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Service Nation States that It Does Not Support Mandatory National Service:

I recently had a conversation with Tim Zimmerman, a spokesman for Service Nation, in which he emphasized that he and the organization he represents do not support mandatory national service. Co-blogger Jim Lindgren and I had previously interpreted their position as supporting such an agenda because many of the organization's leaders have previously expressed support for mandatory service and because the organization's list of 13 objectives includes "Launch[ing] a debate about why and how America should become a nation of universal national service by 2020." As Jim pointed out in one of his posts, it is impossible to have national service that is both universal and voluntary because under a voluntary system at least some people will choose not to serve, thus rendering the system non-universal.

However, Zimmerman suggests that this passage (which has since been removed from Service Nation's website) was merely intended to indicate the group's support for the idea that service opportunities should be universally available to those who want to serve. He agreed that Point 13 was poorly worded and thought that Service Nation should use different terminology in the future. He also points to this recently added statement on Service Nation's website (which was apparently added as a result of Jim's post):

Does Service Nation support mandatory national service?

No. We support the idea of voluntary community and national service. We are working to both inspire more Americans to volunteer their time and to encourage our leaders to create service opportunities for every American who wants to serve their community and country. We do not support mandatory national service requirements.

Obviously, definitions of what counts as "voluntary" may vary. Some national service advocates seem to believe that a system is "voluntary" so long as participants can choose what kind of government-mandated service they are required to perform (while being denied the option of refusing to serve altogether). Zimmerman assured me that this is not Service Nation's view.

As a general rule, I think we should assume that people are telling the truth about their agenda unless there is clear proof to the contrary (as there isn't here). So I think I should accept Zimmerman's and Service Nation's assurances on this point, as there is no clear proof that they are in bad faith.

At the same time, I continue to be troubled by some of the statements made by Service Nation leader Alan Khazei, who has argued that "every nation in the world [should] ha[ve] a year of full-time service as a rite of passage for all young people growing up," and that we should have "universal national service." There is no way that "a year of full-time service" can be a rite of passage for all young people unless it is mandatory. Khazei has also said that a year of national service should be a requirement for admission to college, though it is not clear whether he means that government should mandate this requirement or whether he merely hopes that universities will adopt it voluntarily. Khazei's views don't necessarily represent those of Service Nation as a whole, and I am willing to accept that the organization doesn't endorse all of his positions.

I also worry that the enactment of a massive government program for even genuinely voluntary service (which Service Nation does seem to favor) might eventually transition into a mandatory system even if that wasn't the original intention. Like Jim, I continue to oppose Service Nation's proposal to enormously expand government-sponsored service programs, eventually enrolling up to 1 million people every year (more than ten times as many as currently).

Spitzer:
Good, I suppose. But still, what do they mean by "new Citizen Congresses"? Unless they mean to create federally-funded YMCAs around the nation, that's their creepiest, most dangerous proposal.
7.24.2008 4:23pm
NatSecLawGuy:
Glad you got the clarification. I was confused about the contrasting views presented on their website. Although, as you ably point out maybe they are conflicted as to what their ultimate position is.
It seems that both candidates for POTUS are also unsure as well. Guess continued vigilance will be needed. The burdens of citizenship.
7.24.2008 4:27pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Ever see a system like this--or not like this--fail to expand to be more expensive and more intrusive than originally proposed?
Me neither.
Only question is whether the original proponents are planning it or will be genuinely surprised.
At my cynical age, I bet on the former.
7.24.2008 4:34pm
DJR:
Congrats for being willing to give the benefit of the doubt, though it comes after and not before a series of posts condemning the straw man.
7.24.2008 4:36pm
Throckmorton:
I think you are making a mountain out of a mole hill. To me, Khazei is trying to change norms more than anything else -- he wants a year of service to become widely accepted as part of a transition to adulthood. I don't read anything he has said (or at least anything you have linked to) as genuinely seeking mandatory or coercive service. I fully agree that a massive government program is not a great idea even for a voluntary program, but this does seem genuinely voluntary to me.
7.24.2008 4:40pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
Keep in mind that not everyone in a given organization may agree about the organization's objective, especially the long-term ones.

It's entirely possible that some people in the organization (possibly including Kharzei) would support it, but that they don't have the institutional support to make it happen.
7.24.2008 4:48pm
HO (mail):
About 10 years ago, the public High School my sons went to decided to require 200 hours of approved "voluntary" service in order to graduate. It was prorated for those who were seniors when it was adopted.

