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Service and Power

April 1st, 2009 by Myrhaf · 1 Comment · Politics

James Bovard writes about the GIVE Act and AmeriCorps:

On March 18, the House of Representatives voted 321-105 to pass the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act, and the Senate is expected quickly to follow suit. The GIVE Act more than triples the number of slots for AmeriCorps members from 75,000 to 250,000. And it takes a giant step toward expanding Washington’s power to make “service” compulsory for all young Americans.

President Obama praises AmeriCorps for embodying “the best of our nation’s history, diversity and commitment to service.” In reality, AmeriCorps’s essence is paying people on false pretenses to do unnecessary things.

Since President Clinton created the program in 1993, politicians of both parties have endlessly touted its recruits as volunteers toiling selflessly for the common good. But the average AmeriCorps member receives more than $15,000 a year in pay and other benefits, and almost 90 percent go on to work for government agencies or nonprofit groups. Rather than financial martyrdom, signing up for AmeriCorps is, for many, akin to a paid internship.

If you read the whole thing, Bovard details the ridiculous make-work, much of it environmentalist, that typifies AmeriCorps.

At a huge cost, AmeriCorps accomplishes little of practical value. So why do politicians of both parties love an inefficient program? Because “national service” is the essence of altruism, collectivism and statism. These programs get Americans, mostly young people, to dedicate their time not to making money selfishly in the free market, but to serving others through the state.

The impracticality of the efforts matters nothing to altruists. The point of this movement is to reorient the way Americans live, to change the way they think. They want Americans to think that selflessly serving the state is the moral ideal.

If Americans volunteer to serve the state, then those who are the state — the politicians in power — have power over those Americans. Politicians could never forcibly enslave Americans (at least not yet), but they can get people to enslave themselves if they think selfless service is the moral ideal. Only the sanction of the victim keeps this statist machinery running.

I suspect that many young Americans enter a program that is such an enormous waste of time because it is the first step toward a career in government. After paying their dues in AmeriCorps, they move on from their lowly service to being among those in charge of service. Yes, they sincerely want to serve, but they also want power.

Sacrifice has two sides: those who serve and those who are served. Statists are fine with both; the only thing they cannot abide is free individuals using their own judgment to trade with one another in their mutual self-interest. This they view as immoral, selfish and greedy. This is what “national service” is meant to replace.

One Comment so far ↓

  • L-C

    “Sacrifice has two sides: those who serve and those who are served. Statists are fine with both; the only thing they cannot abide is free individuals using their own judgment to trade with one another in their mutual self-interest.”

    The realization of the pinnacle of the latter – laissez-faire Capitalism – would embarass and bury the notions of statism in all but the most impenetrable non-minds.

    Those who claim that “we (including politicians) all want what’s best for people, we simply have different ideas as to what that is” should keep the above in mind when they contemplate why these well meaning pragmatists have never, and will never try freedom even once.