Compulsory Service

Recently, Lew Rockwell ran an article by Eric Margolis in which he discusses the Swiss.  He points out that the Swiss have remained neutral for centuries and have avoided war.  He also points to Switzerland as a well-armed society and the fact that crime is really low there.

Unfortunately, Margolis does fail on one thing, at least from a libertarian perspective.  He touts the tradition of the compulsory military "service".  While I understand his sentiments towards the Swiss, I don't think any libertarian should agree with compulsory military service.

As Margolis points out, there are many things to like about the Swiss people.  I wish that the U.S. would emulate Switzerland in many ways, particularly when it comes to foreign policy.  And I suppose I would rather see a conscripted military that acts in defense only, over an all volunteer military that is starting wars all over the place.

(I understand that some might argue that the U.S. military is not voluntary.  There have been retired military who have been called back up.  Plus, we still have to register for the draft, even though we haven't seen a draft since the 1970's.  But as of right now, if you don't sign your name on the dotted line with the military, you can stay out of it.)

While the Swiss system may seem like a good thing, and in many ways it is, nobody should be forced to do something against his will.  If a country is truly under attack, I'm guessing that many people would be more than happy to step up and defend their homeland from invasion.  And if most people are not willing to do that, then why should it be mandatory?  Perhaps it isn't worth fighting for.

So while the Swiss system of conscription is preferable to conscription used to fight wars (think Vietnam, the so-called Civil War, and even the world wars, just to name a few), it is still morally wrong.  It is using force on others who have done no harm.

This subject reminds me of gun control.  There are a few small towns in the south that have, or attempted to pass, legislation that requires residents to own a gun.  And while I am all for responsible gun ownership, as most libertarians are, nobody should be compelled to own a gun.  This is not the opposite position of the gun control crowd who want to prevent gun ownership.  It is using government force to promote a certain position.  The true neutral and libertarian position is for individuals to be able to choose on whether or not to own a gun, assuming it is not being used to initiate harm against others.

In conclusion, Americans can learn a lot from the Swiss, but we should only emulate the good things.  Conscription is not a good thing, even if it is supposedly used in self defense.  The act of conscription itself is an aggressive act.