A Second Look at National Service

Over at The Wall Street Journal, Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia weighs in on John McCain's and Barack Obama's stances on national service. A snippet:

Both John McCain and Barack Obama exhorted Americans to dedicate themselves to public service in an appearance at Columbia University on Thursday, to mark the seventh anniversary of 9/11. But Americans need no lectures from politicians to participate in their nation's civic life. They need them to stay out of the way. Between the two, Sen. Obama is far less likely to do so.

At first blush, the two candidates appear indistinguishable on the subject. Both have urged Americans to look beyond their individual, material pursuits and commit themselves to causes greater than themselves -- Sen. McCain arguably even more aggressively than Mr. Obama. The difference is that for Mr. McCain this is a moral ideal. For Mr. Obama, it is a governing mission. "Making that call to service will be a central cause of my presidency," he declared in an Independence Day address at the University of Colorado and elsewhere.

Whole thing there.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    What do these idiots think we're doing when we're out here running the economy from which they wish to suck the wealth?

  • ||

    ProL, ignore them. This is the classic case where two politicians think they're on to the same good thing to push, so they start trying to top each other and it just escalates back and forth.

    "I say your three cent titanium tax goes too far!"

    "And I say your three cent titanium tax doesn't go too far enough!"

  • Terry Michael||

    I think Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia needs to read Reason editor-in-chief Matt Welch's book on John McCain.

    As I wrote in response to Nick's piece, "It would take a first-rate cult de-programmer to move John McCain away from his cause-greater-than-self obsession--and the cause for him is always some war, somewhere, all the time." Seems to me a much bigger threat to individual liberty than Sen. Obama's words.

  • ||

    McCain's power, especially domestically, will be limited by Congress. Obama's will not. Even if McCain wins by a strong margin, I doubt his coattails would win back more than one house.

  • ???||

    "I think Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia needs to read Reason editor-in-chief Matt Welch's book on John McCain. "

    That you, Matt?

  • Seward||

    Pro Libertate,

    McCain's power, especially domestically, will be limited by Congress.

    On the issue of national service?

  • Invisible Finger||

    Reign in the banks, moer national service... Obama's sounding more like Hitler every day.

    (go ahead and drink.)

  • ||

    Pro Libertate

    I'm not sure I see Obama getting any further with his Mission than Bill Clinton did in his first two years with a Democratic Congress full of Rockerfeller Republicans.

    Both those groups have wanted some kind of National Health Plan since New Deal times (the Republicans so they didn't have to worry about catching dread diseases from the help) but there were still too many conflicting visions for them to get together on Hillarycare.

  • ||

    I think I've finally figured out what a "community organizer" does. You progressive types can correct me if I'm wrong.

    A community organizer helps groups of poor people organize to beg from the government. Hey, the well connected wealthy do it all the time, so I'm not throwing stones at teaching poor people to take a page from that book. I'm just avoiding feel good euphemisms.

    It appears Barack Obama wants to be the community organizer in chief.

    BTW, Senator Obama, with only my own eyes, I've seen literally hundreds of young men move from poverty to middle class in less tahn a decade. I've seen them walk out of the ghetto into a clean hardworking low crime lifestyle by the simple expedient of joining the military. They are definitely middle class by the time they make E-6, (Staff Sergeant, Petty Officer First Class, Technical Sergeant). The "individualistic bootstrap myth" is no myth. Adults in poverty usually have only themselves to blame.

  • Paul||

    *rubbing temples*

    Someone please make it all stop. Just make it stop.

  • ed||

    What do these idiots think we're doing when we're out here running the economy

    I'll be happy to answer that, PL. Self-interest is well and good when its product fills the tax coffers, but the deadly Judeo-Christian concept of altruism is too strong to ignore--especially during an election year. It's a sorry appeal to what most of us learned as children: putting others before yourself is somehow noble. It betrays an utter ignorance of what capitalism is, and a callous disregard for history and history's lessons.

  • Jennifer||

    As if forking over 40 or 50 cents of every dollar I earn (by the time you calculate sales and other taxes) isn't enough.

  • Don the libertarian Democrat||

    It's fair to criticize Sen. Obama for these programs, which might or might not go anywhere. But I agree with Terry Michael. Sen. McCain's view seems to entail a kind of international service.

  • ||

    On national service, anything goes. I was speaking more generally.

    Yes, it's a sad fact that we common folk, be us worker bees or executives (in other words, we civilians), just sit here working our asses off to keep this economy functional and are treated as somehow not doing enough. And it's even more insulting when the media acts like the presidency is the key player in the economy. Ha!

  • Neil||

    Wouldn't it be great if the Presidency were decided in some contest resembling Thunderdome? We could have these two miserable fascists go after each other with chainsaws and bungee cords.
    At lest there would be one less of them, and it would be a damn sight more entertaining...

  • ed||

    the media acts like the presidency is the key player in the economy.

    Much of the MSM, anyway. They are certainly culpable, if not outright derelict in duty. But then, most journalists lean left. They think they're somehow standing up for the little people when in fact they're helping to destroy them. It's a tragic irony.

  • Warty||

    And some of you don't understand why I collect guns.

  • The Extispicator||

    the deadly Judeo-Christian concept of altruism is too strong to ignore

    As a libertarian and a believer in that particular Judeo-Christian concept -- I believe the two are entirely compatible. I believe I have a moral obligation to help others on my own as my conscience directs me. At the same time, I believe it to be immoral for a government to coerce (directly or indirectly, such as through tax giveaways) its citizens into quasi-public service.

    In other words, my problem with the whole Obama/McCain line has to do with the very fact that it is being discussed by politicians and that adjectives like "national" and "public" are used to describe the service. Makes me shiver.

  • ed||

    a moral obligation to help others on my own as my conscience directs me

    That's a somewhat loaded statement, but there certainly is nothing wrong with voluntarily helping others if it's in your self interest to do so. It's when "moral obligation" becomes "legal duty" that rankles and worries true libertarians.

  • ||

    Both have urged Americans to look beyond their individual, material pursuits and commit themselves to causes greater than themselves -- Sen. McCain arguably even more aggressively than Mr. Obama.

    "Communism and Fascism or Nazism, although poles apart in their intellectual content, are similar in this, that both have emotional appeal to the type of personality that takes pleasure in being submerged in a mass movement and submitting to superior authority." James A. C. Brown

    "It is thus necessary that the individual should finally come to realize that his own ego is of no importance in comparison with the existence of the nation, that the position of the individual is conditioned solely by the interests of the nation as a whole."
    Adolf Hitler

  • Democratic Libertarian||

    Obama will see to it that the sons of the rich bleed alongside the sons and daughters of the poor in the liberation of Darfur.

  • economist||

    Bipartisan=politician circlejerk?

  • Anonymous||

    I was going to say what The Extispicator said, so instead I'll just add these links that carry it further:

    - voluntaryism (You see, the main problem with envagelism of "libertarianism" is explaining what it means, and allowing for state interference in externalities. Fuck that shit and get off my lawn.)

    - Jesus is an anarchist (This is the first document I found that could explain why I have the politics I do have.)

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement