'Selective' Service Refuseniks Are Still Punished, Just Not Prosecuted

USA Today investigation finds that over 1 million men have faced the consequences of not applying to Jimmy Carter's sham draft.


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You cannot legally drive an automobile in the United States without asking the government for permission, though only the hardest core of anarchist types spend much time complaining about it. You can no longer obtain a student loan without Washington's fingerprints on it, and OK, more people think that's unsound, though the policy survived unified Republican control of the executive and legislative branches from 2017 to 2018.

And 18-year-old males are still required, under theoretical penalty of five years imprisonment, to register for a military draft that will never be used, which pretty much nobody defends on the merits anymore, but because of the myriad other ways government encroaches on our basic existence, this relic from the Carter era has combined with all of the above to needlessly degrade and complicate the lives of hundreds and thousands of men.

So concludes (minus the judgmental language) this useful USA Today investigation into the fates of my fellow Selective Service refuseniks. Sure, nobody has been prosecuted for the crime since 1986 (only 20 men were ever charged, with 14 convicted), but the agency still refers non-registrants to the Justice Department—112,000 last year, the paper found. And because Leviathan has us by the short and curlies in all sorts of ways that aren't immediately apparent between the ages of 18 and 26, the punishment arrives later, often by rude surprise.

The most common moment of discovery is when draft-scofflaws get rejected for student loans (this, for what it's worth, was the one unavoidable consequence I was fully cognizant of back in 1986). Refuseniks are also barred from working for the federal government, and for most state governments as well. It doesn't stop there:

Forty states and the District of Columbia link Selective Service to a driver's license. […]

In eight states, men are not allowed men to register at a state college or university – even without financial aid – if they aren't registered for Selective Service. […]

In Alaska, men who fail to register for the draft can't receive an annual dividend from the Alaska Permanent Fund, which gave Alaska residents $1,600 from state oil revenue in 2018.

And around one out of every six people who write letters to the Selective Service asking for a formal declaration of their draft status—as more than 1 million men have done over the past quarter century—do so because the subject came up during their application to become a U.S. citizen.

I for one enjoyed the woke language in the justifications offered by Selective Service spokesman Matthew Tittman: "If there were no penalties for failing to register, the rates would plummet, and fairness and equity would go out the window."

The shadow draft is currently in legal and legislative limbo after a federal district court ruled in February that its male-only feature is unconstitutional. Congress now has to decide whether to subject the ladies to the same punitive exercise in mandatory loyalty or do like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wants and blow the whole disgrace clean out of the water.

Regardless of its fate, let this USA Today article be a reminder: Government can and will find the most symbolic and indefensible requirement to stick into the ribs of its subjects, and then even in the absence of formal enforcement will find ways to make non-adherents suffer through the ever-advancing accumulation of mandates it imposes on the behavior of allegedly free men.

The Selective Service is a pile of leftover authoritarian garbage from a century no current would-be draftee was even born in. It's long since past time to stick it on a barge and set it on fire.