Foundations of the Regulatory State
Spring 2003, Section 2
Comments on memo assignment #1
For your reference, here is a link to the original assignment.
The first set of essays were, in general, a good effort on your part and you made many cogent arguments for and against Rep. Rangel's proposal to re-institute the military draft. Not all the memos were equally effective, however. The best ones concisely set forth a clear thesis and defended that thesis using a combination of concepts from the course and facts stated in the background materials.
The most common failing was failure to use the limited space effectively. The 500-word limit was extremely tight and thus it was not a good idea to spend two paragraphs or even one long paragraph restating the assignment and major facts; instead when writing short essays of this sort you should integrate your discussion of the facts with your analysis of them. Similarly, it is important to start with a brief but clear thesis statement, to focus on a few points in support of it, and to discuss those points in some depth, with attention to possible counterarguments. For instance, many people emphasized the way in which a volunteer army better accommodates individual liberty, especially in cases where the military endeavor being proposed is politically controversial, but the stronger essays taking this position also acknowledged the reasons why some might question whether the decision to enlist in the military is truly voluntary [as opposed, for instance, to being compelled by an unjust lack of economic opportunities.]
Tying your arguments to the course materials was also important. It was possible to discuss the proposal from the standpoint of efficiency, distribution, liberty and community, though it probably would not have been most effective to address all these issues. There was no need to use jargon, but if you argued for or against the draft on grounds of justice or liberty, furthermore, it was important to state clearly what you meant by justice or liberty, and why you chose to advocate the particular version of that concept. Simply assuming or asserting that justice consisted of the outcome you were advocating, for instance, was less effective.
In our comments we tried to focus on how you could have written a more effective essay, both stylistically and substantively, since the main point of this exercise was to provide practice for the future. (For instance, we paid a lot of attention to allocation of space within the length limit, which is a dimension along which many people underperform on exams. It is also important to raise and consider counterarguments thoughtfully.)
Most of the memos were initially graded by the TA's; I then looked over the memos and made a few changes and a number of comments [generally in blue marker]. I also graded a few memos myself from scratch. Unless the comments on your memo bear my initials, memos by Agour thru Farkas were graded by Jacob Oslick, Friedman-Paskowitz were graded by Laura Faer, and Pate-Zipp were graded by Abigail Wen. You are welcome to discuss with me memos that were graded by the TA's, or vice versa.
Attached to this memo are a sampling of student essays that I thought were among the most effective we received. You may be interested to know that a large of majority of those who wrote chose to argue against Rep. Rangel's proposal to reinstate the draft, although a significant minority expressed sympathy for his underlying normative concerns.
Key to symbols used to mark essays:
On some essays we circled particular words or phrases that seemed found questionable or unclear, and attached these symbols to them.
good point or argument ! excellent point or argument ~ fair point, or incompletely or unclearly expressed – weak point … point needs elaboration " point already made, repetitive, or unnecessarily restating facts ? unclear ?? very unclear, confused, mixing together separate points x mistake of law, misstatement of fact, misuse of term x? point appears mistaken # irrelevant or tangential point #? point's relevance unclear c-a obvious counter-argument should be raised and addressed [also c-arg] conc conclusory statement; reasons need to be provided and explained evid evidence needed to substantiate point exag exaggerated or overstated point ns non sequitur: conclusion does not follow ff fighting facts: contradicting stated facts or making assumptions inconsistent with them ll laundry list: throwing in relevant and irrelevant arguments alike, without distinction lec lecturing: abstract discussion unconnected to the problem at hand sa straw argument: misrepresentation or oversimplication of opposing argument ua unsupported assertion / unidentified assumption
 A Losing Proposition
Representatives Rangel and Conyers recently introduced bill to resurrect the draft. If enacted, this proposal would necessitate massive increases in military spending while decreasing overall military readiness, injuring the economy, harming the poor and minority groups it purports to be advocating, and infringing on the liberty of all Americans.
Reintroducing the draft would impose tremendous costs on the military while decreasing its overall effectiveness. A draft would force on the military the daunting task of having to constantly train new batches of unwilling conscripts. This will hurt military preparedness since short-term draftees will attain a much lower level of expertise than professional soldiers would. At the same time, military resources would be funneled from specialized jobs performed by career soldiers into the training of millions of unmotivated conscripts with no intention of staying one day past the end of their mandatory enlistments. Furthermore, morale would suffer as volunteers were replaced by conscripts, eroding military readiness even further. Reinstating the draft would ensure a precipitous drop in the U.S. military's bang for the buck.
