This essay will present ethical arguments against “closing the gap” between the rich and the poor and especially against doing so through the requirement of universal military service.
Advocates of conscription, especially the Democratic Representative Charles Rangel, suggest that the draft is a means toward “closing the social gap” between rich and poor and dragging both into a foxhole, thus rendering them “on an even playing field.”
Mr. Rangel is correct in asserting that poorer individuals, especially persons seeking money for a college education otherwise unaffordable or those not satisfied with the income of their regular jobs, comprise a significant portion of the military.
Yet this is their avenue toward wealth, advancement, and success! In some ten years, should they decide to remain within the armed forces, they will attain a bountiful livelihood as officers, trainers, technicians, or equipment operators. The ambitious ones will become strategists or even generals.
Why clog the ranks of the armed forces with “the rich” (who have little incentive to serve, given the plethora of further wealth they can accumulate in the commercial and industrial world) against their will (which will create half-hearted and expendable fighters) and deprive the military of the free market tendency to improve the lives of all of its participants?
Moreover, what communistic absurdity is the idea that “social gaps” need be narrowed in the first place? True, the rich enjoy a higher standard of living, yet it is deserved, through innovation and effort, the design of products people desire and benefit from, and planned, skillful investment.
At the same time, the contributions of a Gates or a Rockefeller or a Ford elevate, through the goods they render available and the economic stimulus they provide, everyone’s lives dramatically, from the lower upper class to the poorest of the poor.
The gap widens, because people’s riches are magnified at different rates, but all become wealthier under undiluted capitalism. The vilest taint that can be applied to such a system is the reduction of everyone, regardless of accomplishment, individual fortitude, and ideology, to the muck of the trenches.
And this is precisely what the prospective structure of today’s draft would bring upon us.
If Franklin Roosevelt can be deemed Rangel’s intellectual grandfather, his father is another Democratic President, Jimmy Carter, who reinstituted the draft registration requirement in 1980 (incidentally, also as a lame-duck measure!). Congressional adjustments to the draft in 1971 coupled with Carter’s initiative generate a menacing scenario that could stifle the dreams of the most intelligent and ambitious people in the country.
A U.S. Military website explains that “if a draft were held today, there would be fewer reasons to excuse a man from service. Before Congress made ‘improvements’ [quotations are mine] to the draft in 1971, a man could qualify for a student deferment if he could show he was a full-time student making satisfactory progress toward a degree. Under the current law, a college student can have his induction postponed only until the end of the current semester. A senior can be postponed until the end of the academic year.”
If a striving young man, perhaps even a prodigy, who studies to become a scientist, a physician, a humanities professor, a businessman, holds expectations for himself to generate millions from his efforts in addition to an incalculable amount of self-esteem gained from self-fulfillment, the government cares not and dismisses his rational desires with a casual, one-size-fits-all “Pah!”
He is relegated to the front lines, or, in the best possible scenario, to a branch of the armed forces which he does not select and in which his particular comfort in the performance of required tasks is disregarded.
He may be grouped with thugs, scoundrels, ex-convicts, and what will unite them will be naught but a date on a birth certificate. Imagine the grueling torment, internal and external, that a man robbed of a college education will face, imagine the ruin or at least the crippling delay it will pose to his life, imagine the chronic terror, the cringing submission, the futile appeasement, and the never-relenting barrage of insults he will need to endure before his malicious prankster peers and his slave-driving officers.
Those who neither desire nor are currently undertaking the material improvement of their lives will pay the same physical price, yet endure no psychological burdens; they are already apathetic to their fate in all regards. It is he, the one for whom life would have been bliss, who is degraded to the greatest possible level, all for the sake of egalitarianism in the armed forces.
Closing the “rich-poor gap” is an abominable idea, and universal conscription is the worst possible way to implement this idea.