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Obama's New "Corps" And Other Service Programs.

Senator Barack Obama is proposing to remake American society in a way that the American public does not yet understand.

In his July 2, 2008, speech calling Americans to national service, Obama departed from his prepared remarks to announce his support for a mysteriously named "civilian national security force":

We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.

Many commentators were stumped. What is this "civilian national security force" that must be as well funded as the military? Is it merely our existing civilian national security force, the militia, or perhaps the FBI and the CIA? Or was Obama referring to some thuggish new paramilitary street organization?

The answer to this mystery is not hidden. It is prominently displayed in Obama's speeches and in the position papers on his website. Obama is referring, neither to the militia nor to a reincarnation of the Brownshirts, but rather to his unprecedented plans for universal community service for young people and for hugely increased funding for a myriad of voluntary service programs for the rest of us.

Earlier posts dealt with mandatory service for middle and high school students, voluntary service for college students, and college "Serve-Study" laid out in Obama's speeches and his "Plan for Universal Voluntary Citizen Service." This post covers his other service programs.

A. Green Job Corps, YouthBuild Program

Although Obama's education proposals would effectively reach over 90% of the 47 million middle, high, and college students in the country (perhaps leaving out only private secondary school children), what about the 2 million young people who are out of school and unemployed or in prison? To reach young prisoners and the young unemployed, Obama will add a new Green Job Corps, "an energy-focused youth jobs program," and expand by six-fold the YouthBuild Program, which teaches housing construction to low-income youth.

B. AmeriCorps VISTA, Experience Corps, Senior Corps

What about the middle-aged and older Americans not covered by these programs for the young? Obama plans to enlist retirees in his civilian national security force "on a large scale" and to expand service programs for baby-boomers and the elderly: AmeriCorps VISTA, the Experience Corps, and other Senior Corps programs.

C. Classroom Corps, Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, Veterans Corps, Homeland Security Corps, Peace Corps, Global Energy Corps

Among other "transformative" community service proposals, Obama will more than triple the number of full-time AmeriCorps members to 250,000 and distribute these new members among five new "Corps":

1. a Classroom Corps for teachers and students;

2. a Health Corps to improve public health;

3. a Clean Energy Corps to conduct weatherization and renewable energy projects;

4. a Veterans Corps to assist veterans at institutions; and

5. a Homeland Security Corps to deal with emergencies.

Not only will "Barack Obama . . . double the Peace Corps to 16,000 by its 50th anniversary in 2011 and push Congress to fully fund this expansion," but he will create a "Global Energy Corps to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions overseas and promote low-carbon and affordable energy solutions in developing nations."

Barack Obama is proposing so many new "Corps" that he runs out of distinctive names for them. Note that his new Global Energy Corps is not to be confused with his new Clean Energy Corps and his new Green Job Corps.

D. Social Investment Fund Network, Social Entrepreneurship Agency for Nonprofits, Corporation for National and Community Service

But Obama is far from finished:

Barack Obama will create a Social Investment Fund Network, . . . a government-supported nonprofit corporation, similar to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, that will use federal seed money to leverage private sector funding to improve local innovation, test the impact of new ideas and expand successful programs to scale.

He promises us that this new corporation will not be just a single entity, but it will involve "a network of funds."

That's not all; he's going to create a "Social Entrepreneurship Agency for Nonprofits":

Barack Obama will a create an agency within the Corporation for National and Community Service dedicated to building the capacity and effectiveness of the nonprofit sector.

Note the tone of these proposals: none of this false modesty about proposing these new agencies and Corps to Congress and working for their passage. His Plan simply declares: "Barack Obama will create" this; "Barack Obama will create" that.

***

All these programs are just the ones listed on the service pages of his campaign website. This list doesn't include his most expensive program: health care. All these add up to the biggest expansion of the US government since FDR. If Obama gets most of what he wants, he will make libertarians look more fondly on the relatively modest proposals of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.

T.S. Jones:
Obama's Corps mania sounds like someone copied a page from the Onion and mistakenly posted it to his campaign website. Sorry, Obamanics, but your candidate is stark raving mad if he thinks the American people want a chicken in every pot and a Corps on every corner.
9.1.2008 1:47am
AndrewK (mail):
As a high school student, I remember being struck by the absurdity of "forced voluntarism." Years later, I still find it distasteful, but I realize that it was put forth by a local school board and fully within their rights, even if bad policy.

Forced voluntarism at the federal level is frightening and absurd. I can only imagine the list of organizations qualifying. Coming from Chicago and knowing who Obama owes favors makes me suspect that many high school students would be assigned (or permitted) to do grunt work at the mayor's office.

I'm also a bit unsure of the legal ramifications of what would probably be such a specific and onerous condition on federal funding for education. "You don't get the money if you don't require each and every student to volunteer" doesn't seem remotely connected to any legitimate federal interest.
9.1.2008 1:54am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
e promises us that this new corporation will not be just a single entity, but it will involve "a network of funds."
Sounds like what he and Ayers had going in Chicago with Annenberg. Money seems to have shuffled around a bit, until it finally disappeared. Sounds like something to get in on the bottom floor with.
9.1.2008 2:11am
The General:
no doubt there will be a "get out the [Dem] vote" corps.

Also, I'm sure all of these "volunteers" will be unionized, eventually.
9.1.2008 2:53am
James Gibson (mail):
Forced voluntarism or mandatory service is just conscription (AKA the Draft). It will be disliked as much as the military draft as the people required to serve are also required to give up other jobs or activities in order to perform these required services.

