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May 21, 2008


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I'm ready to fully support compulsory national service for youth - just as soon as the youth start calling for it. Oddly enough, it's usually proposed by people too old to be included.

Hmmm. Well, I've /done/ it ... does that count? And to be frank, I still would be doing it if not for my opposition to the imbroglio around the Tigris and Euphrates.

Still, the idea behind making anything mandatory is that insufficient information and short time horizons lead people to make bad decisions. In this case, the idea is that forcing everyone to have a common experience will create tighter social bonds and less self-centeredness, as well as fill whatever social need the market doesn't quite fix.

So I'm not entirely sure that your objection makes sense when phrased in terms of youth, as opposed to when phrased in terms of the society as a whole. No?

Young people are a minority group that it's perfectly acceptable to discriminate against, even if they're adults. In my country several cars have little stickers with "25" on them, telling the police that anyone under 25 driving them should be stopped and questioned. None of them have little white W's. So I can't help taking a dim view of any more impositions on them by older people. A national service that was universal, from 18 to 80, wouldn't bother me so much. Of course older people would tend to have obligations that prevented them from taking part. For what it's worth I'm 31 and include myself in "older people".

Well, Gareth, at 31 you're not an older person!

But I'm still not really following your argument. There are multiple reasons why /if you're going to have national service at all/ the burden should fall on the young.

First and foremost, the good effects of meeting strangers from all walks of life, having a common experience, and inculcating a sense that you owe something back to a real thing called society are all much larger if the service occurs when you're young.

As for discrimination against young people ... uh ... I don't see the problem. Society treats people differentially by age --- it can't be otherwise, absent wishing that human beings cease being human beings and become something else. Sometimes we (rightfully) give young people extra rights and protections; sometimes we (rightfully) do the reverse.

I suppose it's not the most rhetorically sound thing to go to mention that the "25" sticker sounds like a good idea to me ... but it does, because, well, I /stole/ cars when I was teenager. (We were eventually caught, and kindly let go by the police, because we were lucky that Mr. Torremino, whose car had been "borrowed," knew who we were and convinced the NYPD to treat us gently.) Young people do stupid things that older ones don't ... or do but for different reasons.

Of course, the same argument is why I approve of a separate and more lenient juvenile justice system, becuase young people do stupid things that older ones don't ... or do but for different reasons.

Heck, the same argument leads me to support pension systems for the elderly, and I have no problem with the fact that they consume more public medical resources than us younger healthier types.

But all I know about youth in Britain comes from Lady Sovereign and that somewhat hysterical Time (or was it Newsweek?) article from a few weeks ago.

The irony here is that I've been defending McCain in comments.

Marketing, marketing ... hmm.

Are you sure you're not just conflating between McCain and his base of support?

When you're expecting votes from flat-out stupid people, you probably have to say flat-out stupid things every now and then. It doesn't mean that the candidate _himself_ is actually a flat-out stupid person.

After all, as you once said, McCain is a political animal, and consequently quite willing to go through the said rituals, perhaps even at the risk of possible personal embarrassment.

Of the other topic, I tend to support the practice of conscription that we have. The practice is not only discriminating on the basis of age, but also on the basis of sex. But so what? Somebody has to do the dirty work, and the fact is that some people are either marginally better suited to do it, or otherwise more expendable than others (which probably applies in my case).

Besides, there's discrimination anyway, on every level of the society, on far more questionable basis. It's part of life.

... and the wartime _labour_ obligations, according to the laws of the country that I live in, are compulsory for people from the age of 17 to the age of 64.

Of course, having certain familiarity with Gareth Wilson's opinions and his views on life, his position doesn't surprise me one bit.


J. J.

Jussi, no sniping, please. I don't know Gareth at all, but I appreciate his comments and found them interesting, even if I disagree.

Jussi: good point on McCain. I figured that I was wrong, and posted the "update" accordingly. I didn't think that he was posturing to "win stupid people's votes" thing, but it makes sense.

I'm not sure it's a winning strategy, but his campaign is what it is. Ni modo. Just gotta work harder for a Democratic victory in November.

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