Time magazine ran a story back in 2007 on “The Case for National Service.” The story described the positions of the candidates for president on expanding “public service” programs. Two of the Democrat candidates favored mandatory community service by all high school students. And two others — Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden — favored creation of a U.S. Public Service Academy for training civil servants.
Barack Obama has centered speeches around this idea of public service. He waxes sentimental about what we can each do for our country. All in one speech, he said that we must “answer a new call to service to meet the challenges of our new century” and that he “won’t just ask for your vote as a candidate” but “will ask for your service.” And he said that, in fact, this is the cause of his presidency.
Obama, though, is not listed as favoring this proposed academy. Instead, he proposes expanding AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps along with several other programs, and offering funding to students in exchange for community service. We can only hope that he isn’t convinced by his supporters and colleagues to change his mind on this.
Proponents of the academy argue that we’re facing a shortage of public servants, and such an academy could help. Of course, they do not mention that we could reduce the size of government instead of training our youth like soldiers to work for an ever expanding public sector.
It isn’t mere rhetoric to say they would be trained like soldiers. Supporters of the bill have called the proposed academy the “civilian counterpart to the uniformed service academies.” But we should not need a civilian counterpart to the military service academies beyond the police academies that already exist — because the civilian counterpart to the military is just the police officer corps.
Another scary thought is that the belief in mandatory community service for high school students, or mandatory military service as Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) has proposed, could combine with this call for a Public Service Academy. In fact, Rangel himself suggested that under his proposal, “Recruits not needed by the military in any given year would be required to perform some national civilian service.” He argued that mandatory service would close the economic gap, in which the poor are forced to serve disproportionately. However, this gap is actually a myth.
The idea that America’s youths should train like soldiers to serve government on the domestic front is contrary to the freedom and independent spirit this country was founded on. Furthermore, such programs are reminiscent of Soviet youth programs and Soviet job programs, and would similarly incorporate propaganda beneficial to the government in power. A free economy founded on small government has no need for such things — and they set a dangerous precedent.