FDR started numerous programs during the depression to put people to work and try to kick start the economy. In the 1990s People like Tom Hayden pushed for program where we would send young people to college if they then served something like five years in some public service position (Police, Fire, etc). The difference between these proposals and what Obama seems to be proposing is that the people are forced not by their need for employment or the need to find away to pay for college, but the need for the government to find people to fill the quota for these corps. How long before we must all register for such service as men do for military service.
9.1.2008 3:02am
EIDE_Interface (mail):
With every passing day I'm more convinced that Obama will lose to the McPalin monster.
9.1.2008 3:18am
Catherine:

Show the World the Best Face of America: Barack Obama will set up an America's Voice Initiative within
the State Department to rapidly recruit and train Americans who are fluent speakers of local languages (Arabic,
Bahasa Melayu, Farsi, Urdu, and Turkish) with public diplomacy skills. These Americans will go overseas to
ensure our voice is heard in the mass media and in our efforts on the ground.


While checking Obama's position papers to make sure that this article wasn't some kind of satire, I came across this (above). Someone please tell me that he won't actually have the power to do this.
9.1.2008 3:21am
BillW:
EIDE_Interface: With every passing day I'm more convinced that Obama will lose to the McPalin monster.

You say that like it's a bad thing.
9.1.2008 3:26am
A. Zarkov (mail):
My source within the Obama campaign organization has confirmed what I have suspected.

1. BHO writes on own speeches.

2. David Axelrod is the brains behind the campaign.

3. BHO has a hypnotic influence on his workers and associates and excites extreme loyalty and devotion. As you might expect, he leads a cult-like organization.

4. While BHO is actually very intelligent, he does not like details and limits himself to broad themes.

5. No one is controlling BHO. He sets the goals and policies.

6. Look for David Axelrod to be running the US government (if BHO is elected), most likely as chief of staff. BHO will set the policies, but David will implement them.

7. BHO is an extreme narcissist, who likes to give speeches to adoring crowds. At this point its not clear as to whether his narcissism goes as far as a personality disorder.
9.1.2008 3:32am
James Lindgren (mail):
Zarkov:

As I posted recently, Axelrod is highly competent.

Your last point actually surprises me to some extent, having read the Audacity of Hope.
9.1.2008 3:55am
Jerry F:
This post sounds like an article from The Onion.
9.1.2008 3:56am
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

Sounds like what he and Ayers had going in Chicago with Annenberg.


I'm also a bit unsure of the legal ramifications of what would probably be such a specific and onerous condition on federal funding for education. "You don't get the money if you don't require each and every student to volunteer" doesn't seem remotely connected to any legitimate federal interest.


The schools had to partner with organizations chosen by the CAC in order to get the money. The organizations were radical; if the thrust of an organization was something as basic as raising math scores, it wouldn't have been considered for partnership by the CAC.

To recap- it seems the CAC used the money as a lure to partner schools with radical organizations, the intent being radical political indoctrination rather than improving the students' education. No radical politics, no money.

Somewhat related, a little history in photos of the depression era Civilian Conservation Corps:

Garrison cap

Heroic art 1

Heroic art 2

Join and eat

Insignia

In uniform

3C's, Maryland

"The Civilian Conservation Corps left its monuments in the preservation and purification of the land, the water, the forests, and the young men of America."

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
9.1.2008 4:02am
Cornellian (mail):
All these add up to the biggest expansion of the US government since FDR G.W. Bush.

Fixed that for you.
9.1.2008 4:11am
spider:
Catherine 2:21am : What is your objection to the proposed program with Arabic/Farsi/etc. speakers?
9.1.2008 4:40am
James Lindgren (mail):
spider:

I was wondering about that one, too. It didn't sound clearly bad to me.
9.1.2008 4:47am
Catherine:
You're all better-informed than I am, which is why I normally just read the comments here, so I suppose if you don't see a problem, there isn't one. But since you asked, I think our relations with these countries are already dicy enough, we don't need some nutty 'rapidly recruited' group of amateurs who passed Diplomacy 101 running around saying God knows what to them.
9.1.2008 5:13am
wb (mail):

These cadres sounds like the brownshirts and hitler youth to me. As for the claim of voluntary, we all know the peer pressure takes a lot of the freedom of choice out of play.

And it is all to be paid for by the redistribution of wealth program that was the theme of the DNC.
9.1.2008 7:57am
common sense (www):
For the programs that already exist- are they so popular that they are at capacity? If they are, why has no one increased funding for them to meet the need? If they are not at capacity, why does he want to waste money expanding them?
9.1.2008 8:11am
Anonymous #000:
As for the claim of voluntary, we all know the peer pressure takes a lot of the freedom of choice out of play.
I can appreciate the problems with peer pressure, but -- even in religious schools -- peer pressure to do community service is low or nonexistant. And with that, it ranges anywhere from helping somebody set up chairs in the gym, or going through church pews putting hymnals in order, to real missionary work in one's own city or in a near-by country. But people still did it, and usually for the right reasons.

Like the federal money and drinking age give-and-take with the States, the program is at best tax-funded blackmail and at worst an Orwellian lesson in keeping in line with the party.
9.1.2008 8:37am
VincentPaul (mail):
Are these hours/years of work going to count towards Social Security?
9.1.2008 10:13am
Tracy Johnson (www):
Brownshirts? Nah, NKVD!
9.1.2008 10:31am
Norman Bates (mail):
There should definitely be a Street Corps for the suppression of anti-Obama sentiment. Recruits might come from ex-Weathermen; the usual Daly-machine activists; "tough" unions like the Teamsters, UAW, and longshoremen; politically-conscious street gangs, etc. Their activities could be coordinated directly by the DNC through contacts in the White House. For purposes of morale they should have an informal uniform. Didn't someone mention brown shirts?
9.1.2008 10:44am
Crimso:
He sure seems intent on drafting people into everything except the military.
9.1.2008 10:58am
Sam H (mail):
"Brownshirts? Nah, NKVD!"

