Expanding the Draft?

I'm a touch conflicted about the latest from Obama:

Even as the U.S. confronts two long wars, neither Sen. John McCain nor Sen. Barack Obama believes the country should take the politically perilous step of reviving the military draft.

But the two presidential candidates disagree on a key foundation of any future draft: Mr. Obama supports a requirement for both men and women to register with the Selective Service, while Mr. McCain doesn't think women should have to register.

Now, I'm opposed to the draft and to Selective Service registration. But I cannot deny that a part of me has always been perturbed at the injustice of males being required to register while women do not. So in that very limited sense, I admire this, even though it's an expansion of a loathsome program.

The real question is why on Earth Obama would bring this up. I think the answer can be found here:

"And I think that if women are registered for service -- not necessarily in combat roles, and I don't agree with the draft -- I think it will help to send a message to my two daughters that they've got obligations to this great country as well as boys do."

That (like much of political talk) is sufficiently vague as to admit multiple interpretations. I fear, though, that female draft registration is a backdoor way to promote universal service by decoupling the connection between the draft and military service. And that frightens me.

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The Fallacy of Isonomy

Arthur B. described the fallacy of isonomy here:
http://distributedrepublic.net/archives/2007/07/10/perverting-isonomy

It came up in a thread on gay marriage here:
http://distributedrepublic.net/archives/2008/01/10/gay-marriage-redux

I wrote:

Given two choices, we should select the option yielding the least oppression, regardless of the inequalities it imposes.

We should celebrate every freed slave, every innocent person exempted from taxation, every non-criminal relieved of the threat of coercion. And if the liberation of one person is unpalatable because it leaves others still oppressed, let us work to free them all, and not begrudge any man his new-found freedom.

Although I understand your instincts (and share them to a degree) regarding the fairness of a co-ed draft, I don't think they hold up under scrutiny.

Isodomy. I'm trying to coin

Isodomy. I'm trying to coin a word here !

Isodomy and you can too!

Isodomy and you can too!

Insomdia

Losing sleep over people confusing isonomy and isodomy.

Insodomy

Wanting state sanctioned homosexual marriage just because heterosexuals have it. ;)

DO NOT follow this insodomy link unless you have muted the volume on your machine. That is unless you want to hear the insodomy song.

NSFW = Not Safe For Work.

NSFW = INSODOMY

I wonder if requiring that

I wonder if requiring that the draft be implemented in a sex-neutral way would reduce the likelihood of it ever be implemented at all, as a sort of poison pill. I think there are a lot of people who would otherwise support the draft who would be reluctant to do so if it meant sending women into harm's way.

Isodomy and you can too!

Isodomy and you can too!

Frightening

What's frightening to me is that Barry thinks his daughters will make good their obligations to this great nation through slavery.

Oh how far we've come!

No!

I agree with the first comment that it's wrong to increase oppression in the name of equality.

And Brandon's "poison pill" conjecture is similar to those who want to impose the draft in an effort to reduce the likelihood of leaders going to war.

I'd rather that they lacked an abusive power than give them more and depend on their good judgment to avoid using it.

Just to be clear, I did not

Just to be clear, I did not say I support this change, just that I feel a bit of sympathy for it, in the name of equal rights.

Do you have one bit of

Do you have one bit of sympathy for a similar argument including every child above five ?

I do not understand your

I do not understand your question.

While acknowledging that

While acknowledging that increased oppression is bad, equal oppression seems to sill hold "a bit" of weight in the balance. Does that bit remain if instead of women we'd be considering expanding draft to all men between 5 and 55 year old.

I'm not sure about five year

I'm not sure about five year olds, but if you're talking about middle-aged people, yes it does. I'm not going to get into this fight, partly because I'm feeling pushed into defending a program I described as "loathsome", and partly because I'm just too busy today.

But I'm not going to apologize for believing we live in a world of competing moral and ethical obligations, one of which is personal autonomy and another is equality before the law. Nor do I apologize for thinking that even when one obligation outweighs the other, both are worth acknowledging in existence.

You can have the last word.

How about 17 year old ? 16 ?

How about 17 year old ? 16 ? You got my point.

