by Michael Boldin

An article in Newsweek, “Why We Need a Draft: A Marine’s Lament,” stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest online recently. It was written by marine who fought in Fallujah, Iraq, and actually gave a pretty compelling overview of the practical need for selective service.

I’m sure the marine was right – forcing you or other people to kill or be killed next to him would have been good in the battles he fought in. In fact, I don’t doubt that a few million more soldiers would be quite beneficial to the military – and to the foreign policy ambitions of the US government.

On the other hand, many Americans also persuasively argue against the draft, saying it’s unnecessary or ineffective in defending America or engaging in foreign interventions. These arguments might very well be sound, and have their place.

The arguments about military “needs” or “benefits” aside, it seems that there’s always plenty of politicians and who absolutely love the concept of mandatory service to the state. To these types, the government IS America, and loving one’s country is serving the state.


There are a number of solid constitutional arguments against the draft as well. The 13th Amendment makes quite clear that “involuntary servitude” is not permitted. And, the principle of “positive grant” espoused by the 10th Amendment states that any power not specifically given to the federal government by the constitution is “reserved to the States, respectively, or to the People.” In short, this means that since there’s nothing in the Constitution that authorized the federal government to conscript, they can’t do it. Yes the principle really is that simple (and can be applied to everything else the feds do, but we’ll leave that to other posts).

As compelling as these constitutional arguments may be, they still miss the mark.


The most important argument against the draft is moral. Whatever the excuse given for its implementation, the draft is a form of slavery. Period.

Forcing someone to work for the state; forcing someone to kill or be killed; forcing someone to do anything at the point of a gun – under threat of prison or even death – IS involuntary servitude. Of all the forms of slavery that have existed throughout history, forcing someone to fight and die in war is by far the most disgusting, and is a form of murder against all who don’t survive.

Even Ronald Regan, writing in Human Events back in 1979, made a clear case against the draft:

“conscription rests on the assumption that your kids belong to the state. If we buy that assumption then it is for the state – not for parents, the community, the religious institutions or teachers – to decide who shall have what values and who shall do what work, when, where and how in our society. That assumption isn’t a new one. The Nazis thought it was a great idea.”

Reagan, love him or hate him, understood that America was founded on the principle of individual liberty – that the government exists to serve the people. The idea of slavery, whatever form it takes, is morally repugnant to the ideals of a free society.


Without the draft, unpopular wars are very difficult to fight. The ability to use conscription actually encourages politicians to wage even more wars – the massive resources are a temptation that is hard for the war-lover to resist. When the draft was finally undermined in the 1970’s, for example, the Vietnam War ended.


The draft is slavery. If we see it return to America, arguments about this country being free or not become totally moot. No society can ever be free when its own government seizes by force not only the resources of the country, but the money and lives of “its” own people.

A government that uses military conscription in the name of freedom is an illegitimate, criminal organization. A government that is willing to enslave people cannot be trusted to protect your liberty. A government that forces people to fight for its goals, its protection, and its benefit has created a morally perverse situation where there is no free society left to defend.