And the difference was?
9.1.2008 11:10am
Anonymous #000:
And the difference was?


Get yer program here!

Can't tell one socialist from another without yer program!
Can't step like a goose without a certain-colored noose!
Can't dance to the beat without a song sheet!

Manifesto, sir? I have a special on this here little red book. And the suffering has been reduced by half -- this week only -- on all autobiographies.
9.1.2008 11:51am
AnneS:
All 13th amendment and civil liberties questions aside, has anyone asked the nonprofits, churches, and government agencies who would presumably the beneficiaries of a mandatory community service program whether they want the services of millions of conscripted 11, 12, and 13 year olds? They'll need to provide supervision for these kids, many of whom will be unmotivated and all of whom will be immature. Making sure these kids satisfy this mandate will require the creation and maintenance of new programs for adults to take kids to volunteer sites and make sure they behave themselves as they stuff envelopes.

Maryland requires community service for high schoolers - it has the effect of erecting another barrier to graduation for borderline students and adding another thing to the ever-growing list of non-academic tasks that schools have to worry about. I like Obama, but this is an idiotic and poorly thought out plan. Maybe we can just ask the federal Education Department to concentrate on making the programs Congress has already seen fit to mandate quasi-functional before creating a new one for them to administer in a half-assed way. I mean, I know it's the American way to create a program on paper and declare victory, but I think it's time for change.
9.1.2008 12:22pm
loki13 (mail):
I;m going to post my own (heretical) thoughts here. I have long thought that extreme Marxism and extreme libertarianism were but flip sides of the same coin. The idea that all good springs from the group, without the individual, is antithetical to human nature and doomed to failure. The idea that all good springs from the individual, without the group, is also doomed to failure. There is a healthy (moderate) balance between the two.

I think that in some ways, the United States has embraced individualism to a fault. There is little thought to civic virtue. While I do believe that the common good is often accomplished by individual (and, in a non-prejorative appelation, selfish) actions, it is also true that the fabric of civil society is best held together by those who also have an eye toward the "common good". While there are a number of private civic organizations that continue to perform these actions, and these should be encouraged and lauded, I think it is also true that in our increasingly fragmented society, there may be a place for government encouragement of civic society, through both education and increased incentives for civic work.

As to the substance of Obama's proposals, I am agnostic. Politics is the art of the possible; this has identified a problem, and I know that this will not pass as proposed.

After all, we are our brother's keeper. We do not simply do for ourself, and hope the invisible hand keeps our brother safe.
9.1.2008 12:43pm
davod (mail):
The Churches would not mind. After Obama does a Hugo Chavez and creates his own church, all churches, and thereore the volunteers, would fall under the government, archbishop Obama's, program.
9.1.2008 12:54pm
Milhouse (www):
We are our brothers' keepers? Since when? Who made us that, and why should we accept it?
9.1.2008 12:54pm
FlimFlamSam:

"Brownshirts? Nah, NKVD!"

And the difference was?


The NKVD were MUCH more brutal, and yet history has almost forgotten them thanks to the Duranty-esque whitewash of Soviet crimes by leftist reporters and historians.
9.1.2008 12:57pm
davod (mail):
Obama did nothing for the Chicago school system with $110 million. Imagine how he could screw up the country with federal resources at his disposal.
9.1.2008 12:58pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
James Lindgren:

"Your last point actually surprises me to some extent, having read the Audacity of Hope."

That's funny because that was the immediate impression I got from his books. Even to write a memoir in one's thirties is an act born of narcissism.
9.1.2008 1:04pm
loki13 (mail):
davod,

I thought that Congress has the power of both the "sword and the purse". It is no longer clear after this administration if the Congress really has the power of the sword (although, in fairness, you can trace this back to Vietnam); are you arguing that Obama will take control of the purse as well? Or that the Republicans will lose so badly that the Democrats will have 60 votes in the Senate, and all will vote with Obama and take their orders from him?
9.1.2008 1:04pm
MartyA:
The Annenberg money was never meant to do anything for Chicago education; Hussein and Ayers intended to simply transfer someone else's wealth to their friends and political allies. I believe Dr. Kurtz' investigation will turn up evidence that will convince even the most irrational Husseinians. The knee jerk opposition to Kurtz' investigation is, to me, proof that there is something to be found.
And, once you accept that Hussein is nothing but another cheap, crooked Chicago race hustler, you'll also recognize that all the domestic corps programs are nothing more than programs to put politically vetted pals on the public payroll where very little will be expected of them. It will be modeled after Hussein's public service.
9.1.2008 1:08pm
loki13 (mail):
MartyA,

As has been discussed previously, if you wish to be taken seriously, you should probably refrain from the over-the-top rhetoric. Do you call McCain "Sidney"? How about John Sidney McCain III? No? Then why should anyone read (let alone believe) your comments?

BTW, did you mention civic/national service? I lost you at "Hussein".
9.1.2008 1:12pm
Anonymous #000:
loki13, your 11:34 post was interesting, but I'll just bite here:
I have long thought that extreme Marxism and extreme libertarianism were but flip sides of the same coin.

I wanted to say the kernel of difference is that between voluntary collective action and coerced collective action, but I realized (given my little knowledge of it) that one could make the case that Marxism is more about reacting to supposed coercive action. In which case, it seems we're no longer comparing political theories but a political theory and a conspiracy theory.