Not sure I follow

I'm not sure I follow your logic that forcing everyone to comply somehow implies equal rights. Our rights are already equal, regardless of any legislation. We all have a right not to be sold into slavery and sent off to die for the health of the empire.

We do?

We do?

On the other hand

On the other hand, these days the typical high school graduate has neither a high school education nor the smarts to realize it. A year or two of community service would not cost the taxpayers any more than two years of subsidized community college and might be more useful. If nothing else, it would take the kids out of the job market, give them two years to mature and give employers a reason to hire them.

Do you realize you are

Do you realize you are advocating a form of slavery ? If I still were a kid, and was threatened do be legally forced to do community work for two years, but could avoid it by killing a single supporter of this law who thinks "it'll keep me off the job market" and you were that supporter, I would press the trigger.

The slammer is preferable to a job?

Slavery in the US is incremental. 30% or so of our life's energy is confiscated from our pay so we are all 30% slaves, anyway.

Slavery isn't mostly about

Slavery isn't mostly about being deprived from the fruit of your labor, it's about being owned, it's about being coerced to work. "Community service" and draft comes closer to slavery than anything else.

You seem to be repeating that point:

Hey, banks are bad, unions are bad too but since banks are bad why not have unions ?
Hey, slavery is bad, but we pay taxes, that's bad, so why not have community service ?

How does the presence of evil justify more evil ?

How does a person know when he is owned?

What if the master conceals his ownership but by manipulating circumstances produces the same economic result? Say that prior to Lincoln's War, slavery had been outlawed in the Confederacy but plantation owners had been taxed and the money used to import slaves and set them free. I propose that a caste system would have developed which would have created a cheap labor pool which was the economic purpose of slavery in the first place. The sociopath and sexual pervert slave owners were in the minority, yes?

Slaves vs. Immigrants

Interesting digression.

For what it's worth, I've heard of efforts to compare the plight of slaves in 1860 to the plight of immigrants in northern states -- living in tenements and working in Dickensian factories under the eyes of Pinkerton guards. If I recall correctly, slaves tended to have larger living quarters, longer lifespans, higher calorie intake and higher body weight at time of death. In contrast, immigrants enjoyed the freedom to quit their jobs and starve, to try to change their jobs and be beaten by Pinkertons, or to submit to their employer. And there's no reason to imagine that sociopaths and sexual perverts were any less common north of the Mason-Dixon line than south.

But to simplify: Is a person who has fallen into a pit from which he can't escape "free"? If you understand freedom to mean having no one to blame for your circumstances, then yes. If you understand freedom to mean having some discretion to influence your circumstances, then no.

If you would get beat up by

If you would get beat up by Pinkerton, then this is slavery, in the real (not marxist) sense.

Tenements are not prisons

living in tenements and working in Dickensian factories under the eyes of Pinkerton guards. If I recall correctly, slaves tended to have larger living quarters, longer lifespans, higher calorie intake and higher body weight at time of death. In contrast, immigrants enjoyed the freedom to quit their jobs and starve, to try to change their jobs and be beaten by Pinkertons, or to submit to their employer.

Something seems seriously off about your description. If they were prevented from leaving by Pinkerton guards, then it is odd to call where they lived "tenements". Rather, where they lived was prisons which were under lock and key and under armed guard 24 hours a day. But if they in fact lived in something that it would be appropriate to call "tenements", and if no further descriptors beg to be used to describe these "tenements" (a "tenement", after all, is merely a low-rent, minimally maintained apartment building), then they were physically free to simply not show up one day at the particular factory and instead show up at another factory.

So either your description of their living situation as "living in tenements" is obscenely inadequate, or else you have really let your imagination run wild with your vision Pinkertons beating them up if they try to change jobs.

Personally, I have never heard of this. That is, I have never heard of immigrants who were placed into forced labor camps upon arrival at our shores. What I have heard of is immigrants who arrived and lived in tenements (low rent, barely adequate apartment buildings) and who worked hard in conditions which we (their descendants) do not have to put up with. The only people I have heard compare the plight of the huddled masses yearning to breathe free (i.e. our own great-great grandparents - at least of those of us like myself who descend from them) to that of slaves, is anti-capitalists.