This system will also hurt the U.S. economy generally. The age of military enlistment is also the time when many young people are entering the workforce or pursuing higher education. The draft would pull young people away from such pursuits. Furthermore by lowering the general level of expertise and specialization throughout the military, it would subsequently dilute its effectiveness in training people who currently use military service as a springboard to civilian careers.
The Congressmen, however, do not propose this on terms of military or economic efficiency but instead present it as a method for bringing equality. Their proposal, however, would disproportionately harm the nation's minorities and poor. Although the proportion of minorities in military service is currently slightly higher than that of the population in general, the proportion of minorities in combat roles is lower than the national average. On the other hand, the proportion in support roles such as mechanics, engineers, or communications specialists, is high. These people likely view their military service as an opportunity to train for future civilian careers. The draft, however, would dilute the degree of specialization within the armed services. Therefore, the minorities currently utilize military service as a training ground for future careers will receive less effective training.
Finally, reinstatement of the draft would be a severe infringement on the liberty of millions of Americans. The current all-volunteer military is an effective fighting force. There is no pressing national crisis to justify universal conscription. To deny current volunteers the opportunity to serve their country as professional soldiers while needlessly compelling millions of reluctant youth to march to battle is a troubling prospect in a country which prizes liberty so highly.
Me thinks these tax-payers doth protest too much.
To accomplish the fund’s aim - to avert a flood of litigation by offering a just alternative - the fund must award payments that are somewhat commensurate with what could have been won at trial. Now, we can dicker over the size of the these awards - economists say that the plan’s outdated formulas under-compensate in many cases - but a plan that could end up paying some victims nothing at all, certainly fails.
Between 1940 and 1973, the draft was a constant feature of American life. Representative Rangel’s proposal to require national service for every young American is an old one and would have to overcome the reasons that dismantled the old draft system. I believe it does on distributive justice and communitarian grounds, but there are arguments against it on grounds of efficiency and liberty.
The service requirement directly addresses the distributional inequality that currently exists for the burden of defense. A disproportionate number of minorities currently volunteer for the military. If service were required, this disproportion would be eliminated, since all young people would be required to serve. Of course, this does not address the inequality that exists between young and old, but since this inequality corrects itself automatically as people age, it is of less concern. More importantly, such service by all means that the negative effects of war would not be borne by a subset of society. This is especially true if the system implemented by the bill strengthens the requirement to serve beyond that during the Vietnam War when many legally evaded their obligations.
This is also important in a communitarian sense. Since the burden is felt by all, there will be more commonality between members of society. All persons will likely either be serving during a conflict or know someone who does. In addition, the shared experience will provide a common bond. Counterbalanced against this is the potential loss of the alternate culture that currently exists whose members would not voluntarily serve. While some might argue that loss is no loss at all, it is clear that our culture is itself a pastiche of subcultures and thrives as such. But while the experience of serving may change some, it will not change all.
Of course, given that some people will not wish to serve, this bill will directly affect the liberties of some. To some libertarians, a two-year period of service is no better than a two-year imprisonment. But even proponents of a minimal state agree that the state still needs to perform certain functions, including providing for the common defense. There are certainly ways to do so which less obtrusively limit liberty, however, so ultimately a draft would be indefensible on libertarian grounds.
Similarly, any analysis of the efficiency of a draft would conclude that it is inefficient. Preventing people from freely choosing which job to perform prevents the job market from maximizing efficiency. In effect, the government becomes a monopolistic buyer and imposes a fixed cost of two years on everyone. Requiring service does have the benefit that service can be applied to correct market inefficiencies elsewhere, but it would not be enough to compensate for the original inefficiency.
A balancing of all the criteria leads me to a conclusion that the benefits of a draft outweigh the cost, but because different people give different weight to the various criteria, it is easy to see why reasonable people would disagree on Rangel’s proposal.
While I support the spirit of Rep. Rangel’s proposal for mandatory national service, I believe there is a more palatable alternative to a mandatory draft. The combination of mandatory service with our current volunteer system would foster patriotism, loyalty and attempt to disperse the burden of defending our nation more evenly across society.
