The Volunteer State

|

New at Reason: Julian Sanchez registers as a conscientious objector in the war over AmeriCorps.

NEXT: A Little Dabble'll Do Ya

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.

  1. “…the distribution of “ultra low-flush toilets” to the poor…”

    Aaargh!!! They ought to be smuggling in real toilets from Canada and selling them on the black market to grateful bowel-movers who are sick of having to flush twice. Then they wouldn’t need any taxpayer funding.

    “Kayla Drogosz of Brookings’ religion and civil society project was fully in tune with Eisner, deriding private sector civic associations as “bird-watching groups” incapable of providing the deep sense of citizenship and social unity that government equivalents promote.”

    SO (sigh)–the state has an aura of majesty that is unattainable by free people cooperating voluntarily. Those barn-raisings would have been so much more “progressive” if they’d been organized under a HUD grant. Maybe we ought to nationalize every damn activity that there is, so we can be all morally elevated about serving the Borg collective. Shee-it.

  2. AmeriCorps sounds like a bank. HUD is probably up to something.

  3. I’m not a libertarian or a randian, so I support a certain amount of state-sponsored civic activism. Between the ultra-individualist and the collectivist there is a lot of distance, and something like Americorps is a long way from turning us into the Borg. I’d rather not live in a country that has not sense of unity or common purpose at all. I’ve had experience of the opposite extreme and prefer a comfortable middle.

  4. Common purpose and a sense of unity are more antithetical to the nature of AmeriCorp than anything else – it uses coercion to so much as fund the thing, and uses unity and common purpose as more a way to get people to actually join the thing – advertisement paid for by public money which wasn’t exactly coughed up voluntarily, of course – than anything else.

    There is a big difference in doing what you think is right and using other people’s money to do what you think is right; it is yet another thing to get the other people’s money more out of an unwillingness to revolt than anything else. At least I can “just say no” to businessmen I think are utterly full of shit – yet it requires so much more work, beyond my means as a matter of fact, to get politicians to stop taxing my momma’n’em’me to use our hard-earned money (which we ever so enjoy) on things I think are just a little bit…well, wrong.

    Here’s an idea – be charitable with your own money. What’s so hard about that?

  5. Mark-
    I certainly have nothing against unity or common purpose. Some of the most satisfying things I’ve done involved a group of people devoted to a common end. The question is whether that sense needs to be channeled through politics, through a national identity rather than a series of chosen, subnational (or trans-national) community identities.

  6. I do see a valid argument against government-sponsorred volunteerism a la Americorps, however I think much of their mission was grossly distorted in the article. Clearly not everything they do is frivolous or even of the kind of scope that could be done by an ordinary volunteer – see, Teach for America, the AC program that recruits recent college grads to teach in poorer urban districts. While a valid argument can be made that programs like TFA are no substitute for viable education reform, it is clearly not in the same class as puppet shows and distributing toilets.

  7. Plutarck:

    “At least I can ‘just say no’ to businessmen I think are utterly full of shit – yet it requires so much more work, beyond my means as a matter of fact, to get politicians to stop taxing my momma’n’em’me to use our hard-earned money….”

    What you’re saying is pretty close to what Harry Browne said thirty years ago about the inefficiency of acting indirectly through large collective bodies. As an individual, you have 100% say in the best way to allocate your money to charitable causes. As part of a small voluntary group with consensus decision-making, you have quite a lot of say. But as a citizen, you have about a three-millionth of one percent role in deciding how the government restricts your liberty and uses your money.

  8. “”:

    The even scarier bit is that conservatives – I’m begining to believe that the whole liberal-conservative paradigm is a purely socially constructed bit of sillyness based on conformity, self-selection, and redefining right and left so as to put people you don’t agree with on the other side (as with, if I recall correctly, how both Hitler and Stalin – or was it Lenin… – were both considered conservatives until some of the left took to one and some of the right either took to the other or took to disliking the other, or just reacted to the left – …wow, this sentance has now become impossible to finish. What was I even saying?

    Oh, yeah – “conservatives”, like Bush (both of them), seem to love this kind of crap. So you’re pretty much screwed no matter which socially constructed silly side you’re on.

    I’m thinking we should just rename liberal and conservative “red” and “blue” and just be done with it; far more honest, I think, which goes a far way in explaining why it will never happen.

  9. Kevin Carson:

    Yes, that sounds like exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about. Furthermore, it goes to the (I think) bit from Milton Friedman about “spending other people’s money on other people” – people just aren’t so efficient when it isn’t their own money spent out of their own drives and desires.

