Missouri's 7th District, U.S. House of Representatives




Congressional Issues 2012

Congress should
  • oppose all efforts to reinstate the draft.

Milton Friedman on the Draft
Nobel Prize-winning Economist answers the question,
"Should soldiers be mercenaries or slaves?"

Capitalism and Freedom ... argued for the abolition of a long list of government functions: price supports, tariffs, licensing, minimum wages, Social Security, housing subsidies, the draft, toll roads, the post office, and national parks. The one that is now gone, the draft, was Friedman’s pet issue, and his role in its abolition is the policy victory of which he was most proud.
       Martin Anderson, the libertarian-leaning author of The Federal Bulldozer (on the dire effects of urban renewal), had been director of research for the 1968 Nixon campaign, and he was a special assistant to the president in the early days of the Nixon administration. Anderson had already been influenced by Friedman’s arguments for a volunteer military, and he urged Nixon to appoint a 15-member advisory commission, with Friedman as a member, to contemplate the future of the draft. The president adopted the suggestion, creating the Gates Commission—named after Chairman Thomas Gates, a former secretary of defense—in March 1969.
       Friedman used his polemical powers to win the commission over to his belief in an all-volunteer army. Vietnam troop commander William Westmoreland gruffly announced during one commission hearing that he was not interested in leading an army of “mercenaries.” Friedman coolly replied, “Would you rather command an army of slaves?”
       Westmoreland bristled. “I don’t like to hear our patriotic draftees referred to as slaves,” he said. “I don’t like to hear our patriotic volunteers referred to as mercenaries,” Friedman snapped back—and pointed out that if they were, then he was a mercenary professor and Westmoreland a mercenary general.
       At the outset, the commission’s members ostensibly were evenly split three ways—five opposed to the draft, five in favor, five undecided. In less than a year of meetings, spurred by Friedman’s argumentative power and moral force, the commission unanimously recommended ending the draft in February 1970. (That said, with Anderson’s thumb on the scales, the commission was intended from the beginning to come up with a workable, realistic plan for shifting to an all-volunteer force.) Nixon agreed with the general shape of the Gates Commission’s suggestions, though he didn’t move as quickly as Friedman would have wanted (the draft didn’t officially end until 1973); nor did he raise the salaries of enlisted men as much as Friedman thought would be necessary and proper.
       The political pressure of street unrest was also important in compelling Nixon to end the draft. But Nixon later said that “I would not have followed through after the election had I not become convinced that a voluntary army was economically feasible and militarily acceptable.” And that achievement was largely the result of Friedman’s persuasive power.

Reason Magazine - The Life and Times of Milton Friedman

Without conscription, unpopular wars are much more difficult to fight. Once the draft was undermined in the 1960s and early 1970s, the Vietnam War came to an end. But most importantly, liberty cannot be preserved by tyranny. A free society must always resort to volunteers. Tyrants thinks nothing of forcing men to fight and serve in wrongheaded wars; a true fight for survival and defense of America would elicit, I’m sure, the assistance of every able-bodied man and woman. This is not the case for wars of mischief far away from home in which we so often have found ourselves in the past century.

One of the worst votes that an elected official could ever cast would be to institute a military draft to fight an illegal war, if that individual himself maneuvered to avoid military service. But avoiding the draft on principle qualifies oneself to work hard to avoid all unnecessary war and oppose the draft for all others.

A government that is willing to enslave a portion of its people to fight an unjust war can never be trusted to protect the liberties of its own citizens. The ends can never justify the means, no matter what the Neo-cons say./p>

Congressman Ron Paul

The draft is the moral equivalent of kidnapping and slavery. Pharaoh wants to build pyramids and needs human cannon-fodder.

Daniel Webster: On Conscription (1814)

An Open Letter to High-School Students:
Pay Attention to Government

by Bart Frazier, Posted July 6, 2007

To every high-school student in this country between the ages of 15 and 18, this letter is to you. If there is ever something that you should take the time to learn about, it is government.

Why? — you ask. If your idea of government is endless babbling by old congressional codgers on C-SPAN, you’re partly right. The art of government, or politics, is less entertaining than a visit to the dentist. However, hidden among all the babble of congressional rules and yeas and nays that you hear on television, the real secret that is never explained to you in school is that government is force, and government can use this force to violate your rights.

It is through government that other people can take your money, forbid you to visit foreign countries, prevent you from drinking alcohol, mandate attendance in public (i.e., government) schools, and even force you into the military to possibly die in battle thousands of miles away from American shores. In short, you need to be interested in government because government officials can adversely affect your lives in the most serious of ways.

Since government at its basic level is force, what should the role of government be? After all, with force government can act in just about any way that we allow it to, right or wrong. Philosophers have debated the question for centuries, but a sound rule of thumb that has emerged is that government should defend our rights, while at the same time not violate them.

In other words, government should protect us from the violence of others but not initiate violence against us. The government should not be allowed to steal from us, it should not be allowed to enslave us, and it should not be allowed to murder us. In short, it should protect our fundamental rights but not transgress them.

It sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Government should not prevent any activity that does not violate the rights of another person. However, you’ll see, in fact, that most of the things that government does today violate individual liberty in one way or another. Let’s look at an example.


The draft is an example of the government’s violation of individual rights, and this one could have a profound effect on you. You may not be familiar with the draft, but you should be, because it is a program the government uses to enslave people your age. The draft is the process whereby the government selects people to be part of the military. If your name is selected, you have no choice — you must obey or be punished. If the country is at war at the time you are drafted, you will go through a short training period and then you will be sent into battle, most likely in some faraway country. On the battlefield of whatever country you are sent to, you will have to kill others in order to survive and you may die yourself, most likely for a cause that’s not worth killing or dying for.

Slavery is one of the most despicable crimes that can be committed against anyone, and forcing a person to fight in an army is among the worst forms of slavery. Not only is the victim’s labor stolen but there is also a good chance he will die in the process. The draft is one of the most egregious violations of individual rights our country has ever committed. If he were alive, you could ask Daniel Webster, who penned a famous essay entitled “On Conscription,” which you can easily find on the Internet.

The idea that the government would draft you may sound far-fetched to you right now, but it is has happened before. Ask your parents about the Vietnam War; they will certainly know people who were enslaved and perhaps even died as a result of the draft. And ominously for you, there is talk in the air of instituting the draft again to serve in the occupation of Iraq. If you didn’t know that, you need to pay more attention to government.

There are many more examples of the abuses that we suffer at the hands of government, but as long as you learn this one lesson — that government is the biggest threat to the freedom of its citizenry — you are well on the way to becoming an educated citizen and a patriot. There are no parting words more appropriate with which I could leave you than these words attributed to George Washington: “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

That is why you should pay attention to government.

The Future of Freedom Foundation

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