National Service Requirements?

In the Climate Change thread, the idea of national service requirements was brought up as a way to combat against the racism, anti-feminism, and homophobic ideologies (among others) that are commonly found in rural areas of the US.

A discussion of national service requirements is off-topic in that thread, so I’m starting this one to see what people think of some kind of national service, whether in the military, Americorps, or another similar organization.

Do you think this is a good idea? Why or why not. If you do, how would you design something like this? What would you like it to do?

As long as nobody is made to do anything that is morally questionable, A+.

1 Like

I envision something where people at age 18, before they go to college, serve for a minimum of two years at one of the umbrella organizations under this program. I’m not sure if I would want to include the military in this, but for now, and until there’s a better argument against it, I’d leave it in.

So at 18, after you finish high school you leave your home. This could even be somewhat like what the Mormons’ do, where they’re assigned a “mission.”

If you successfully complete the program, you get some kind of benefit, although I’m unclear as to what that would be specifically. I forget where I read/heard it, but I remember someone came up with an idea that for every 5 or so years you serve in this type of organization, you get your taxes reduced by 2% for the rest of your life. This way, the super libertarian people don’t have to participate, but as a result, they get no benefit. On the other hand, the longer you voluntarily participate, the more benefit you receive for the rest of your life.

I don’t know. I’m kind of just shooting from the hip here and haven’t really given this much thought.

Edited for clarification: I’m not saying that this program would only be military service. There would be a lot of options available, but that military service would be one of them for those who wanted to do that.

I wouldn’t be opposed to an optional “reserves” style system for college students, where they serve part-time during the school year but then full time during summer breaks, with the caveat that they’ll need to make up any extra time to meet the minimums after they graduate. That said, they can serve in ways related to what they got their degree in after they graduate to make for a win-win: they help people and get useful experience.

1 Like

Mandatory military service is a thing in Korea. It’s a big deal in the esports world. Everybody has to, many a pro gets a deferment to not serve in the prime of their carrier but it’s a question that comes up for literally every single starcraft pro, when will they serve?

It’s not just in Korea. It’s pretty common in many western-style democracies: France, Finland, Greece, etc. I can’t speak for Finland or Greece, but France does at least give someone the option of serving in a domestic police force for their mandatory military service.

Mandatory military service is also a thing in Israel, except there, there are religious exceptions where the kids have to do humanitarian work instead. I remember in my Hebrew Day School growing up, that every year, there would be a different group of about 5 Israelis that were teaching at the school, and doing charity work in NY, instead of serving in the Israeli army. They were serving as a kind of “cultural embassador.”

Because many people may have moral objections to mandatory military service (and only so many may be able to work-around them by being chaplains, medics, etc.), that’s why I mentioned alternatives like AmeriCorps in the old thread.

Right. It wouldn’t only be military service. There would be a bunch of options like Americorps, but military service would be one option available to those who wanted it.

1 Like

Philosophically, I’m a “service guarantees citizenship” kind of guy. Mandate civic engagement in order to secure civil liberties.

I see a lot of problems caused by one-sided and disingenuous engagement in governmental processes, and I believe a fair chunk of that is rooted in the divorce between citizens and the mechanisms of government. You don’t have to be engaged, and many people live their lives without engaging; eventually, they are distant enough to not see how those mechanisms affect them, and they form ideas in a vacuum.

You need substantial non-military options for doing so, IMO. Civilian service should be valued just as highly, because it’s all part of the machinery that makes the country run.


One interesting thing about mandatory military service is that it tends to reduce the amount of “hero worship” that people who served in the military get from the rest of the population because “everyone else did it too.”

For example, Linus Torvalds had to do his mandatory Finnish military service way back when and he was just another member of said military and another citizen fulfilling his duty. As a result, no one in Finland thinks the average solider is in any way particularly special or heroic in the same way they often do in the USA. He explicitly called out that contrast at one point after moving here.

As someone who regularly interacts with members of the military, I agree with this 100%, and a lot of veterans do as well. Most people I know who have served in the military don’t like the “hero worship” this country has and feel that it creates a barrier to honestly discussing and criticizing the military.

Definitely, but I don’t think you should exclude military service from this. I have no idea what the percentages would be, but I would imagine that the majority of people would choose not to join the military under this program, but the option should be kept open for those who do. Plus, from a purely pragmatic standpoint, including the military would make it easier politically to support if Congress were to ever vote on this.

1 Like

Some of the military folks I follow on Twitter, like Angry Staff Officer also seem to agree with this viewpoint. They also have a strong dislike for veterans who play up their service in a way that makes them feel superior to those who haven’t served.

Another potential advantage is that if a substantial portion of the population had to serve or had served in the military, it may make the government as a whole less trigger-happy to use the military unless absolutely necessary. That’s why you sometimes see politicians clamoring to bring back the draft. They argue that many politicians are always so eager to send in the troops because it’s “someone else’s kids” they’re sending off to fight and potentially die.

1 Like

As was mentioned, plenty of countries like Finland, Korea, and Israel already have mandatory conscription. All of those systems have opportunities for people to do non-military public service of some kind. I’ve known Israelis who had to work at road blocks, but I also knew some who worked in communications or engineering. I’ve heard of KPop starts in the infantry, but also KPop stars in the police, the military band, or other forms of municipal labor.

To start we can just take those systems and copy them directly without the military part. Instead of basic training, we just have orientation. Instead of military jobs being the first choice, we have non-military labor as the only choice.

You take the two years after you graduate high school and you must serve your country and bond with your fellow citizens in some meaningful capacity.


Citizenship is a right, not a privilege.


We should the military be excluded? I can see non-military options being of equal value to military options, but I can’t see any good reason to exclude the military.

Agreed, but service can be used to acquire extra benefits to go along with said citizenship.

I.e. you don’t need to serve to vote, but you do need to serve if you want government subsidized college tuition (for example).

Edit: replaced “loans” with “tuition” as I think it’s a more general and beneficial case than loans.

1 Like

I also tend to think things like healthcare, a house, education, and basic quality of living is also a right so that’s not really selling me here.


I agree with this 1000%

If we still had the draft, and if people we knew were constantly going to Iraq and Afghanistan, would those wars be still going on? Personally, I don’t think so. It’s because the average american citizen is so insulated from the people who actually serve that the “hero worship” complex develops and allows us to go about our daily lives without really thinking about what our troops overseas are doing.

1 Like

I mean, if you want to go to the military, sure. The main point is that in those other countries, military is the default. I say we need to make non-military work the default. Military work should be the exception.

Nobody should lose citizenship, be denied citizenship, or lose any rights (such as voting) due to refusing to serve. What should the punishment be for refusing to serve? I think it will be punishment enough when you are outcast from society and nobody will hire you because you don’t have the certificate that proves you served.

1 Like