Personally: I accept libertarianism to the extent that it meshes with my own voluntaryism. Collectivism is a big red herring for both sides. It's just that the Left likes to beat people with it.
9.1.2008 1:12pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
loki13-

I;m going to post my own (heretical) thoughts here. I have long thought that extreme Marxism and extreme libertarianism were but flip sides of the same coin. The idea that all good springs from the group, without the individual, is antithetical to human nature and doomed to failure. The idea that all good springs from the individual, without the group, is also doomed to failure. There is a healthy (moderate) balance between the two.

You're leaving the economic system out of it. Marxism has them taking (stealing) all property and then redistributing it based on government opinions of "need". Eventually this always results in stagnation, declining standards of living, and very often poverty and starvation. (Also rampant corruption, because government and party officials very often mysteriously start deciding that their families, friends, cronies, etc. "need" a surprising high share of the "people's" property, the plumb jobs, etc.)

And libertarians have no problem with civic virtue, volunteerism, charity, etc. as long as it is voluntary - all time and monies given to these organizations or efforts are freely given with no coercion, threats, etc. Of course the organizations have to be pursuing legal, moral, legitimate ends as well. If a "voluntary charity" involves harassing and stealing from particular ethnic groups and then spending the money on charity members or giving it away that isn't a legitimate "charity", it's a criminal group.

So libertarianism has no problem with charities and civic organizations as long as they are truly voluntary, their funding is truly voluntary, and they are pursuing legitimate ends that don't harm anyone or violate their rights. In my opinion that is consistent with true civic-mindedness - not trying to force you views, projects, or opinions on others.

From the sound of it I think various rightwing and leftwing ideologues have painted the picture of libertarians as selfish, mean, bitter, greedy hermits, likely because they wouldn't go along with whichever agendas or projects the ideologues were forcing or trying to push on people at the time. That isn't the case.
9.1.2008 1:15pm
Anonymous #000:
If a "voluntary charity" involves harassing and stealing from particular ethnic groups and then spending the money on charity members or giving it away that isn't a legitimate "charity", it's a criminal group.

Note that this is a simple case of rent seeking, which any economist could tell you results from manipulating prices. And yet politicians routinely propose price controls and their equivalents (quantity restrictions, etc).
9.1.2008 1:18pm
loki13 (mail):
A.P.,

No, I think we don't disagree on some things. I think there is a difference between a healthy understanding of economics and "extreme libertarianism". There is a reason and purpose for government, and reason we have one. Given the complexities of modern life, and the imperfections of the market (not to mention normative societal goals), a government that exists with the consent of the governed is necessary. Once that is established, the question becomes one of particularity- is a given intervention good or bad.

Extreme libertarianism, like extreme Marxism, presupposes that ideology has the answer; either government is always bad, or government is always good. I prefer the intermediate route, which is to have government on the sidelines as much as possible (call it a presumption), but also acknowledge how necessary it is for certain issues (a rebutable presumption). I think there is a problem with the civic-mindedness in the United States; as mentioned, I do not know that Obama's plan is a good way to address it; I would rather see alternative plans mooted than the critique I have been seeing, "BHO is a collectivist and wants to bring back the brownshirts!"

Personally, I blame the boomers for the lack of civic-mindedness, and should we continue down this course, we'll be no matter than Nigeria, with everyone demanding some baksheesh to accomplish what they should be accomplishing. Or, at least, a high-paying lobbying job.
9.1.2008 1:27pm
loki13 (mail):
matter=better
9.1.2008 1:28pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Anonymous #000-

Note that this is a simple case of rent seeking, which any economist could tell you results from manipulating prices. And yet politicians routinely propose price controls and their equivalents (quantity restrictions, etc).

Well yes, but if you have a criminal law which forbids stealing - as all legal systems do - then it is clearly stealing and other forms of crime as well. And I mentioned ethnicity in the example though I really didn't get into it. If they are targeting specific ethnic groups this is racist, ethnosupremicist, discriminatory, etc. as well.

And in the example if politicians were imposing price controls based on ethnicity this would clearly be racist, approaching a kind of neo-nazi social engineering.
9.1.2008 1:30pm
EPluribusMoney (mail):
Wow! Can we all wear matching brown shirts?!
9.1.2008 1:42pm
davod (mail):
I think we are forgetting one aspect of the compulsory volunteer programs and that is all the pretty uniforms.

And the Dems have been saying for eight years that Bush would bring back the draft.
9.1.2008 1:42pm
Anonymous #000:
loki13,
Extreme libertarianism, like extreme Marxism, presupposes that ideology has the answer; either government is always bad, or government is always good. I prefer the intermediate route, which is to have government on the sidelines as much as possible (call it a presumption), but also acknowledge how necessary it is for certain issues (a rebutable presumption).

As far as I understand libertarianism, it recognizes government as a tool: first for self-defence, then for law and order, and then maybe for dealing with externalities (well, that's what I've read, anyway). It's bad in that it can't be trusted to be good. I don't think what you're describing is that different, and I don't know what you really think the difference is.

American Psikhushka, indeed, but it's so much less disturbing to think about when I pretend that proponents of such systems would ever accept the logic of rent seeking being a bad thing. They usually shout one down, instead.
9.1.2008 1:43pm
loki13 (mail):
Anonymous #000,

I think you should be able to gather the difference from both what I have said and the (many) comments by others on the (many) posts here. A fanatic is one who fits the facts into their ideology; a realist shapes their ideology to fit the facts at hand.

