Who Supports Civil Liberties?

Rep. Charles Rangel, the congressional buffoon from New York, has said he will once again try to reinstate the military draft in this country.

His argument, as I understand it, is that we need the draft to bolster strained troop levels, and also to make it less likely that we’ll use troops because the draft will make it more likely that decision-makers will have a stronger emotional attachment to individual soldiers. And that, somehow, this will improve their decisions and this mass enslavement will bolster social justice.

This is stupid in too many ways to bother listing. But, it doesn’t bode well for the quality of initiatives we can expect from the Democrats.

What’s ironic is that this comes at the same time as the death of Milton Friedman, who was influential in ending the draft in the 70s.

One anecdote I like is this one:

Milton Friedman was very persuasive. One of Meckling’s favorite stories, which his widow, Becky, recalled in a recent interview, was of an exchange between Mr. Friedman and General William Westmoreland, then commander of all U.S. troops in Vietnam. In his testimony before the commission, Mr. Westmoreland said he did not want to command an army of mercenaries. Mr. Friedman interrupted, “General, would you rather command an army of slaves?” Mr. Westmoreland replied, “I don’t like to hear our patriotic draftees referred to as slaves.” Mr. Friedman then retorted, “I don’t like to hear our patriotic volunteers referred to as mercenaries. If they are mercenaries, then I, sir, am a mercenary professor, and you, sir, are a mercenary general; we are served by mercenary physicians, we use a mercenary lawyer, and we get our meat from a mercenary butcher.”

While many Democrats oppose reinstating the draft now, many still favor some kind of imposed national service. What they approve of, and what Friedman opposed, is the notion that it’s proper to treat people as slaves of the state; that the majority can commandeer the lives of others, and that such a thing is noble rather than an obnoxious affront to the most basic notion of civil liberty.

I realize that there are Republicans who support the draft and national service, too. But, I’m tired of hearing people argue that the Democratic Party is the party of civil libertarians, and that they will protect our basic freedoms from those nasty Republicans.

And, this is nothing new. This paper recounts an important conference on the draft at the University of Chicago in 1966. One of the invited anti-draft congressmen was Donald Rumsfeld (R-Illinois), and the pro-draft senator was Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts).


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