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“Instead of giving a politician the keys to the city, it might be better to change the locks.”     Doug Larson

February 19, 2008

Barack Obama Supports Indentured Servitude

by Doug Mataconis

He’ll help you pay for college if you agree to be a temporary slave to the state:

It’s the dream of the teacher who works at Dunkin Donuts after school just to make ends meet. She needs better pay, and more support, and the freedom to do more than just teach to the test. And if her students want to go on to college, they shouldn’t fear decades of debt. That’s why I’ll make college affordable with an annual $4,000 tax credit if you’re willing to do community service, or national service. We will invest in you, but we’ll ask you to invest in your country.

Bad idea Barack, very bad idea.

H/T: Steve Verdon

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23 Comments

  1. Though slightly different in execution, is this any different in substance than, say, paying soldiers for military service?

    Comment by Brian T. Traylor — February 19, 2008 @ 9:55 am
  2. I wouldn’t actually give a damn about whether or not people who get “charity” from the government are forced to work for it, except that most government work programs are a waste of time and resources that hinder free market alternatives that could provide a better-quality version of the same service.

    You’re siding with the wrong folks here, Doug, the people you should be siding with are the private entrepeneurs (who will lose business) and private charities (who will lose volunteers) that get squeezed by this “free” government-run public service crap.

    Comment by UCrawford — February 19, 2008 @ 11:39 am
  3. Brian,

    is this any different in substance than, say, paying soldiers for military service

    I’d say it’s different because military service with a volunteer military is just a cash/compensation for quanitifiable services rendered deal while this program is basically preferential treatment on taxation in exchange for the promise of volunteerism in what will likely be a poorly-administered program with a almost completely nebulous and/or unquantifiable standard of quality for whatever service they provide. The military, for all its faults, still extensively quantifies the work of its members to justify their continued employment and promotion and, unlike with government-run charity, the military doesn’t really have a viable private-sector alternative to the service it provides (anarchists’ pipe dream of private defense groups notwithstanding).

    Comment by UCrawford — February 19, 2008 @ 11:56 am
  4. My prediction: if this program were instituted, we’d see the nominal annualized price of college tuitions increase by some portion of $4,000.

    Please note that the industries where prices are increasing much faster than the nominal inflation rates are the ones where the government is providing financial assistance to consumers. It’s because providers will charge market clearing prices and the government is assuring that the market can bear a pretty high price…

    Comment by tarran — February 19, 2008 @ 1:04 pm
  5. the “military” in the grandest sense of the USmil is the ultimate private-sector alternative. just look at world events. the USmil has been pimped out to do all kinds of jobs.

    Comment by oilnwater — February 19, 2008 @ 1:05 pm
  6. tarran,

    My prediction: if this program were instituted, we’d see the nominal annualized price of college tuitions increase by some portion of $4,000.

    I wholeheartedly agree. The people who are really going to get screwed are the ones who don’t sign up for government service.

    In which case I think I see what Doug might have been saying with his “slave” remark although I’m not sure if that’s what he actually meant.

    Comment by UCrawford — February 19, 2008 @ 2:05 pm
  7. oilnwater,

    the “military” in the grandest sense of the USmil is the ultimate private-sector alternative…the USmil has been pimped out to do all kinds of jobs.

    I don’t think it can be considered “private sector” when it’s government-directed intervention (which is what’s happening). I’m not sure exactly what you’d call it.

    Comment by UCrawford — February 19, 2008 @ 2:08 pm
  8. UCrawford I was reading this interview about the inner workings of the DIA, saying the higher ups wanted nothing but good news regardless how inaccurate it was. I wondered if you came across anything like this?
    http://www.harpers.org/archive/2008/02/hbc-90002435

    Comment by uhm — February 19, 2008 @ 3:32 pm
  9. uhm,

    I spent most of my time as a technical reporter in overseas sites so I wasn’t high enough up the food chain to actually brief the White House and higher-ups at the Pentagon directly or receive personal feedback from them (although some of the work I did was apparently briefed that high, usually just the positives as I recall) but I had access to most of the intel estimates and reports in their original format and realized that there’s a significant difference between the conclusions the intelligence community at large comes to and the reality that President Bush seems to follow in regards to his policy.