I don't believe that a libertarians would necessarily stop there, even committed ones; you list national defense; that is merely one example of a public good (with associated free rider problems). There are other public goods that some (most?) libertarians would see that there would be a need for government intervention.

Some libertarians, conversely, would prefer private methods for dealing with externalities (viewing it in terms of Coase, as opposed to a Pigou); I think that's silly due to transaction costs, but go figger.

I could go on, but you get the point. I hate ideologies as much as I hate Illinois Nazis.
9.1.2008 1:58pm
MLS:
"Mandatory charity" has been a hallmark of life in the corporate world. It goes by the name "United Way".

"Mandatory volunteerism" has a catchy ring to it.

If public school students should wear uniforms, shouldn't adults lead by example by doing the same thing? Before I support any such proposal, however, I do want to see color swatches. My eyes are blue and some shades of brown do not bring out their full color and do them justice.

Given the plethora of proposed "corps", can a proposal for a "Corps Czar" be far behind?
9.1.2008 2:02pm
Anonymous #000:
I think you're missing the sociological factor. Even a minarchy can't withstand a communist revolution.

Small-'L' libertarianism can be just an ideal, but it requires most of us to accept that ideal, otherwise it stops working (status quo coerced or complete upset).

I guess I'm just not deep enough in the Volokh clique, since I don't know how all that differs from what you said or what Illinoi Nazis have to do with it.
9.1.2008 2:05pm
loki13 (mail):
Anonymous #000,

I think that the best way to forestall a communist revolution is to forgo extreme libertarianism. Just as todays libertarians misread and misrepresent Adam Smith, so did yesterdays Marxists misread and misrepresent Marx. Which is why both Wealth of Nations and Das Kapital should be required reading in all introductory econ. courses.

The scathing critique, backed by statistics, that Marx wrote of capitalism, did not come to pass, because of the rise both of democracy and unions. This is not to be, necessarily, pro-union (although I am pro-democracy), but the idea of revolution is unlikely to come about unless people believe that their situation is both miserable and unlikely to improve for both themselves and their children. While this does not argue for wealth redistribution, it does mean that certain things are necessary- protection of stability to allow for individual freedom and economic opportunity, while also affording opportunity to the least of us. This is a delicate balance, and it is easy to go to far either way (too much intervention leads to inefficient markets and slow economic growth, hurting everyone, while a completely bifurcated class structure lends itself to a poor outcome for society as a whole, and breeds the conditions that make revolution more likely).

I think it was remarked, if you ain't got nothin', you got nothin' to lose. The genius of America is to make sure that people have something to lose. That's where civic mindedness (and ownership) comes in.
9.1.2008 2:20pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
loki13-

I think there is a difference between a healthy understanding of economics and "extreme libertarianism".

All very subjective. What some might label "extreme libertarianism" might just mean that they aren't aware of certain economic principles.

There is a reason and purpose for government, and reason we have one.

Yes. But sometimes the reasons and purposes are incorrect, wasteful, harmful, disproportionate, etc. A police force (providing it is honest, fair, effective, and not corrupt) is generally agreed to be a necessity. But what about a police force whose function is to steal from and exploit a particular ethnic group, as in some totalitarian regimes? This is government that has no legitimate reason and no legitimate purpose, and therefore does more harm than good.

Given the complexities of modern life, and the imperfections of the market (not to mention normative societal goals)

Often what are called "market failures" are just certain interests trying to rig, control, etc. various markets in their favor.

a government that exists with the consent of the governed is necessary. Once that is established, the question becomes one of particularity- is a given intervention good or bad.

There are also governments or parts of governments that are not consensual, not legitimate, and sometimes illegal - going against the laws of the government in question.

Extreme libertarianism, like extreme Marxism, presupposes that ideology has the answer; either government is always bad, or government is always good.

Well the label "extreme libertarianism" is a problem because I'm not sure how you're defining it. According to sources like the economic freedom index, generally the more economically free (the more it approaches libertarianism) a country is the more successful and prosperous it is.

But extreme Marxism has demontrably always been bad - eventually resulting in stagnation, declining living standards, and very often poverty and starvation. It also basically requires a police state to exist and usually is plagued with rampant corruption.

I think there is a problem with the civic-mindedness in the United States;

Personally, I blame the boomers for the lack of civic-mindedness, and should we continue down this course, we'll be no matter than Nigeria, with everyone demanding some baksheesh to accomplish what they should be accomplishing. Or, at least, a high-paying lobbying job.

Not sure what you mean here, could you elaborate or give examples?
9.1.2008 2:21pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Plus the spiffy uniforms here, here and here.

But not these politically incorrect uniforms.
9.1.2008 2:30pm
loki13 (mail):
AP-

I followed the link. Of note are some of the top performers:

#1: Hong Kong. Part of China; repressive government allowing economic freedom.

#2: Singapore. Not a fan of canings, big fan of bubblegum.

Don't even get me started on the socialized medicine on that list! Anyway, I agree that totalitarianism is bad (are there those who argue otherwise, other than the dictators themselves and their flunkies). But arguing that 'extreme Marxism' has always been bad is a straw man; I can point to countries that do fine with various degrees of socialism (like our neighbor to the north (7), or Ireland (3), or Switzerland (9), or the UK (10)) as well as point to the lack of an 'extreme libertarian' (stateless or near stateless) country that has done well. There is a difference between arguing for less government intervention and arguing that all government (except for police and natl. defense) are bad.