    In short, if I personally feel that it is sufficiently objectionable that some poor child, if no intervention is launched, will be unable to construct a coherant and grammatically correct English sentance any better than I can, such that I seek to actually spend my own money (and time!) to stop such a terrible fate from occurring, you can be damn sure I won’t settle for it being spent on any plight I do not approve of (like advertising for volunteers – just pay the people that part of the money and skip the volunteer line altogether, unless it’s actually more efficient in getting the job done). Further, I have the authority, responsibility, and power to ammend any wrongs I’m aware of by at least the denial of my personal funds.

    It actually seems that some people think people will be moral with a vote, but not with money. I’m afraid I’m left a bit baffled by it. They’ll give their money to the church, but not to causes they care about? They’ll pay for memberships to PETA and the ACLU, but can’t help the defenseless and abused? Pizza Hut will launch a BookIt program, one of the most successful reading programs to my personal knowledge (and one I did really well in, too!), but it takes the government to teach people how to read?

    Try to convince teachers to teach in poor areas? Why don’t you just pay more for the poor bastards to teach in such unappetizing settings? Wouldn’t that be…oh, mutually beneficial? Tell me I’m not the only one who thinks that money is not much more than an intermediary good which can be reasonably and morally traded for damn near anything that can be produced and traded for?

  10. God, _another_ reactionary Bush-hating left-wing piece from Julian Sanchez!

    Oh…wait… 😉

  11. And of course, there’s some groupthink indoctrination tossed into the mix. I have a friend who did Americorps for a year in Arizona (I think it was Tucson but maybe Phoenix). She said they had tons of meetings before you got your assignment, and at one of these the facilitator railed on and on about racism being the core reason why the people they were going to “volunteer” to help were so poor. “Alison” dared to vocalize the idea to the group that the economic situation of some of the poor folk might have had something to do with poor personal decisions they made in their lives. This set the moderator off; she verbally tiraded against Alison in front of the group, to the point where Alison almost quit AmeriCorps.

    Alison did Peace Corps for two years after that. She now thinks she didn’t really accomplish anything worthwhile at all in either program.

  12. Mark Borok,

    What “opposite extreme” are you talking about?

  13. Russ D: I like that – government is no longer a nation, but a religion. That actually makes a great deal of sense. Rather profound, really.

  14. Plutarck:

    “Mutually beneficial” is just the problem. Pareto optimality is reactionary. Doing the right thing should be unpleasant, like taking medicine, and for that we need a liberal nanny, like Hillary Clinton in a gas mask and kevlar vest, to force us to do it at gunpoint.

    Matt:

    A relative of mine was once a VISTA volunteer working in a social services office in New Mexico. They were pushing the “public health” angle on firearms ownership REALLY HARD. “Widespread gun ownership is a public health crisis, results in blah-blah deaths a year, call your Congressman NOW and demand blah-blah….”

  15. Who needs the Peace Corps?

    Kevin, you wrote “the state has an aura of majesty that is unattainable by free people cooperating voluntarily”

    This is exactly why I’ve concluded that America is no longer a nation but a religion. Even Julian said it in the piece: “psychotherapy and spiritual fulfillment for aspiring yuppies”.

    We can rattle off thousands of laws and government programs that, at their core, exist mainly for psychotherapy and spiritual fulfillment. The drug war is the most obvious, but airport security and Homeland Security are right up there. But this is all part and parcel of a master race of pikers.

  16. “Government” was NEVER a “nation.”

    Duh!

    (Apples & Oranges)

  17. “The even scarier bit is that conservatives … and I’m begining to believe that the whole liberal-conservative paradigm is a purely socially constructed bit of sillyness based on conformity, self-selection, and redefining right and left so as to put people you don’t agree with on the other side (as with, if I recall correctly, how both Hitler and Stalin … um, or was it Lenin … anyways, if memory serves, they were both considered conservatives, see, until some of the left took to one and some of the right either took to the other or took to disliking the other, or just reacted to the left … and … um …

    Wow! This sentance has now become impossible to finish!

    What was I even saying?

    Oh, yeah … “the twins” … like the Bushes (both of them) seem to love this kind of crap. So you’re pretty much screwed no matter which silly socially constructed stupid side you’re sitting on.”

    (Reader’s in stitches)

  18. Oh, damn, we’re lost in the wind tunnel again.

    I really wish some of you would write your dissertations somewhere else.

  19. I think Pluto was tripping when he wrote that.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.