Compulsory National Service

Rory Stewart who is one of the candidates for leadership of the conservative party in the UK has proposed that the UK should adopt compulsory national service (CNS). Some people are defending CNS:

CNS involves the government using force to make people do its bidding. In short, CNS is slavery by another name. For this reason alone I am completely and unconditionally opposed to CNS.

Goodwin claims CNS will reduce polarisation and division, but this claim has several problems.

The first is that CNS will divide the people who get to order the state’s slaves around from those who must take the orders. Anyone with a spine will despise the people giving the orders. Likewise the order givers will have to punish anyone with a brain and will grow to hate anyone who has initiative and creativity.

The second issue is that polarisation and division is a vague term. People disagree about stuff. This is more noticeable over the past couple of decades because of the internet. The internet has also enabled the development of new ideas and so increased the possible scope of disagreements. Some people dislike the existence of critics who disagree with them, and want critics to die in poverty and agony. It’s better to know who these haters are than to live under the illusion that there are no scumbags in the world. It’s also good to know who is willing to sponsor scumbags. The fact that disagreements and hatreds can now more easily be aired opens up the possibility of resolving them by discussion. And since a wider range of positions is available, a wider range of issues can be discussed and understood.

The third problem is that the government already forces most people to associate with others they dislike in school. If the government can’t make everyone link hands and sing kum ba ya in 10 or more years of compulsory education why would more compulsory association help?

If you want to actually reduce conflict in the UK there are ways to do that. One way is to reduce government intervention in the economy. The government uses force to impose its wishes on people. Its policies favour some people and hurt others. So every controversy over government policy is a controversy about hurting people and breaking stuff. Involving the government in any controversy that is not directly about force introduces the use of force and pits people against one another, as pointed out by Ludwig von Mises.

Government policies are also mostly destructive. Using force to hurt people and break stuff for any purpose other than defence against the initiation of force prevents people from engaging in activities that would benefit them. This means that the government slows economic progress and people suffer more problems than they would if the government hadn’t stuck its nose into their business. People misinterpret this slowing of progress as being the fault of institutions other than government. For example, the financial crisis was blamed on banks, but it was caused by the government. CNS will have the same kind of result. People will be forced to undertake work and learn skills that nobody will voluntarily pay for, which wastes their time as well as wasting taxpayer’s money. So if you want to reduce conflict, start reducing government interference.

The government also deliberately promotes division and conflict in the name of tolerance and equality. For example, the US government encourages conflict between homosexuals and religious people who dislike homosexuality by forcing the latter to makes cakes for the former.

The main government policy to help promote tolerance and curb prejudice is to stop interfering in people’s lives in way that directly or indirectly promote intolerance and prejudice. CNS would be a step in the wrong direction.

About conjecturesandrefutations
My name is Alan Forrester. I am interested in science and philosophy: especially David Deutsch, Ayn Rand, Karl Popper and William Godwin.

3 Responses to Compulsory National Service

  1. > For example, the US government encourages conflict between homosexuals and religious people who dislike homosexuality by forcing the latter to makes cakes for the former.

    The issue isn’t about homosexuals. It’s about LGBTQ activists who are *leftists* who don’t tolerate non-leftists. They don’t want people to be free to be religious or otherwise believe disapproved ideas. The basic cause of this conflict is the people who want to burn heretics. That would be bad enough but, worse, they think traditional American values are heretical.

    The government is doing an awful job of handling this but the conflict is different than the quote presents. And there would still be a conflict between the would-be masters and the men who wish to be free, even if the government were not involved in this issue.

    • I’m not sure if we disagree so I want to clarify. The government’s position is that businesses should be forced to make cakes or whatever for LGBTQ or shut down. The government didn’t limit the decision to activists. So any LGBTQ person, whether or not he is an activist, now has a way to attack any business he wants. As a result, the decision gives businesses reason to fear having LGBTQ customers. Even if the government is so grossly incompetent that they haven’t noticed this, the effect of their decision is to encourage conflict. In addition, the government making this decision has a cultural effect of promoting the ideas of the activists and those ideas promote conflict.

      • I agree with that but I think people frequently present the conflict as between e.g. gays/LGBTQs and xians, and that’s misleading. The main conflict is btwn gay activists and xians (the govt has a secondary role). A fair amount of gay/LGBTQ activists are straight, and many gays/LGBTQs are not activists. I think this is important.

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