As for examples- I think that there has been a decline in civic mindedness due to the boomer generation. A combination of turned idealism (from we will change the world to greed is good) and distrust of America and its government as a concept. The previous generation that fought together in WW2 as a shared enterprise had a different take on it. This is a personal view, and YMMV. It could just be the typical 'things were always better in the past' fallacy, or there could be something to it; I think that the decline in third spaces, the increased mobility of individuals, the breakdown of extended families, and other factors of modern life also have contributed to this. I think that the government should play a *voluntary* role in finding ways to bring some of this back.
9.1.2008 2:41pm
Careless:

Just as todays libertarians misread and misrepresent Adam Smith, so did yesterdays Marxists misread and misrepresent Marx. Which is why both Wealth of Nations and Das Kapital should be required reading in all introductory econ. courses.


Sort of like assigning Origin of Species and Philosophie zoologique (Lamarck) in biology, eh
9.1.2008 3:03pm
loki13 (mail):
Careless,

No, not like that at all. There is a difference between the political implications of a work and the value of a work in economics. I know that Greg Mankiw has read Das Kapital. Have you?
9.1.2008 3:08pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
loki13-

#1: Hong Kong. Part of China; repressive government allowing economic freedom.

#2: Singapore. Not a fan of canings, big fan of bubblegum.


It's an index of economic freedom, I should have stressed that I was referring to the "economic" part. So these aren't all models of social and economic libertarianism.

But arguing that 'extreme Marxism' has always been bad is a straw man; I can point to countries that do fine with various degrees of socialism (like our neighbor to the north (7), or Ireland (3), or Switzerland (9), or the UK (10))

Those countries aren't actually socialist. Austrian economics (at least Mises) refers to the "social democrat" countries as "hampered market" economies. They have relatively high taxes and a high amount of regulation, but there is still fairly strong private enterprise there.

The point on Marxism still stands. Where it's been done for real the results have been as I described - bad, often horrible.

...as well as point to the lack of an 'extreme libertarian' (stateless or near stateless) country that has done well. There is a difference between arguing for less government intervention and arguing that all government (except for police and natl. defense) are bad.

I think you're mixing things up. "Stateless" or "lawless" does not equal libertarianism. Libertarianism refers to a high degree of economic freedom coupled with a high degree of social freedom. Nearly all libertarians believe in laws, just some debates on how much government there should be.

As for examples- I think that there has been a decline in civic mindedness due to the boomer generation. A combination of turned idealism (from we will change the world to greed is good) and distrust of America and its government as a concept.

I'm not so sure that's it. There are times when the government certainly needs to be viewed with a skeptical eye - basically all the time.

And the beauty of capitalism is that it enables self-interest to benefit the common good. But the babyboomers are actually enacting statist/socialist policies to rob the present at the expense of the future. It's not all their fault, the main problems with a central bank, a fiat currency, economic ignorance at all levels, politicians focused on hack short-term economic policies to ensure re-election, etc. were present before they arrived on the stage.

The previous generation that fought together in WW2 as a shared enterprise had a different take on it.

Well the problem with that is when they create an "enterprise" that is wrong or harmful. They tend to fanatically stick with it, even when they are dead wrong. But I guess that generation doesn't have a monopoly on that kind of stubborness.

It could just be the typical 'things were always better in the past' fallacy, or there could be something to it; I think that the decline in third spaces, the increased mobility of individuals, the breakdown of extended families, and other factors of modern life also have contributed to this. I think that the government should play a *voluntary* role in finding ways to bring some of this back.

I think think there is a lot of nostalgia there. A lot of it is generational strife due to the boomers and their parents trying to push the younger generations around - robbing the younger generations for their entitlements now. (While this wasn't done to them - they got to get ahead and raise their families without interference.) A lot of it is just the economic problems from the factors mentioned above. Not that any of it is OK or should be tolerated.
9.1.2008 3:52pm
guest (mail):
Man, if this 'forced volunteering' did happen, I almost wish I was young enough to be forced to 'volunteer'.

I would be just as surly, lippy and lazy as I could, then practically DARE the 'boss' to 'fire' me. Then I would demand all the same benefits of those volunteers who worked hard and were pleasant and competent.

I would be a typical union/gov't worker, times two.
9.1.2008 3:53pm
AK (mail):
As you read all of this, just remember: Jonah Goldberg is completely nuts. There's absolutely no link between American leftism and fascism. It's all in his head.
9.1.2008 3:57pm
Andrew Garland (mail) (www):
If You Don't Agree Now, You Will Later

Around 1967 at the University of Chicago, I was talking to one of the radical guys in my dormitory, call him Brad. He argued that only a radical change in government would bring about a better society. I disagreed.

He said that his movement would become stronger, and eventually I would agree with him. I asked, what if I didn't agree with him, even later? He flashed anger and told me that if I didn't agree on my own, he would make me agree. I saw that as the end of the discussion.
(Continued at EasyOpinions - Leading the People)
9.1.2008 3:58pm
ericH (mail):
What the hell, I look great in a brown shirt.

Matches my dreamy brown eyes and has a overall slimming effect.

So, I got that going for me...

And with the jackboots too? I'm irresistible.
9.1.2008 4:04pm
Lyle (mail):
Seems unconstitutional to me. Hope none of them are called the Blue Guard and forced to carry a little blue book around.
9.1.2008 4:12pm
Chris zarecki (mail):
Mandatory service? Obama doesnt understand the power of a volunteer workforce. He doesn't understand that this is what makes our military so strong. If these programs are so great, why are they mandatory? What else doesn't he understand? No thanks, I'll vote for the other guy.
9.1.2008 4:17pm
Careless:

I know that Greg Mankiw has read Das Kapital. Have you?

