Wednesday, November 12, 2008

National Service

The idea of universal compulsory national service is not a new one. When registration for the draft was reinstated in 1979 (and thankfully, I was too old by then), I believe it was Senator William Proxmire who proposed alternative civilian service. The idea gets kicked around a lot. But the fascination with legions of eager young followers engaged in great experimental endeavors has some strange appeal to our President-Elect, so we'll hear about it more these days.

Personally, I don't think it will get very far. Certainly the very idea of a national paramilitary police force, besides being completely unnecessary, will unleash the kind of latent paranoia that exists within the Beltway, on the rest of the country. It's bad enough that the area around the White House is like an armed camp, never mind extending it from sea to shining sea. The only way to pay for something like this, is to cut the defense budget by one-fourth as was promised during the campaign. But then it will just go back into creating another bureaucracy. Believe me, once this generation of little brats finds out they'll have to be inconvenienced for three months out of their lives, all this yakkity-yak about Hope and Change will lose its glamour very quickly.

Thankfully, an alternative is waiting in the wings.

If our President-Elect wants to mobilize a volunteer corps of young people for national service, he already has such an organization at his disposal. They have performed large-scale service projects for the Nation in the past. And as President of the United States, he would already be its Honorary President. That's right, it's the Boy Scouts of America. This past summer, to give just one example, we mobilized several hundred older Scouts for "ArrowCorps," which resulted in $5 million of improvements to national forests. That's $5 million that the Federal government does not have to spend. Our next National Jamboree is in 2010, and I expect our Honorary President will be invited. Maybe he can see for himself.

We've already cut out most of the overhead, and he can be sure of broad bipartisan support from former Scouts and Scout volunteers currently serving in Congress.

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