    I knew some guys who dealt with briefings and reportings at the higher levels and they indicated that the MO was to cherry-pick facts they wanted while ignoring information they found problematic or displeasing, assuming those reports were read at all (I was told that Bush often doesn’t read any of them) and the Harper’s article is pretty much in line with the mentality I personally heard about and have seen reflected in public criticisms made by people who were in the know.

    http://www.amazon.com/No-End-Sight-Campbell-Scott/dp/B000U6YJMO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1203466231&sr=1-1

    At my level the stuff I wrote was never really criticized, per se, or censored by the higher-ups for content (possibly because I wasn’t at that level). From what I saw over my last couple of years, I got more of an impression that the less cheery stuff people wrote about that got passed up the chain was simply ignored in favor of more optimistic reports because that’s what Bush liked hear about. Most of the time, the pessimists’ reports tended to be the accurate ones about what was happening but those were never what Bush seemed interested in acting on, which is the primary reason I came to consider Bush to be such an utter liar, incompetent manager, and incredibly stupid person. As much as I think the Iraq invasion was wrong, if we’d had even a semi-competent (and less messianic) Commander-in-Chief sitting in the Oval Office it wouldn’t be half the disaster that it is today and the Iraqis might very well be on the path to setting up a functional (if not necessarily democratic) government.

    Comment by UCrawford — February 19, 2008 @ 4:16 pm
  10. Thanks UCrawford! I believe you’re right. The Iraq war wouldn’t have turned out so badly if the President dealt with reality rather than running away from it.

    Comment by uhm — February 19, 2008 @ 6:04 pm
  11. uhm,

    I agree. I think it’s human nature for us to give more weight to things that agree with our preconceptions and less weight to things that disagree with them, but from what I saw the President gave no weight to anything that disputed how he thought the world worked, which is beyond irresponsible (particularly when you are responsible for the lives of so many people)…it’s sociopathic. Overall, I generally enjoyed my time in the military but it made me angry that I had to spend half my career serving under a man as despicable as George W. Bush, who has made the world worse off for his policies and gotten so many killed in the process (both military and civilian). I’m an atheist myself, but people like Bush make me wish there was a Hell so he could pay for all the misery he’s caused once he eventually dies.

    Although, I’d be willing to settle for seeing him tried and convicted for crimes against humanity followed by a long prison sentence. :)

    Comment by UCrawford — February 19, 2008 @ 6:25 pm
  12. Yeah, a prison sentence would be nice! Too bad there isn’t a hell. The worst thing that will happen to him is history will not vindicate him.

    It is sad especially when he has no clue how the world works. I think his views are influenced by think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute. He reminds me of Alex Jones supporters, living in his own reality, rejecting anything that goes against it like the NIE on Iran. They all need to be hospitalized to deal with their delusions.

    I fear the next president will be the same. I think the presidential candidates are more beholden to Bush’s fantasy than reality. I was wanting a pragmatic president who could wind down these wars hopefully in a more acceptable state than they are now.

    Barack Obama is the second person to come out for something like this that I know of.
    Wanting to reinstate the draft is bad enough. Now Democrat John Edwards has made mandatory service for all young people part of his campaign. “One of the things we ought to be thinking about is some level of mandatory service to our country,” said Edwards in a recent interview, “so that everybody in America not just the poor kids who get sent to war are serving this country.”
    http://mychoice2008.wordpress.com/category/john-edwards/

    If this is our future maybe we should go for a Starship Trooper society but that wouldn’t keep out someone like Bush who gets in and doesn’t face himself what he has asks others to do (or the ability to comprehend it).

    Comment by uhm — February 20, 2008 @ 2:56 am
  13. uhm,

    Preaching to the choir, brother. I agree with you completely.

    If this is our future maybe we should go for a Starship Trooper society but that wouldn’t keep out someone like Bush who gets in and doesn’t face himself what he has asks others to do (or the ability to comprehend it).

    I think that’s always going to be a problem as long as government exists (not that I’m arguing in favor of getting rid of government). It’s like Milton Friedman says, nobody spends your money as carefully as you spend your own, and the same saying can be applied to your self-interest.

    Occasionally, we’ll get a good politician in who understands that people do better when you let them look out for themselves on most things and not try to do too much. More often we don’t get that, though…we end up with politicians who think that government is always the answer (like Hillary, or Edwards, or Bush) or we end up with guys who understand the direction that government needs to go in but who are terrible about getting their ideas across to the general public (Ron Paul, Barry Goldwater). Frankly, what we really need in office these days is more of a Gerald Ford or Calvin Coolidge, not flashy, not full of fiery rhetoric and revolutionary ideas, but (like you said) pragmatic and effective. Those are the guys (the ones you don’t see coming) who usually end up changing things for the better. Sadly, none of them were in the race.

    Comment by UCrawford — February 20, 2008 @ 6:17 am
  14. Im a little confused. Why is this a bad idea?

    Comment by Chris — February 20, 2008 @ 7:30 am
  15. UCrawford,

    One of the reasons a Gerald Ford or Calvin Coolidge wasn’t in the race is that neither of them needed to get elected to the presidency (Coolidge having been Harding’s VP and Ford taking over from Nixon). Although Coolidge did win re-election in 1924, his incumbancy helped tremendously.