We checked and neither helping to clean a public gunrange nor distributing meals through a church were approved. However, working with "Acorn" registering voters was approved. None of us liked it, but it was easier to comply than to hire a lawyer to try to fight it.

I fully expect that if "voluntary" service becomes standard, it will not really be voluntary. I can only hope that someone with enough money and time will challenge it at that time.
7.24.2008 4:52pm
AntonK (mail):

We checked and neither helping to clean a public gunrange nor distributing meals through a church were approved. However, working with "Acorn" registering voters was approved.
No surprise there.
7.24.2008 4:55pm
Ben P (mail):

neither [was] distributing meals through a church approved.


This makes me highly doubt your anecdote.

I had service requirements all through High School and College and at either of those institutions, and for pretty much everyone I've talked too regarding them, Service Hours were pretty much a joke.

The School would host a weekend or two a semester where students could come and get their service hours, otherwise all you had to do was have a letter on some sort of official stationary from somewhere saying that "X Preformed Y hours of community service work by doing Z" and bring it to the guidance counselor who was in charge of such things.


In college it was even easier as I don't think they really did any checking at all, and school related service opportunities were common.
7.24.2008 4:59pm
Kazinski:
Khazei and his organization are progressives that want to move the country way to the left. He thinks that a massive volunteer program that will be coercive, if not mandatory, is a way to establish control of a significant portion of the masses. Then harness that power politically to impose their agenda:

"Though there are differences between national service and volunteerism, what's most important is what they share: a commitment to mobilizing individuals to address the important issues facing our communities and our world," said Aviv.

and:

11. Convene new Citizen Congresses;

12. Create regular Youth Constitutional Conventions at the National Constitution Center; and,

13. Launch a debate about why and how America should become a nation of universal national service by 2020.


But don't take me wrong, I don't think they should be feared, they should be pitied. Today's youth will not be herded to anything other than a drinking contest.
7.24.2008 5:00pm
krs:
Thanks for this post.

I wonder if people throw around "universal" sometimes when they mean to say "really really common"--i.e. they envision a time when the option of service is so readily available and so popular that nearly everyone does it.

Maybe that's plausible and maybe it's not.

Perhaps that scenario is equally bad, though, because Justice Kennedy will find a "national consensus" and make it mandatory.
7.24.2008 5:06pm
Roscoe (mail):
In my humble opinion, the three things our young people should be doing with their time are to(1) further their studies, (2) get a real job, or (3) if they feel the need to serve, join the military. Anything that distracts people from one of these (like a year of government make work) will be detrimental to them and to society at large.
7.24.2008 5:12pm
Ohio State 3L:
Someone may have pointed this out already on another post in this thread, but:

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

Call me stupid, but to me that settles the debate. But, as usual, we wouldn't want the text of the Constitution to get in the way of a policy debate.
7.24.2008 5:14pm
AF:
Thanks for the clarification, Professor Somin. While Service Nation's wording could have been clearer, Professor Lindgren's assurance that Service Nation was supporting mandatory service was not justified.
7.24.2008 5:18pm
krs:
Ohio State 3L, the Thirteenth Amendment was indeed discussed in prior posts.

Even if mandatory service would indeed be unconstitutional, that doesn't settle the question of "is that really what these people are trying to do"?
7.24.2008 5:24pm
Why Lawyers Are Dangerous:
I think you're still overlawyering. Consider the statement:

"Every nation in the world [should] ha[ve] four years of secondary school as a rite of passage for all young people growing up"

Although in practice, with more than a tiny population, the only way to get 100% of the way to the above is to make secondary school compulsory, such a statement is likely to be interpreted not to mean that secondary school should be compulsory, but that it should be avalable to all and near-universal in practice. It doesn't follow that the author intends for anyone to be coerced.
7.24.2008 5:25pm
EIDE_Interface (mail):
What do ya'll have against national service? Don't you know that service guarantees citizenship?
7.24.2008 5:30pm
Ohio State 3L:
krs,

Point taken. I hadn't read all of the other posts, and was lagging on the point of this one. It just strikes me as a blatant violation of the 13th Amendment. Glad I'm not the only one.
7.24.2008 5:31pm
Kazinski:
krs:

Perhaps that scenario is equally bad, though, because Justice Kennedy will find a "national consensus" and make it mandatory.

