schools where attendance is mandatory, raise serious issues, but private institutions are free to do as they wish.

(25) Moskos, p. 79. The Christian organization Habitat for Humanity, which builds low-cost housing for the poor, rejects public money for the same reason. Karen Diegmueller, "A Home They Can Call Their Own," Insight, August 14, 1989, p. 24.

(26) James Bovard, "The Failure of Federal Job Training," Cato Institute Policy Analysis no. 77, August 28, 1986, p. 4. Footnotes omitted.

(27) McCain specifically criticizes other national service proposals because they "lack the appropriate scope and do not address the true concept of national service." John McCain, Dear Colleague letter, April 11, 1989. McCain apparently would not shrink from jailing those who refused to "serve." His aide Scott Celley explained to economist David Henderson that "under consideration would be a full range of possible penalties to ensure mandatory participation." David Henderson, "Who Needs a Citizens Corps?" Barron's, April 24, 1989, p. 9.

(28) Barbara Mikulski, "A New Kind of National Service," Washington Post, July 17, 1988, p. C7.

(29) G. V. (Sonny) Montgomery, testimony before the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, March 14, 1989.

(30) Bruce Chapman, "National Service as a Metaphor: Politics and the 'NS' Bug," paper presented to the Hoover Institution Conference on National Service, September 5, 1989, p. 4.

(31) James Bennett, "1,000 Points of Lite," New Republic, November 7, 1988, p. 22.

(32) Democratic Leadership Council, Citizenship and National Service: A Blueprint for Civic Enterprise (Washington: Democratic Leadership Council, 1988), p. 3.

(33) Moskos, p. 8.

(34) James, p. 325; Mead, p. 437; Potomac Institute, p. 90; and Mary McGrory, "How Congress Can Return Youth to the Young," Washington Post, September 22, 1985, p. C2.

(35) James, p. 327.

(36) Terrence Cullinan, "The Courage to Compel," in Anderson, ed., The Military Draft, pp. 453-54.

(37) Charles Moskos, "The Social Equivalent of Military Service," Teachers College Record 73, no. 1 (September 1971): 10.

(38) Quoted in Jacob Lamar, "Enlisting with Uncle Sam," Time, February 23, 1987, p. 30.

(39) Richard Dennis, "National Service Offers an Idea Whose Time Has Come," Chicago Tribune, August 9, 1989, p. 17.

(40) Quoted in Robert Kuttner, "Give the Young a Better Chance to Serve Their Country," Business Week, March 21, 1988, p. 15.

(41) Youth Service America, "Spotlight on Service: Leaders Push for More Public Service by America's Youth" (Washington: Youth Service America, n.d., mimeographed), p. 2.

(42) Walter Oi, "National Service: Who Bears the Costs and Who Reaps the Gains," paper presented to the Hoover Institution Conference on National Service, September 8, 1989, p. 15.

(43) Quoted in Jeffery Sheler et al., "The Push for National Service," U.S. News & World Report, February 13, 1989, p. 23.

(44) The notion that people should be responsible for their own college expenses should not be shocking, since they, not society, capture the bulk of the benefits of their additional education. The DLC, for instance, estimates that the average college graduate earns $640,000 more during his lifetime than do his unschooled peers. Democratic Leadership Council, p. 11.

(45) Richard Danzig and Peter Szanton, National Service: What Would It Mean? (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1986), pp. 40-41. Two decades ago Donald Eberly put the number at 5.3 million. Donald Eberly, ed., National Service (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1968), p. 4.

(46) William Ford, "Bill in Congress on Public Service for Young People Shows Confusion about Student Aid and Patriotism," Chronicle of Higher Education, March 15, 1989, p. A40. Even college-trained personnel don't always do a creditable job. The real record of the Peace Corps, for instance, is considerably less glorious than popular mythology suggests. See, for example, James Bovard, "JFK's Baby at 25: Alive and Bumbling," Reason, May 1986, pp. 20-28.

(47) Bob Cohn, "Doing Something Meaningful," Newsweek, August 28, 1989, p. 38.

(48) In this way more of the needed service can be procured directly, by raising wages and purchasing labor-saving technology. Other issues need to be addressed as well. For example, greater immigration would provide less expensive labor to meet needs that currently cost too much to meet. Moreover, government should reverse course where its intervention has created serious social problems. For instance, the proliferation of federal health insurance--especially the one-time cost-plus Medicare and Medicaid systems--has sharply increased inflation of health care costs. State licensing restrictions on the activities of nurses and other non-M.D. professionals have also contributed to high medical costs.

(49) For a detailed analysis of future economic and employment trends, see William Johnston, Workforce 2000: Work and Workers for the 21st Century (Indianapolis: Hudson Institute, 1987).

(50) Bill McAllister, "Disadvantaged Veterans bain Little in Military, Study Finds," The Washington Post, February 24, 1990, P.A10.