    Perhaps that is the ultimate lesson here. Instead of focusing on the White House, freedom-loving citizens need to concentrate on the VP slot, accept that things are crap now, but with a little patience, it can change in the future rather than trying for the ultimate job of president.

    Comment by trumpetbob15 — February 20, 2008 @ 7:42 am
  16. Chris,

    Because it’s encouraging people into government volunteer programs. When the government handles charity and volunteerism it tends to provide worse service than the private sector and private charities could, often at an inflated cost to taxpayers. Also, it discourages people from donating their time, effort and money to private organizations that might do the same tasks because people are less willing to donate to charity if they think the government’s got it covered.

    Also because the likely consequence of this program is that a $4,000 credit for college likely means that prices for college will rise by roughly that amount, which screws over people who either don’t wish to or can’t afford to participate in this program.

    Comment by UCrawford — February 20, 2008 @ 7:47 am
  17. trumpetbob,

    One of the reasons a Gerald Ford or Calvin Coolidge wasn’t in the race is that neither of them needed to get elected to the presidency

    I thought it was because they were both dead :)

    Perhaps that is the ultimate lesson here. Instead of focusing on the White House, freedom-loving citizens need to concentrate on the VP slot, accept that things are crap now, but with a little patience, it can change in the future rather than trying for the ultimate job of president.

    I think it goes even lower than that. True lasting change works from the ground up and if you really want to get things changed with the White House you also need to work on getting Congressmen and Senators elected who will hold the President (whatever his ideology) accountable. That means finding libertarian-leaning, non-insane candidates in your local elections to vote for and being involved with your local political parties to set the stage for that. It would certainly be nice to have a competent libertarian president or even VP, but if you want people to buy into our policies in the long run our message can’t come from the top-down (being dictated from the White House) because that won’t last. It’s got to come from the bottom-up (from Congress and the local and state governments) and that means that libertarians who want to bring it about need to look at engaging the political parties they often rail against.

    Imperfect, but that’s just government.

    Comment by UCrawford — February 20, 2008 @ 7:55 am
  18. trumpetbob,

    Your point about Ford and Coolidge is taken. Sometimes the competent ones get there largely by a fluke.

    Comment by UCrawford — February 20, 2008 @ 7:58 am
  19. UCrawford,

    I wholly agree with you about local level first. It just wouldn’t hurt to also try and get a VP slot to spread the message (but not as the end goal). Too often in this campaign it was “Paul for President or else” rather than “Paul for President, Jones for Representative, Smith for local councilman, etc.”

    Comment by trumpetbob15 — February 20, 2008 @ 12:14 pm
  20. trumpetbob,

    Too often in this campaign it was “Paul for President or else” rather than “Paul for President, Jones for Representative, Smith for local councilman, etc.”

    Agreed…I think tunnel vision focusing too much on only one race was definitely a problem this last year.

    Comment by UCrawford — February 20, 2008 @ 12:20 pm
  21. The only problem I have with the VP slot is that often it’s kind of a pointless office. A VP is much more likely to be toothless window-dressing like Hubert Humphrey, Dan Quayle or…ummmmm…whoever else, as opposed to a consiglieri-type like Dick Cheney. Most of the time VPs come off to me as little more than presidential apologists who are responsible for toeing the company line. Given libertarians’ general tendency to buck bad leadership I can’t imagine many circumstances where a president who wasn’t already pretty sympathetic to libertarian views would want one as his second.

    Comment by UCrawford — February 20, 2008 @ 12:25 pm
  22. UCrawford,

    A VP is much more likely to be toothless window-dressing like Hubert Humphrey, Dan Quayle or…ummmmm…whoever else, as opposed to a consiglieri-type like Dick Cheney.

    I agree. However, and though it may be a poor example, take an Al Gore type. Sure the man didn’t do much while in office, but at least his name is out there. The other thing, and this ties in with your other point, libertarians tend to be outspoken, a role the VP has come lately to take on more and more. While it would take a president willing to take on an outspoken VP, if the Republican party continues to disintigrate, a libertarian VP might be a way to bring non-statists voters back to the party.

    I do admit that this strategy is not a very good one. Playing for second means riding the coattails of someone that could be a huge screwup. We could hope that like Coolidge, a libertarian VP would be able to avoid scandal, but that isn’t very reassuring.

    Comment by trumpetbob15 — February 20, 2008 @ 1:06 pm
  23. trumpetbob,

    Truthfully, I think the best possible choice that we could end up with in the VP slot right now is Fred Thompson on the McCain ticket. He at least seems to grasp the basics of how federalism works and he seems to have a good enough relationship with McCain that he won’t get frozen out or ignored.

    Much as it pains me to say it, I’d probably vote for a McCain-Thompson ticket this year.

    Comment by UCrawford — February 20, 2008 @ 1:17 pm

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