He may indeed find a national consensus for voluntary service, but he'll only apply the consensus in 8th amendment cases, making it involuntary but constitutional.

What is already happening though is college and secondary adminstrators are making it coercive but "voluntary" and as HO said, vetting the approved organizations to fit their agendas.
7.24.2008 6:15pm
byomtov (mail):
I think it would have been appropriate for you, or especially Jim Lindgren, to have had this conversation with Zimmerman before all the froth-at-the mouth posts.

The web site very obviously does not explicitly advocate mandatory service. I suppose you can make a case that there is some ambiguity. But surely Lindgren was careless at best in not checking the matter out beforehand.

It would also be nice if there were some retractions of some of the ludicrous comments.
7.24.2008 6:15pm
doug in Colorado (mail):
You don't mention Obama's interest in this policy.

Mandatory national service would be as repugnant (and probably as counter productive) as the military draft, unless there is an issue of clear and present danger to the nation. Involuntary servitude, like slavery, is both repugnant and unconstitutional (IMHO, but I'm a retired engineer, not a lawyer). A program of massive government-run voluntary service for the young would present an opportunity for indoctrination not significantly different from the Young Pioneers, the Hitler Jugend or any number of other youth indoctrination programs that have been dedicated to serving "charismatic" leaders or a particular philosophy.

Service to the nation should be via service to the local community, should remain voluntary, and under the auspices of private non-governmental agencies and fraternal organizations of the individual's choosing, like the Boy Scouts, SERTOMA, or any number of benevolent entities...NOT Government. There is too much potential for abuse with a Governemnt run program of this magnitude.
7.24.2008 6:27pm
roy (mail) (www):
Unless Service Nation also proposes that such service programs are funded voluntarily instead of through taxes, I remain unimpressed. Not to accuse them of being dishonest, but while having 28% of the proceeds of my work life taken away is not involuntary servitude, it's close enough for grumping.
7.24.2008 7:21pm
Kazinski:
byomtov:
<blockquote>
I think it would have been appropriate for you, or especially Jim Lindgren, to have had this conversation with Zimmerman before all the froth-at-the mouth posts.
</blockquote>
This is a blog, not a front page article on the once-great NYTimes. The whole point of a blog is to make it quick and easy to make comments about things that interest the poster. Lindgren and Somin have been more than fair, updating their posts to reflect input they recieved. And who was frothing?

But if you think it is an issue that needs to be addressed then make a complaint to <a rel="nofollow" href="www.ofcom.org.uk">Ofcom</a>.
7.24.2008 7:37pm
corneille1640 (mail):

About 10 years ago, the public High School my sons went to decided to require 200 hours of approved "voluntary" service in order to graduate. It was prorated for those who were seniors when it was adopted.

We checked and neither helping to clean a public gunrange nor distributing meals through a church were approved. However, working with "Acorn" registering voters was approved. None of us liked it, but it was easier to comply than to hire a lawyer to try to fight it.

I can understand and sympathize with the wish that work at a church kitchen be included as public volunteer service. I'm more skeptical that cleaning a gun range ought to be included, but I'll accept that for the sake of argument. I'm also sympathetic to the notion that 200 hours might be too many.

But doesn't getting a high school diploma require people to submit to "involuntary" servitude, such as homework and attending classes? Why would a public service requirement, in itself, be any different?
7.24.2008 8:28pm
corneille1640 (mail):

This is a blog, not a front page article on the once-great NYTimes. The whole point of a blog is to make it quick and easy to make comments about things that interest the poster. Lindgren and Somin have been more than fair, updating their posts to reflect input they recieved. And who was frothing?

I for one find it admirable that Mr. Somin qualified previous assertions in light of new evidence.

Still, I think it's a mistake to suggest, as I interpret your comment to suggest, that bloggers haven't an obligation to retract statements that are later proven unsupported. I posit that bloggers have an ethical obligation to correct mistakes.
7.24.2008 8:48pm
corneille1640 (mail):
Correction:


But doesn't getting a high school diploma require people to submit to "involuntary" servitude, such as homework and attending classes? Why would a public service requirement, in itself, be any different?

