MP for Kettering, Philip Hollobone, is currently pursuing a Private Members Bill which is said to be heard in February 2014 (due to a delay). His wish is to see a state of national service for young people aged between 18 and 26 (with some exceptions). Individuals will be legally forced into taking part in military work, our emergency services or other similar areas. ‘What is wrong with this?’ you might be asking yourself right now. ‘A lot of young people are lazy and lack skills’ is a viable argument that you might come up with.
Firstly, let’s take a look at the biggest flaw in this argument. This is forced work, not voluntarily agreed to and contractual employment. What very few people will come to realise or question at first glance is what will happen to those that do not wish to go along with this? If I were to say no, there would likely be repercussions as a result; namely imprisonment, or more likely, a fine. Slavery is defined as “A person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them”. Compare this definition to the argument that I have just made above and we come to the conclusion that they are pretty similar. The only real difference is that people under national service wouldn’t technically be state property, although the difference is so small that they may as well be the same.
Next, we must question the purpose of this Bill. Is it really going to be for the benefit of all in society? Or will it end up being a way for certain people to claim that their policies are working? I could put lots of people into a national service programme and claim that I had lowered unemployment, but that wouldn’t necessarily be the case. Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ tried to do something similar (under different circumstances) in the 1930s, as thousands upon thousands of people were recruited into government jobs to make it appear that his policies were working. Were these people really employed? Probably not. Were they being productive and beneficial to the economy? Certainly not. Ultimately, this programme cost a huge amount of money to fund and made this, essentially, a ruse.
This brings me on to my next argument. What are the financial ramifications of national service? This Bill has been cotton lined with good pay and benefits for all. However, with likely hundreds of thousands (if not more) people being employed by the state, this would become a very expensive piece of legislation. This, like the ‘New Deal’, probably would have very few economic benefits. In reality it looks like this is more of the same old ‘throw some money at the problem and hope it goes away’ plan.
Ask yourself a question. If I were to come up to you in the street and present a piece of legislation that gives me the right to force you to work for me for a year, and then fine you or put you in a cage if you said no, what would you say to that? I have a feeling that a vast majority of people would probably tell me where to go. So why are we so eager to give away the freedom of so many young people to a government with a ‘we know best’ attitude? The government very rarely knows what is best for everyone, especially so when things are centrally planned as they always seem to be.
This is why the arguments in support of national ‘service’ seem to be a rather large fallacy. Under all the minimal benefits, there is something rather sinister about legally forcing people into working for the state. If something that benefits society requires the erosion of freedom on such a large scale to be successful, then is it really worth doing? The evidence in this article would argue that it resoundingly isn’t.
By Daniel Harding