(51) Douglas Martinez, "Would the National Service Proposal Help or Harm Hispanics?" San Diego Union, May 7, 1989, p. C8.

(52) Bruce Chapman, "'National Service': A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Come?" Hudson Institute Briefing Paper no. 106, April 18, 1989, pp. 4-5. Small, well-structured programs, such as the San Francisco Conservation Corps, have succeeded in motivating dropouts and delinquents. But those are really social welfare programs directed at kids from families and communities that have largely disintegrated, not a multimillion member program encompassing all young people most of whom are, if anything, too motivated to succeed, at least in the view of many national service proponents.

(53) See, for example, Michael Balzano, Federalizing Meals- On-Wheels: Private Sector Loss or Gain? (Washington: American Enterprise Institute, 1979).

(54) Woody West, "'National Service': Out of Step," Insight, May 29, 1989, p. 64


(55) Chapman, "National Service," p. 7.

(56) Indeed, this factor alone makes James's notion of the "moral equivalent of war" entirely unworkable, since to make civilian jobs equivalent to wartime military service would be an almost impossible task. More important, of course, is the fact that doing so would require suspending, for millions of young people, the standard constitutional liberties that are available to the rest of society.

(57) David Henderson, comment delivered at the Hoover Institution Conference on National Service, September 9, 1989.

(58) Chapman, "National Service," p. 5.

(59) Montgomery.

(60) Timothy Noah, "We Need You: National Service, An Idea Whose Time Has Come," Washington Monthly, November 1986, p. 35.

(61) Compare Democratic Leadership Council, p. 24, with Chapman, "National Service," pp. 8-9. For a more detailed analysis of the representativeness issue, see Sue Berryman, Who Serves? The Persistent Myth of the Underclass Army (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1988), and Sue Berryman, "National Service and Military Service: Will They Fit One Another?" paper presented to the Hoover Institution Conference on National Service, September 9, 1989.

(62) Quoted in Sheler et al., p. 22.

(63) Quoted in George Wilson, "Proposals to Link School Aid to Service Criticized," Washington Post, March 9, 1989, p. A5.

(64) "The Effects of National Service on Military Personnel Programs" (Springfield, Va.: Syllogistics, Inc., September 1988), p. iv.

(65) Department of Defense, "Department of Defense Views on S.3/H.R. 660, Citizenship and National Service Act of 1989," mimeographed, undated (released July 1989), p. 3.

(66) Charles Moskos, "National Service and Its Enemies," paper presented at the Hoover Institution Conference on National Service, September 9, 1989, pp. 15-18. Moskos relies on a study by Juri Toomepuu, an army manpower analyst. Juri Toomepuu, "Effects of a National Service Program on Army Recruiting," United States Army Recruiting Command, February 1989.

(67) Some of the problems with the Toomepuu study, for instance, were detailed by Charles McCloskey, director, program analysis and evaluation, in his memorandum, "Dissenting Views on the Draft Paper 'Effects of a National Service Program on Army Recruiting,'" March 24, 1989.

(68) Democratic Leadership Council, p. 43.

(69) Martin Binkin and Irene Kyriakopoulos, Youth or Experience? Manning the Modern Military (Washington: Brookings Institution, 1979), p. 84.

(70) Oi, p. 21.

(71) Democratic Leadership Council, p. 29, and Moskos, "National Service and Its Enemies," p. 17.

(72) See, for example, Doug Bandow, "An Involuntary Military: Paying More for Less," in The Anthro Factor in Warfare: Conscripts, Volunteers, and Reserves (Washington: National Defense University Press, 1988), pp. 252-54.

(73) Some supporters advertise national service as a new kind of G.I. Bill, which, points out the DLC, cost $45 billion, or 1 percent of the gross national product in 1947 alone. Democratic Leadership Council, p. 7. But those benefits were more a reward for forced service, in effect, deferred compensation for those who were conscripted, and particularly for those who fought. The same rationale cannot be applied to someone who voluntarily joins the Citizens Corps to build playgrounds.

(74) Quoted in Jacob Lamar, "Enlisting with Uncle Sam," Time, p. 30.

(75) See Committee on Armed Services, Hearings on Military Posture and H.R. 1872 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1979), pp. 1101-12, and Anderson, pp. 6-7.

(76) Quoted in Frank Bubb, "National Service: A Solution in Search of a Problem," Human Events, August 6, 1988, p. 22.

(77) See "Enlisting the Young in Public Service," New York Times, April 13, 1987, p. B8, and CQ Almanac 1980 (Washington: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1981), p. 444.

(78) Potomac Institute, p. 18.

(79) Quoted in Erwin Knoll, "Involuntary Servitude," The Progressive, January 1987, p. 4.

1990 The Cato Institute
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