I should have written "Why should a public service requirement, as a requirement for graduation, in itself be any different.
7.24.2008 8:50pm
Milhouse (www):
However, Zimmerman suggests that this passage [...] was merely intended to indicate the group's support for the idea that service opportunities should be universally available to those who want to serve.
Huh? How is that not the situation now? Is there anyone in America who really wants to volunteer their time for some good cause but can't find one that has work to be done? Is there anyone who has been repeatedly turned away from public service organisations, saying "sorry, we're full up, everything we need is already being done, try again next year"? If this is really all Service Nation wants to achieve, then why does it exist?
7.24.2008 8:54pm
byomtov (mail):
This is a blog, not a front page article on the once-great NYTimes. The whole point of a blog is to make it quick and easy to make comments about things that interest the poster. Lindgren and Somin have been more than fair, updating their posts to reflect input they recieved. And who was frothing?

Yes it's a blog. I'm not demandingthat anyone spend weeks fact-checking, but it doesn't seem that was required here.

I can't find Lindgren's update conceding his interpretation was in error.
7.24.2008 8:59pm
Dr. T (mail) (www):
Corneille1640, are you being disingenuous? There is a world of difference between requiring minors to be educated (for their own eventual benefit) and requiring them to work for no pay doing things that are unlikely to provide benefit. Admittedly, some teens will find that some aspects of their community service work was worthwhile, but they could have learned that by volunteering.

The idea that community service is a necessary component to high school education is a new one that is unsupported by any credible studies. The educators pushing for community service requirements seemed to have gotten good educations without such mandated service in the past.

I tire of the idea that we can dump our guilt complexes and left-wing, feel-goodism onto our teens and young adults. If these middle-aged and elderly proponents are so in love with mandatory service, they can be the first to enroll. One caveat to my statement: being a politician, government employee, lobbyist, or political action group employee or member would not exempt one from mandatory service.
7.24.2008 9:04pm
Kevin P. (mail):
byomtov, this organization still has their web page on mandatory national service up:

http:
//www.nationalserviceact.org/17.html


Phone call talk is cheap.
7.24.2008 9:15pm
corneille1640 (mail):

Corneille1640, are you being disingenuous? There is a world of difference between requiring minors to be educated (for their own eventual benefit) and requiring them to work for no pay doing things that are unlikely to provide benefit. Admittedly, some teens will find that some aspects of their community service work was worthwhile, but they could have learned that by volunteering.

The idea that community service is a necessary component to high school education is a new one that is unsupported by any credible studies. The educators pushing for community service requirements seemed to have gotten good educations without such mandated service in the past.

In one sense, I guess I was being disingenuous, because I'm not sure that I support the idea of requiring students to participate in community service programs as a requirement for graduation. My high school did not require community service and I'm glad of that fact. You may very well be correct to say that requiring community service carries little educational benefit.

But I do not think that such a requirement falls outside the scope of what a school may reasonably expect students to do. There is, in my view, at least an arguable connection between the school's duty to provide civic instruction (if one concedes that this is part of a school's duty) and requiring students to perform "hands on" service to the community.

As for the idea of community service "being a new one that is unsupported by any credible studies," it seems to me that most new ideas, being new, haven't any "credible studies" to support them. However, I'm not sure that the idea is as new as you suggest, in which case the absence of credible studies (I wouldn't even know where to look for them anyway) tends to support your assertion.
7.24.2008 9:52pm
byomtov (mail):
Kevin P.

Is this the group that Lindgren and Somin were criticizing?
7.24.2008 10:21pm
Avatar (mail):
One also points out that, by and large, minors are not required to perform labor at school. They are issued assignments, and the assignments are graded; the grades are used to promote the minor to further levels of education, and ultimately to issue a diploma - but minors are not required to get the diploma, or indeed to do the assigned work. I myself did only a fraction of the work assigned to me in school... ;p

At the same time, school attendance is not mandatory; families are free to enroll their children in other forms of education, including home schooling with no formal attendance requirements at all. The only "compulsory" factor would be in jurisdictions with daytime curfews for minors, though if I'm not mistaken, many of those have specific exemptions for students in home schooling, or private schooling with a non-traditional schedule.
7.24.2008 10:37pm
Steve2:
They could clear up this confusion far more effectively if they'd just put a draft of their proposed legislation on their website.
7.24.2008 10:58pm
ReaderY:
Focusing only on the constitutional issues, there have been several cases that have upheld a service requirement as a component of public education against 13th Amendment attacks. While the Suprme Court doesn't have to pay any attention to Court of Appeals situation, it's quite the case that the old cases have had no contemporary application.