But to simplify: Is a person who has fallen into a pit from which he can't escape "free"? If you understand freedom to mean having no one to blame for your circumstances, then yes. If you understand freedom to mean having some discretion to influence your circumstances, then no.

Rather than struggling over "the" definition of freedom, just define two words for the two concepts and be done with it, and from that point on be clear about what you mean. Political freedom is the absence of the infringement of one's rights by other human beings. Physical freedom is the physical ability to travel across the face of the planet. Physical freedom can be measured in square feet. There. Done. Distinction made. If you are trapped in a hole and not because anyone put you there against your will, then you still have political freedom. But you don't have physical freedom - or more precisely, the amount of your physical freedom is the square feet of the hole.

You need to add

You need to add something.

Yes, it may be that physical freedom matter more to you. Ok fine. But as far as justice is concerned, only political freedom matters. In a trial there are always two parties. When you lack political freedom, you can get justice from the aggressor. When you lack physical freedom, who are you going to sue ? Nature ?

Clarification

Please forgive my ambiguity. When I say "to try to change their jobs" I was referring to negotiations between employers and employees. And yes, when employees can be beaten with impunity by the employer or his agents, arguably that does reduce them to a state of slavery. This calls into question the disparity between people’s attitudes about labor conditions in the South and the North.

(As a further point of clarification, and in fairness, I was using the term Pinkerton as a generic term for employer’s agents deployed against employees. I’ve read that the people actually employed by the Pinkerton Detective agency mostly engaged in spying on behalf of management, and that the violence was mostly done by others.)

In contrast, I meant the phrase "quit their jobs" to refer to the practice of not coming back to work. This was intended to acknowledge the parallels between the circumstances of these workers and the hypothetical circumstances proposed by billwald in which the labor market is sufficiently glutted that people lack a meaningful opportunity to abandon any source of income.

Yes, having separate terms for separate concepts of freedom aids clarity. That's part of the point: the word "freedom" is subject to varied interpretation, and people who profess to support "freedom" may well oppose each others' prescription.

But as Arthur observes, the larger point is to provoke reflection on values. Specifically, how valuable is political freedom in the absence of other freedoms? Should public policy be designed solely to promote political freedom?

I might have been unclear

I might have been unclear for I am actually making the opposing point. This is emphatically not about balancing values at all. When people think of it as a tradeoff, they try to place physical freedom in the realm of justice where it has no place.

A leaky roof is not slavery. Lack of freedom is slavery.

And yes, when employees can be beaten with impunity by the employer or his agents, arguably that does reduce them to a state of slavery.

Well, no. Okay, you save your statement with "arguably". Arguably, the moon is made of green cheese. True statement. It can indeed be argued that the moon is made of green cheese. Nevertheless, it is not made of green cheese, and if one person can beat someone else with impunity that does not by itself make him a slaveowner.

Suppose that there is a square foot of land, such that, if you stand on that square foot of land, I can beat you with impunity. Are you thereby my slave? First of all, if you're not standing on that square foot, then surely it would be insane to argue that you are my slave. (It is, of course, arguable that you are my slave - it would merely be insane, but not impossible, to argue that you are my slave.)

If you are standing on that square foot, are you my slave? Well, let's distinguish two situations. Suppose you can leave the square foot any time you want, at which point I am no longer able to beat you with impunity. Are you slave? No, you are not, and it would be insane to argue that you are.

So what's left? This is left: if you are standing on that square foot and you are unable to leave. Then you are my prisoner. Slaves are indeed prisoners. If born free, they are abducted and imprisoned. A slave can free himself by escaping - which is precisely what a prisoner does. Slaves are prisoners of their masters.

A worker is not the prisoner of his employer.

This calls into question the disparity between people’s attitudes about labor conditions in the South and the North.

Slavery is not about labor conditions. It is not about plumbing, it is not about nutrition, it is not about how hard the work is, it is not about how dangerous the work is, it is not about how poor the pay is. It is not about whether the factory roof is leaking. Slavery is about freedom. Slavery is the absence of freedom.