A mandatory draft would offend Americans’ notion of individual freedom. Today, it seems unconscionable to force someone into combat. The volunteer system assures that our combat forces are comprised of people who choose to fight. As a part of that commitment, one assumes the risk of being harmed in conflict. Violating the freedom of choice would have the contrary effect of alienating those who were opposed to service, creating factions that would lead to a less cohesive military and society at large. Surely, America does not want to return to the draft riots and civil unrest of an earlier era.
Ultimately, a compulsory system would be wasteful of the military’s resources and conscripts time. The short service period does not allow the military or the draftee to fully realize the benefits of their investment. This is why today, military commitments are typically 4-6 years.
Finally, allowing the President discretion to determine who goes to war impedes the likelihood that the proposal would adequately address the problem of unequal distribution of the poor and minorities in the military. The power to regulate assignments becomes a political commodity that groups would compete for. Less dangerous (more valuable) assignments would go to the winners and the more dangerous assignments too the losers. This process would not favor groups with limited political resources like the poor and minorities. In that respect, the bill’s lack of specificity on the method of selection would directly hinder its ability to accomplish Rangel’s main goal of dividing the burden evenly.
An alternative to mandatory conscription that will further the goal of building a more conscientious citizenry would be the requirement of basic military training for all young Americans in addition to the current volunteer system guaranteeing that only those that choose to fight are involved in combat. While such a system would not completely address the burden sharing issue, it would be a step toward developing the ‘common experience’ of military service that Rep. Rangel is seeking. Familiarity with military training and exposure to the dangers of military service would create a more educated citizenry that would be more sensitive to the realities of actually going to war. Most importantly, such a system preserves the freedom of choice we American’s hold so dearly.
While Representative Rangel’s proposed Universal National Service Act has noble aims, it’s simply a bad idea. Not only would it fail to achieve its goals of creating a sense of “shared sacrifice” among Americans and distributing the burdens of war equally, it would work against these ends and waste resources.
Rangel claims a compulsory draft will unite a country at war because everyone’s children will be involved. If all Americans serve, the perception that minorities and the poor bear the brunt of war may recede. However, one need only recall Vietnam to realize a draft hardly creates unity. Those already opposed to war would likely become more vocal if their children were directly involved. Americans disagree on issues such as education; what makes Mr. Rangel believe they will unite over the arguably more controversial issue of war simply because of a compulsory draft?
Nor does Mr. Rangel reflect on the sense of community he would destroy within the armed forces. If some soldiers want to serve and others oppose the war, those fighting will be divided, hardly setting an example for the nation.
Moreover, the idyllic picture Mr. Rangel paints of children of all races and classes fighting will not become reality. Again, Vietnam serves an example. There, children of the powerful were exempted from the draft, which suggests Rangel’s proposal will fail to achieve its second goal: that those fighting accurately reflect the racial make-up of the country. I agree we should impose the burdens of war equally. However, under Mr. Rangel’s proposal, the Senators for whom Rangel hopes to bring war closer to home can shelter their children, especially because the President would determine draft and exemption procedures. Most Senators are white, as are most of their patrons. Thus, racial inequalities will remain. Moreover, a compulsory draft takes away the incentive to offer scholarships to recruits, arguably hurting those Rangel hopes to help. Ideally, these scholarships would be unnecessary and the armed forces would be representative, but neither aim is furthered by Rangel’s proposal.
Rangel’s proposal is also inefficient. Volunteers are more willing and able to fight than draftees. With them, the U.S. gets “more bang for its buck” (literally). True, some volunteers do not have a real “choice;” they may depend on the scholarship money. But, we only waste more resources by giving fewer people a choice. Even if we had enough volunteers, the proposal would pay to train draftees. After two years invested in their training, they could leave. When (if) we need more soldiers for this war, we can draft for this war. Meanwhile, resources can be better spent to achieve Rangel’s goals. We could create more scholarship opportunities so the poor wouldn’t see armed service as their only job opportunity or as a necessary means to education. We could limit campaign contributions, allowing more people to influence decisions about war thus making the decisions more reflective of and supported by the people. The goals Rangel identifies call for a program, just not his.
Since proposing a new draft, Rep. Charles Rangel was attacked for advocating an inefficient system to stir up opposition to conflict with Iraq. His critics seem to have missed the point.
