This essay shall use the principles of individual rights, negative obligations, and market specialization to demonstrate how forced military service is incompatible with a truly free country.
Draft advocates often claim that a nation of freedom entails certain obligations toward the preservation of its institutions, but this is fallacious rhetoric. The sole responsibilities of every citizen toward a purely free society (but, alas, not the food-poison hybrid of today’s mixed economy welfare state) are negative.
A citizen’s negative obligations imply that he cannot initiate a private war against the United States government, nor can he enter a criminal rampage, nor undertake acts of theft, vandalism, threat, or fraud. Such deeds are impositions of physical force that inherently conflict with a free system.
Once wanton coercion is removed from a society, free market dynamics enter the scene, or, in the words of classical economist Claude Frederic Bastiat, “work becomes more profitable than plunder”, and further regulation and oversight become unnecessary and harmful. If people relate to each other solely within their mutual interests, what threats are there to guard against?
Now consider what the introduction of a fresh threat, such as terrorism, to a laissez-faire society would entail. Because all persons are free to act in their own interest, they will mount a defense of their own volition, without the need of a costly and intrusive conscription apparatus! After all, their lives and property are at stake, their liberties are the ones hanging on the edge of a fanatic’s knife.
But does every man best serve the cause of liberty as a doughboy on the field? Given extensive specialization of labor in a free market society, such a hypothesis is empirically invalidated. A desk clerk who is aware of his capacities can employ himself at a post office and assist in the mailing of military communiqués throughout the world; a railroad tycoon can generate a fortune on shipping weapons and troop cars to their desired locations; a scientist can patent and sell to the government a new fighter jet or a smart bomb of more concentrated impact; and a writer, such as myself, can concentrate on the campaign for people’s attitudinal and ideological support at home by writing reasoned commentaries on the necessity and/or the efficiency of a given war effort.
Despite America’s lack of wholehearted adherence to the philosophy of freedom, this is nevertheless the case today, and the reason for America’s multifaceted success, during wartime and peacetime, in the military and the civil arenas of international relations. It is precisely in this manner that freedom is preserved, and not in the fulfillment of some concocted, mythical, positive obligation of “sacrifice for the greater good.”