Not cover to cover(s). Of course, I read it in a course on Western Political Theory and "Reading Marx, Rethinking Marxism" and certainly not in any of my economics classes.
9.1.2008 4:19pm
p. rich (mail) (www):
A. More taxes
B. More taxes
C. More taxes
...
N. More taxes
O. More taxes
P. More taxes
...
cont.
9.1.2008 4:20pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):

Senator Barack Obama is proposing to remake American society in a way that the American public does not yet understand.


Perhaps we could ask Andrea Merkel to explain it?
9.1.2008 4:33pm
Rebecca (mail):
I'll take the "Blame the Boomers" line and what lies beneath.

All of the slippery slope arguments are being vindicated before our eyes. From the much scoffed at assertion that unchecked abortion rights would lead to a public acceptance of vanity based infanticide (and yes, I personally know one woman who aborted a child when she discovered that it was female), to the Culture Wars gambit that lead to a "need" for the creation of youth corps.

How many years has the left spent deriding and condemning the traditional sources of civic pride? We've been inundated with messages that there is something fascistic about saluting the flag, joining the military, and saying the pledge of allegiance. Progressives having been busily scraping a hole where we once found positive outlets for young people to do good works. If churches are painted as refuges for narrow-minded bigots and creepy sexual predators, they are no longer places where teens will find their way toward the experience of doing charitable works. If the ROTC is portrayed as a training ground for baby killers, what decent minded young person would funnel their nobler energies into participating there? As every institution that once served to usher us from the selfishness of childhood into a humane and giving adulthood has been torn down, ridiculed, and demonized, they will now offer us a grand new scheme to fill the vacuum that they created.

Isn't a healthy dose of skepticism called for? If volunteerism in the service of noble goals is such a vitally important part of civilized society, then why did the same actors participate so enthusiastically in tearing down the structures that used to encourage such acts? And yes, Bill Ayers is one who comes immediately to mind. He and his friends have been much busier in the last 30-40 years than most of us realized.

I don't want to live in the brave new world these baby boomer losers are trying to foist on us, nor do I want my children marching lock-step in their little armies. Obama is free to run for the office of president, but the "Leader of the Free World" part is an honorary designation, not a damn mandate.
9.1.2008 4:39pm
JLawson (mail):
For the programs that already exist- are they so popular that they are at capacity? If they are, why has no one increased funding for them to meet the need? If they are not at capacity, why does he want to waste money expanding them?
It's difficult to tell if they're at capacity or not - I'd think not... but there's no emphasis I've seen at all on filling them out. No "wee need more volunteers' articles in the local liberal rag, no ads on TV or the like... I think the thinking is - "If you're interested, you'll find us and volunteer. If you don't, we weren't really needing you anyway."

http://www.americorps.org/

Their budget - $888,462,000 for '09, according to their web site.

I'm suspicious of any sort of 'mandatory volunteerism', personally. Make it mandatory, and that kind of cancels out the 'volunteer' part. This expansion of 'voluntary/mandatory service' isn't something that's exactly endearing as far as Obama's plans for the country goes. I wonder how long it'll be until he proposes changing the flag, as well?
9.1.2008 4:43pm
Spitzer:
I think El Presidente BHO's proposals are wonderfully modest. Unfortunately, too many anti-social acts occur to be rectified merely by requiring an equal number of good acts. We would be far better served by punishing anti-social acts. But here too, the problem (well known in crime studies, called the "black figure" - or, in Rumsfeld's terms, the "unknown unknowns") is that an undetermined number of anti-social acts are undiscovered, and so cannot be punished. Thus, our Dear Leader's proposals could be improved if he established a corps for children to report their parents' un-PC statements or acts to the appropriate authorities. A lateral benefit of this Obama Youth Corps would be to inculcate children with proper political values - change, hope, and permanent revolution - in a more direct way than publically-funded schools have heretofore managed.
9.1.2008 4:51pm
Crafty Hunter (www):
George Orwell would have immediately recognised the term "mandatory volunteerism".
9.1.2008 5:08pm
superdestroyer (mail):
All you have to do is look at elitism in the U.S. to determine who mandatory volunteerism would work out. the children of the elite will get the positions that look good on a resume. The children of the middle class will end up wasting their time. The children of the poor will end up picking up trash.

Does anyone believe that a president who believes that race and ethnicity is more important than ability will be able to develop a functional volunteer program instead of some horrible example of political correctness?

In addition, look at the summer jobs program in DC this summer. No show jobs, poor management, some not paid for work, non-students working. What makes anyone that such a program can be expanded to the national level?
9.1.2008 5:52pm
cubanbob (mail):
Hussein ought to first get the welfare parasites to be the volunteers. Food for work. When he accomplishes that, that is when he should get back to us. The democrats picked another McGovern and without the redeeming features. The only real question is whether McCain will win 40 states or 45?
9.1.2008 6:18pm
loki13 (mail):
cubanbob,

You wrote . . . oh, wait. You wrote Hussein. I thought you were trying to make a substantive point.
9.1.2008 6:25pm
Smokey:
Cornellian:
All these add up to the biggest expansion of the US government since FDR G.W. Bush.

Fixed that for you.
Cornelian, are you seriously proposing that GWB expanded the federal government anywhere near as much as FDR? If you were serious, you're delusional in the extreme.

Obama the empty suit, the Affirmative Action HE-RO, wants to take our 11 and 12 year old kids for indoctrination. Isn't that a swell idea?
9.1.2008 6:38pm
cubanbob (mail):
Loki as substantial as your Marxist Manchurian Candidate.


Speaking of welfare parasites if McCain has a pair first thing he should do is issue an executive order suspending the Davis - Bacon Act and impounding federal funds from local and state governments that have such laws on the books. That and repeal the tax exempt status of private schools and colleges along with freezing pensions and all other spending to last years actual expenditures. Heck, he might even balance the budget in his first year if he did that.