It might be worth a post taking a look at these cases and explnining what implications they have. Are tney simply wrongly decided? Are they limited or limitable to education only leaving the issue outside educational contexts open? If so, what's the rationale for the limitation? Why would the government be permitted to require service in the context of education but not in other contexts?
7.25.2008 12:58am
David Warner:
There are (at least) two phenomena behind this drive for "service", whether mandated by schools, massively funded by an Obama administration, or eventually made compulsory nation-wide.

(1) We live in a resumestufferocracy. Those who have most successfully stuffed their resumes and thereby risen to power have an interest in convincing themselves that all that community service was worthwhile. Thus convinced, and now in the position of judging the resumes of others, it is natural they would consider it their responsibility to give the rising generation the opportunity to sport resumes as stuffed as their own.

(note: Some of the stuffing is legitimate. Much not.)

(2) An increasing proportion of the population, having never participated in an organization which deals, even indirectly, with any market, is thus unaware that a great majority of the people around them already dedicate a significant proportion of their time and energy to service. It's what makes our organic economic system go. Specifically, I'm speaking of ministers and teachers. High character, good intentions, narrow experience set.
7.25.2008 1:31am
Doc W (mail):
Silly me, I thought that governments were instituted to secure the blessings of liberty.
7.25.2008 2:09am
JKB:
This "voluntary" servitude is the most foolish idea. It would be a great misallocation human capital based on some elite's prejudices rather than market forces. With forced labor, non-profits and government programs would be completely isolated from even "popular opinion" controls. Much less potential reward and cost benefit controls. Instead, a large portion of the labor force would be encamped and set to perform make-work of low value. With a high risk that a future engineer is set to register voters while a future lawyer is given the task of building a trail rather than the more logical allocation. All the while draining tax dollars from the economy without the investment for future profit inherient in private labor. Not to mention the "paid" overseers who would be needed to keep the "volunteers" focused on their task.

It is sad that church assistance efforts are not qualifying for most "volunatry" service. In Mississippi in the wake of Katrina, I saw no "approved" service groups but lots of work from the Salvation Army and church mission groups who came in waves to provide direct help to those in need. Which is more ofservice: helping ACORN register voters so their candidate will win an election or helping a guy pull everything his mother owns, including the sheetrock, from a flooded house and re-sheetrock every wall so his mother will have some place to live when she leaves the hospital? It seems lefty service usually has a personal gain angle while true service's only gain is the pride that comes from helping another when they are in true need.
7.25.2008 4:16am
David M. Nieporent (www):
The worst part is how pointless these high school requirements are. 14-18 year olds have no skills. Their "service" ranges from useless (make work) to harmful (in that organizations have to divert resources to supervise these kids).
7.25.2008 5:41am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Ratchet
7.25.2008 8:15am
Anonymous #42:
corneille1640,

Yes, but compulsory education to age 16 (or whatever) is old news, entrenched. Mandated "community service" is not, and should be taken with fresh skepticism. Once people understand why it's wrong, then we can attack compulsories everywhere, even the ones that conventional wisdom wrongly says does more good than harm on average (such as public education).

I wonder, though, if there's a way to fast-track the argument: if you're going to drop out as soon as you're old enough to not be a truant, then forced "service" during the early years of high school is for naught -- you could do them later if you choose to graduate.
7.25.2008 8:36am
HO (mail):
To those who questioned my statements, I really don't know how what constitutes "proof" on the Internet. You can take it or reject it.

The Public gunrange is a City run (part of the Parks &Recreation Department) shotgun range. Anyone with a shotgun can come there and shoot for a small fee. Invariably there is trash left. I was part of a group that got together once a month to clean it up since the City did not do a very good job of it. I think they are trying to neglect it to death. Naturally, the food distribution was thorugh our church.

All volunteer hours had to be approved in advance or taken from a published list of activities. Both of the above were submitted and rejected. The list did seem to be weighted towards left wing causes. Nothing outright like working for a Democratic politician, but Acorn is certainly not neutral.

