Reinstating ‘the draft’

Thoughts on social (re-)engineering.

‘The draft’ is a term that is associated with military service, which became poignant more than 40 years ago during the Vietnam War era and has surfaced in news headlines only now and then thereafter. The author reflects on reinstating a draft of sorts against the backdrop of events in the 1960’s and 70’s. ‘the draft’ may be a controversial topic, if we only look at it from the perspective of military service, being part of the war machine. There are however other forms of draft and it may be of interest to explore them and weigh the options.

Maybe because ‘the draft’ is so closely tied to military service and the Vietnam War echec (1955–1975), that it is still a somewhat controversial topic today. Many governments followed suit the U.S example — who abolished the Selective Service System aka ‘draft’ in 1973 — by abolishing their own draft systems in subsequent years. Many, but not all. Military conscription, civil service, national conscription to name a few of the flavours in existence, are still upheld in countries across the globe. In 2018 the Kingdom of Morocco reinstated the military draft.

‘the draft’ may be a controversial topic indeed, if we only look at it from the perspective of military service, being part of the war machine.

War, conflict and the subsequent loss of human life has been part of the human condition ever since Cain and Abel. However, before we can melt swords into plowshares we have to do something about this human condition, for war is the symptom rather than the cause of human suffering. Maybe the social reconstruction of society is one way of achieving this and reinstating the draft one of its tools…

War is part of the human condition but so is service to society. Civil service. A formal term expressing our capability of being of service to — helping — our fellow human beings. It is as much part of humanity as is war.

The draft, in essence, is a contract with the society one lives in. People dedicating their lives — and yes, in some cases sacifricing it — to be of service to the society they live in, in order to give back to society what one has received: education, healthcare, benefits, (social) security, prosperity and well-being. It is also temporary of nature and targeted at the younger generations, who spent a number of years of their lives fulfulling their duty to society.

The draft may come in many shapes and forms, not just military service. It may comprise of nursing the elderly and the sick, educating the young. Various public service tasks that are in demand and that can be fulfilled by draftees.

One might argue that it is a form of cheap labour that will disrupt the labour market.

Yes, it is and it will (temporarily) impact the labour market once reinstated.
But there is more to it than that…

It is society that benefits from this cheap labour, not just the happy few. Certain tasks can be fulfilled by draftees which otherwise would have been provided by private sector companies, levied against a margin of profit. The private sector may suffer from it, but society at large will benefit from cost reduction. It may also fill up services that otherwise would have been cut due to budget constrains or simply ignored as politically non-viable.

The draft operates at the low skilled end of the labour market, a sector that has been depleted by outsourcing to other countries in recent decades. And who is to say that ‘the draft’ should be a government-only operation? Why shouldn’t it involve and include the private sector? In fact it should, as long as society at large and the people involved benefit from it.

Additionally and perhaps more important, reinstating the draft will provide 18–22 year olds with a sense of purpose and direction. Youth unemployment is a huge problem in many societies. In some cases youth unemployment is in the double digit figures, as we can observe from for instance World Bank Data

The draft should be seen as investment in future generations and therefore in the future of society.

Yes, but what about the cost? Who is going to pay for it? Where do we find the money to finance this grand idea?

Well, for one, the draft can never be reinstated as a one-dimensional quick fix. It should come as part of a bigger package.

Yes, but what about the cost? Well, that’s a matter of choice. Instead of spending, wasting money on for instance foreign wars, reinstating the draft should be preceded by society re-evaluating its goals and policies, of which one of the results would be the re-prioritization of its spending.

Instead of wasting money on foreign wars, tax breaks for the rich and (foreign) corporations, a society could choose to invest in its younger generations in terms of free education and free healthcare and maybe a host of other services that a society should, would and could offer its citizens for free instead of taxing them.

Reinstating the draft should be part of a New Deal of sorts.

Reinstating the draft should be part of a New Deal of sorts; part of a framework to reinvent society by enabling people, the younger generations in particular, by making use of their vigor in a positive manner, instead of burdening them in debt, dumbing them down with a false sense of purpose and leeching on their energy.

