Reject the Un-American Call for "National Service"
September 11, 2007
Irvine, CA--The lead article in a recent issue of Time magazine makes the case for "universal national service"--which the article describes as "the simple but compelling idea that devoting a year or more to national service, whether military or civilian, should become a countrywide rite of passage, the common expectation and widespread experience of virtually every young American." Many commentators and politicians have called in recent years for Americans to engage in more national service, which they claim is necessary to preserve and sustain America's greatness. The Time article calls it "a recipe for keeping a republic."
"In fact," said Alex Epstein, a junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, "the idea of 'national service' is profoundly un-American. America was founded on the idea that each individual is a sovereign being with the moral right to his own life and to the achievement of his own goals. This is the basis of the political idea that the individual possesses inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. American individualism and freedom are incompatible with the notion that people are servants who owe their lives--or any portion of them--to their neighbors or to the state.
"The collectivist belief in the supremacy of the group over the individual is the foundation of the national-service ideology, which regards the individual as a servant to the nation. Every totalitarian society in history has rested on the premise of man's alleged duty to the state.
"To call service to a collectivist state pro-American is false and perverse. To preserve our great nation, we must embrace not the subjugation of the individual to 'national service,' but his sovereign right to the pursuit of his own happiness."
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Alex Epstein was a writer and a fellow on staff
at ARI between 2004 and 2011.