Perhaps it has become a "joke" (as someone called their requirement) since then, but back then, it was new and the people administating it were trying to be serious. I don't know what it has become since then. Anyway, we managed to get through the minimum and they both graduated. I really don't think that they learned to "volunteer" (and probably learned NOT to volunteer) from that experience.
7.25.2008 9:27am
Horace:
I really don't think that they learned to "volunteer" (and probably learned NOT to volunteer) from that experience.
Once everyone has gone through that, they'll finally understand that individual responsibility (in the sense of using power to force your will on others) and voluntary choice (in the sense of compulsory educational, vocational, and political duties) is counteractive, and the only entity that has the moral obligation to help the poor is the state. Why this isn't obvious is beyond me, but if the population can't see that then it is everyone's duty to help him or her.
7.25.2008 10:52am
Yankev (mail):
I am bothered by letting school officials decide which services advance the public good. Would the Mormon practice of spending a year or two after high school as a missionary qualify? What about someone who spends a year or two in Yeshivah? Both activities demand long hours, hard work and financial sacrifice and -- in the eyes of those who perform them -- benefit the world as a whole, yet I doubt that either would qualify.

If a family faces financial difficulty, why is it more laudable for its high school aged children to spend 200 hours as volunteers in a soup kitchen or picking up litter than to keep the family off public assistance or out of bankruptcy by taking working after school and weekends? Why is earning money for college so that one can contribute to the country's future welfare less praiseworthy than registering voters? You may have your own answers to these questions, but why should we leave the questions to be answered by petty bureaucrats rather than each person wrestling with the question for himself?

I am reminded by the various courts and bar associations who have mandated that pro bono work does not count unless you are directly representing indigents in court, and that volunteering time to an organization that helps people support themselves and others does not count.
7.25.2008 11:27am
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
I remain unimpressed with the notion that this service would be "voluntary" except if you want a high school diploma or a university degree.
7.25.2008 1:10pm
Gary McGath (www):
I'll take that as meaning that Service Nation has backed down, rather than that they were misunderstood. It's good that they did, but the pressure against any form of compulsory service has to be kept up.
7.25.2008 3:38pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
I am reminded by the various courts and bar associations who have mandated that pro bono work does not count unless you are directly representing indigents in court,
Yeah, but New Jersey is the only state that makes pro bono mandatory.
7.25.2008 4:18pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Gary. If you're right, it would only be temporary, and only in their public statements. What would be interesting is to get on the mailing list of the directors and see what they say to each other.
7.25.2008 4:29pm
Ken Arromdee:
But doesn't getting a high school diploma require people to submit to "involuntary" servitude, such as homework and attending classes? Why would a public service requirement, in itself, be any different?

Doing homework isn't service because there's nobody being served; there's no person who would pay market value for the homework if he had some spare change, but doesn't have to because the students are doing it instead.
7.25.2008 4:35pm
Alan Khazei (mail) (www):
I am happy that the Volokh Conspiracy blog has issued a correction regarding the goals of ServiceNation, clarifying that ServiceNation does not seek mandatory service, and is instead working hard to increase voluntary service opportunities for all Americans. However, the correction itself still contains errors about my record and my views on service. To be absolutely clear, in my 20 years of work in the service field I have NEVER advocated mandatory service requirements. I absolutely support comprehensive and VOLUNTARY service opportunities for all Americans, and believe deeply that if more Americans choose to serve their communities and country, we will be a more united and prosperous society. And I would like service to become a rite of passage for all young Americans, not as a mandatory requirement, but because they have been inspired by the idea that service is both an act of patriotism and an ideal of citizenship. I have never deviated from these views and to suggest otherwise is simply wrong.
7.25.2008 4:50pm
Tim Zimmermann (mail) (www):
Tim Zimmermann, from ServiceNation, here. Great to see such an energetic conversation. Just a couple of quick points.

1) Our website is www.servicenation.org. Any views you want to attribute or impute to ServiceNation should come from there, and not any other website.

2) While community volunteers are not frequently turned down (though even volunteer organizations hit capacity) , both AmeriCorps and Peace Corps routinely have to turn away thousands of Americans would would like to do a year of service.

3) AmeriCorps, and other national service corps members, dramatically increase capacity for community volunteers. In the aftermath of Katrina and the recent Iowa floods, as well as other natural disasters, the presence and management skills of AmeriCorps members allowed volunteer organizations to quickly surge their volunteer capacity. Which turned out to be critical to mounting and organizing the relief efforts. If you go interview a citizen of Davenport Iowa on their views of AmeriCorps, you will hear substantially different sentiment than what is being conveyed about national service on this blog.