Reinstating the draft will have to come with many provisions, designed, specified in a program that would possibly dwarf the 60’s — mission to the moon — Apollo program and will have to come with one condition in particular: there will be no draft dodgers. It should involve everybody. Nobody can be left out, with maybe the odd exception where mental health or physical inability are concerned.

Reinstating the draft is not a socialist but a social policy.

This sounds all very socialist to me! You must be a communist! No, I do not adhere to any ‘-ism’. I believe in equal opportunity and the pursuit of happiness and prosperity for everybody. Reinstating the draft is not a socialist policy but a social policy and it should involve everybody.

Instead of burdening the young and future generations in debt, they will be committed for a number of years to serve society and once thereafter they are free to fulfill their individual dreams and goals in life. The older generations that will mainly benefit from the efforts of the young are responsible to safeguard their future. Politicians who are for the most part of that generation of elders will have to become wise and smart again. Servants of the public interest instead of subservient to their donors.

The draftees’ service to society will not only impact society in terms of goods produced and services delivered, it will also leave an imprint in the way people act and behave for the rest of their lives. Reinstating the draft is also a way to solve social issues, combat egotism and selfishness, subdueing old boys and girls networks, tangling careerists.

If the sons of bankers and workers serve together for a mutual goal, future bankers and financial service specialists might think twice before screwing over workers again, because they might be doing it to their brothers.

If the daughters of politicians and workers serve together to the benefit of society, future politicians may think twice when cutting budgets on healthcare and education, because they might do it to one of their sisters.

Reinstating the draft is not a nail that can be driven by a single hammer blow into the wall of society.

Reinstating the draft is however not a nail that can be driven by a single blow of the hammer into the wall of society, but rather should become a cornerstone upon which to construct future societies. It may well look like oil on canvas, one might call it Utopia, but humanity has never fallen short of grand new ideas. Many of which have failed and only few have succeeded indeed, but the ones that succeeded have had far more impact on humanity than the failed ones.

How much of a folly a contemporary may have considered the ‘Apollo program’, first conceived during Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration and formally declared in Pres. John F. Kennedy’s national goal of “landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth by the end of the 1960’s”, which he proposed in an address to Congress on May 25, 1961.

The mission to the moon was accomplished, which proves the point that grand schemes have a chance of succeeding. But more importantly, an entire nation rose to the occasion. It inspired generations of scientists and entrepeneurs and catapulted development of goods and services of which we are reaping the benefits up to today.

In the same timeperiod the Vietnam war caused civic unrest and upheaval. Acts of war pronged a response into a short lived period of ‘Peace, Love and Understanding’, but also triggered lot of structural social change that has become part of the fabric of the society we live in today.

The Vietnam War coincidentally also involved ‘the draft’. What was the impact of the military conscription on the outcome of this war? Would the war have been won on military grounds if it had been fought without the presence of conscript soldiers. Probably not…

The U.S. military drafted 2.2 million American men out of an eligible pool of 27 million, between 1964 and 1973. The draft lottery started in 1969. If the draft did not impact the military outcome of the war it certainly impacted public opinion and thereof the ultimate political and moral defeat.

The war was lost on social grounds, in the public eye and opinion. The draft involved everyone, all layers of society, in an unjust war.

If everyone is involved in both the risks and the benefits, this will influence and impact our behaviour.

If everyone is involved in both the risks and the benefits, this will influence and impact our behavior. And this may be one of the key mechanism of the draft. It involves everyone, or at least it should. The circumstances under which draft is reinstated should however be well-defined and just.

The Vietnam War ended April 30,1975. Humanity has yet to return to the moon since the program ended in the 70’s. What has happened since then? What has impacted our lives, the way we think and act in a similar fashion? Well for one: the emergence of the internet. A practically free way of communicating and sharing of information, regardless of social class or geographical location. The internet involves everyone and everyone is impacted by it.

It seems to me that a system that involves everyone, based on equality and neutrality is very well suited to the human condition. It will flourish under these circumstances, and we reap its benefits as well as deal with its negative aspects in equal measure. So would be the reinstitution of the draft in my opinion, if it were to include and involve everyone.

We would not only draft soldiers this time, but also nurses, teachers, any occupation that is deemed beneficial to society and in doing so enabling younger generations and the communities they are part of in equal measure.

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