As for coerced volunteerism, like I said let the parasites first work for their food and shelter. Then get back to us actual net taxpayers.
9.1.2008 6:56pm
erp:
Remember Clinton's America Corps - volunteers who were getting $23.00/hr quite a bit over the minimum wage. We don't need any more laws or nonsensical schemes, we have more than enough of both.

Government should back off, lay off "do-gooders" and let those who know what they're doing to get on with it. Mr. Obama should go back to teaching. That's where his ego would be best served and where he will have an endless stream of adoring fans.
9.1.2008 7:27pm
Anon #456223 (mail):
I "volunteered" with AmeriCorps. I received a "stipend" not a "salary" or "wage". Described above, as a child of the middle class, I wasted my time.

Or perhaps not. The "stipend" I received worked out to be a pretty good equivalent of an hourly "wage." And, no accountability, no responsibility, no actual work to do. Oh man, good times.

I'm in total support of this. In a few years, my child will need a car. This would be a great way for him to "earn" the money and learn about the uselessness of government.
9.1.2008 7:51pm
renholder:
It seems to me that the only mandatory volunteerism would be his middle-school/high-school component. I am against it, but he does reference ,service-learning, which I think isn't too terrible. I am not really ready to get up in arms about 6 days a year. Besides, anyone can see that NCLB is far greater federal intervention..

There are already dozens of programs that do what Obama is proposing (Teach for america, state and federal americorps, peace corps) he's not proposing conscripting anyone to do those things, just expand the opportunities for people who want to do them.

I actually think his college volunteer program is kind of neat, the cost of college tuition is a real problem.
9.1.2008 7:53pm
Syd Henderson (mail):
Where does the talk of "mandatory" or "forced volunteerism" come from?
9.1.2008 8:02pm
James Lindgren (mail):
Marty A:

Please do not call Barack Obama "Hussein." The point has already been many times before. It's not the name he generally goes by.
9.1.2008 8:12pm
tim stevens (mail):
Wow, a liberal version of the draft or maybe a liberal version of mandatory volunteerism or maybe call it what it is, a liberal version of benevolent slavery.

I wonder how those verbal terrorists over at koz or DU will respond.
9.1.2008 8:43pm
Spitzer:
Maybe President Obama could create a volunteer program to help the poor. Much the way that Obama helped his own brother in Kenya. If he helps the poor of America as much as he helped his own kin (who lives on less than $1 a day), then everything will be swell.
9.1.2008 8:43pm
Smokey:
Syd Henderson:
Where does the talk of "mandatory" or "forced volunteerism" come from
From the same hard-bitten taxpayers who will have to bear this giant additional tax burden.

Obama is on record as saying his domestic "force" should be funded to the same extent as the U.S. military.

Individual federal income taxes have risen about 50% from when Reagan was in office. Can I see a show of hands: who thinks that things are 50% better now?

And who thinks that Obama's big new idea to spend $500 billion+ more every year on this make-work indoctrination project will be worth the money spent?

...Spicoli? ...Anyone?
9.1.2008 8:53pm
Xenocles (mail):
"We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded."

Damn, I thought he was going to buy us all guns.
9.1.2008 9:02pm
Steph (www):
Also, I'm sure all of these "volunteers" will be unionized, eventually.

Hell to stop forced labour I would agree with a union.

As to cubabob why should private schools lose their tax exempt clasification? Assuming they are not for profit? Don't we want to encourage education?
9.1.2008 9:10pm
Steph (www):
Also, I'm sure all of these "volunteers" will be unionized, eventually.

Hell to stop forced labour I would agree with a union.

As to cubabob why should private schools lose their tax exempt clasification? Assuming they are not for profit? Don't we want to encourage education?
9.1.2008 9:10pm
Doc W (mail):
Two thoughts--

1. Funny how 12-year-olds are too young to get real jobs, do real work, make real money, help their families and save for college--but they're old enough to be drafted by Obama into his make-work program.

2. I suggest the best service that young people can perform is attend to their studies, get a real job in the private "sector", support themselves and their families, save for retirement, pay their own way, and give Big Brother the badfinger at the polling booth.

By the way, the above is no advertisement for McCain, an anti-free-speech warmonger. If you believe people should be accorded the right to live their own lives and pursue their own goals in non-coercive interaction with others, the only candidate out there is Bob Barr.
9.1.2008 11:33pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
Oh yeah, thesed ideas are brilliant. They'll all work like a charm, just like the DMV and post office.
9.1.2008 11:51pm
David Warner:
Doc W,

I think perhaps the chief tragedy of our time is the proportion of the population, especially the intellectual population, either oblivious to or dismissive of the actual productive economy in which most adults participate and in which 90% of the meaningful "service" of, by, and for the people is carried out.
9.2.2008 12:05am
David D.:
The whole post is pretty far off base. When Barack talks about a "civilian national security force", he's talking about strengthening and improving the civilian arms of government that operate overseas, like the State Department.

He might also want to increase opportunities for Americans to participate in volunteer programs, but that's not what the quote is about.
9.2.2008 12:09am
David Warner:
I look forward to the day when teaching Marx in Economics will be viewed with distaste equal to that felt toward the teaching of Creation Science in Biology.

I got your required reading right here.
9.2.2008 12:09am
Smokey:
David D.:
When Barack talks about a "civilian national security force", he's talking about strengthening and improving the civilian arms of government that operate overseas, like the State Department.
Earth to David D...
9.2.2008 12:17am