Thanks for reading. Best, Tim
7.25.2008 5:10pm
Tim Zimmermann (mail) (www):
Also, Alan Khazei would like to post this statement:

I am happy that the Volokh Conspiracy blog has issued a correction regarding the goals of ServiceNation, clarifying that ServiceNation does not seek mandatory service, and is instead working hard to increase voluntary service opportunities for all Americans. However, the correction itself still contains errors about my record and my views on service. To be absolutely clear, in my 20 years of work in the service field I have NEVER advocated mandatory service requirements. I absolutely support comprehensive and VOLUNTARY service opportunities for all Americans, and believe deeply that if more Americans choose to serve their communities and country, we will be a more united and prosperous society. And I would like service to become a rite of passage for all young Americans, not as a mandatory requirement, but because they have been inspired by the idea that service is both an act of patriotism and an ideal of citizenship. I have never deviated from these views and to suggest otherwise is simply wrong.
7.25.2008 5:13pm
LarryA (mail) (www):
Obviously, definitions of what counts as "voluntary" may vary.
See "Internal Revenue Service Tax Code."
About 10 years ago, the public High School my sons went to decided to require 200 hours of approved "voluntary" service in order to graduate.
I hate when that happens. I actually don't have a huge problem with requiring a reasonable number of hours of community service for graduation, particularly if they are in lieu of class hours. But I hate the idea that they are "voluntary." If it's a requirement for graduation, it's no more voluntary than final exams or term themes.

And I really hate the presumption that many of these nanny-state types make when they say, "Volunteering makes people feel good and offers a fulfilling experience, therefore we ought to require everyone to do it." Idiots!
He may indeed find a national consensus for voluntary service...
The other thing I find troubling about this subject is that when you examine the studies that find "widespread consensus" (or the equivalent) for national community service, it is almost always part of the consensus that somebody else (high school/college students, etc.) should be required to do the serving.
I'm more skeptical that cleaning a gun range ought to be included, but I'll accept that for the sake of argument.
What is the difference between cleaning a public gun range and cleaning any other type of public sports complex or recreational area? (Other than the "Guns R Bad" argument.)
Khazei has also said that a year of national service should be a requirement for admission to college, though it is not clear whether he means that government should mandate this requirement or whether he merely hopes that universities will adopt it voluntarily.
I can hardly wait to see the interaction between the first contingent of students with a year of real-world experience (even in a government/social service setting) and professors with no experience outside academia.

(I went from being an infantry officer in the Army to taking undergrad sociology classes. It was Really Interesting.)
7.25.2008 6:22pm
Steve222:
http://www.nationalserviceact.org/17.html

This is the organization's legal analysis of the constitutionality of mandatory service. Why do they have this up unless at least someone in the organization advocates mandatory service?

This is from the site of Americans for a National Service Act. That organization is "part of the Service Nation Campaign." Does Service Nation disavow that portion of ANSA's platform?
7.25.2008 6:29pm
Chris M (mail):
Richard Aubrey sez:

"Ever see a system like this--or not like this--fail to expand to be more expensive and more intrusive than originally proposed?
Me neither.
Only question is whether the original proponents are planning it or will be genuinely surprised.
At my cynical age, I bet on the former."

I just wanted to quote this for truth. It's odd to me that most of the responders seem to now trust Service Nation, and thus the federal government to not screw up the legislation. You give them an inch, they will take a mile.
7.25.2008 9:36pm
David Warner:
Kudos to Zimmerman and Khazei for participating in the conversation, although said conversation currently consists of several people talking completely past one another.

I was an AmeriCorps/Vista volunteer for a year and worked a total of five years for the NGO with which I volunteered, and was responsible at times for volunteer management. I would say that 80% of volunteers (especially those under 18) consumed more resources than they contributed. The other 20% were those with professional skills, whose experiences, both in the value they contributed and the spiritual benefit they gained, were along the lines envisioned by Service Nation.

Why then are so many anxious to volunteer that AmeriCorps must turn people away? I'd say a lack of appreciation for the "service" potential in gaining and applying said professional skills, even when (or especially when) those skills are applied in a professional setting. Of course, many have also been battered by privilege guilt and are trying to do penance for their evil ancestors.

Why then are Khazei and friends still so anxious to enroll more volunteers, especially those with few skills? They've said it themselves - moral formation. Turning on the "justice nerve". Moral formation is indeed a crucial social function. It has not, however, traditionally been one entrusted to the Federal Government.

Service Nation might care to explain why now it should be.
7.26.2008 12:53am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
David.
No, I don't think they would.
7.26.2008 10:34am