Rangel never claimed to build an efficient killing machine. In fact, that’s what he is trying to avoid. Words like “shared sacrifice” and “greater appreciation of the consequences” in Rangel’s New York Times op-ed don’t suggest to me that his bill is a means to maximizing military power for our tax dollars.
Instead, he proposed to instill a sense of patriotic responsibility in all young Americans and bring the consequences of war to bear equally on all American families.
Former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger’s reply to Rangel’s assertion that minorities are over-represented in the military is that they are all volunteers – that “there is a higher degree of patriotism among black and Hispanic youths.” However, this ignores the fact that to many economically underprivileged minorities, military service represents a ticket to economic freedom otherwise difficult to obtain. Those who can afford higher education or have other privileges are not faced with the same choices.
Donald Boudreaux acknowledges the incentive problem and suggests the alternative is raising pay, encouraging enlistment and distributing the monetary costs of war among taxpayers. While this plan preserves the liberty of the youth and encourages balancing of race and class in the military, it fails to fulfill the other basic goals of Rangel’s plan. It does not impose the human cost of war on all parents, nor does it encourage civic virtue.
Another criticism is inefficiency. Weinberger says a draft would be costly without improving the military. Draftees are reluctant and inferior soldiers. This dovetails with Donald Rumsfeld’s (much-maligned) statement that “it took an enormous amount of effort in terms of training and then [draftees] were gone,” costing more than they contributed in Vietnam. Larry Wortzel in the Washington Post argues, “It takes a year before a conscript is combat-ready, and the Iraq war would be over before they could even serve.”
It may too late for the Iraq conflict, but these critics have misinterpreted Rangel’s goals and cast his bill in the worst light. Rangel is more concerned with impact of war and socialization of young adults than military efficiency. Wortzel himself “[supports] a draft because military service helps to socialize young Americans.”
But what if young Americans didn’t have a choice of whether to serve? Would Rangel make America’s youth all soldiers in the name of equality?
Absolutely not. Rangel retains conscientious objector status, which allowed my father to serve his country without violating his beliefs. He leaves the size of the military to the President’s discretion. Those unsuitable or unneeded for active or reserve duty would serve through alternate community service.
Weinberger is right that the most effective soldiers are volunteers. However, compulsory service could improve national defense while promoting a feeling of responsibility and belonging among young Americans. Not to mention make legislators think twice about sending their children to war.
The proposal for a draft is bound to cause dissention in the ranks. Any way you look at it, a draft curtails personal liberty. So what do proponents of the bill balance against this lost liberty? Representative Charles Rangel forwards two major justifications: it will bring home to those in power the awful necessities of war and ensure that all classes "shoulder the burden" equally; and it will give to the youth of America the shared experience of being "citizen-soldiers."
There are the goals of a twenty-first century draft in a nutshell: distribute equally the burden of war while cutting across class, race, and gender lines to create a "common experience." No one is fooled by the argument that we will need the additional manpower. Larry Wortzel has commented that draftees would probably not be ready in time, and even the Pentagon has claimed that it has ample troops to fight a war. So do the distributive and communal justifications for the draft pass muster?
I think they do not.
First, as Casper Weinberger points out, characterizing the infantry as overpopulated by the poor and minorities is illusory, since our military consists entirely of volunteers. Faced with this, proponents would undoubtedly deepen the context of the debate by saying that the disproportionate number of minority and lower-class recruits reflect economic inequities, and members of those groups often volunteer because they have no other choice.
If the makeup of our military reflects pre-existing inequities, then our sense of justice may require a solution. But is that solution really to enlist the entire youth of the nation? This would be a grossly inefficient manner in which to address such issues, as it would entail a huge increase in military expenditure and consume unimaginable manhours in training and administration. A much cheaper and effective solution would be to raise military salaries and benefits at the expense of the taxpayer. While this might not correct the statistical imbalance, it would satisfy our sense of justice by redistributing wealth and allowing those groups favored by proponents of the draft to reap the benefits directly.
Second, it seems likely the draft, as a means toward shared social experiences, would be self-defeating. While a draft may well create a common experience, it is doubtful that the mandatory experience would be a pleasant or formative one, and thus it could hardly become an effective socializing tool. Given the wide latitude afforded the president, coupled with the fact that it makes no reference to whether groups such as college students or even mothers would be exempt, it is more likely that the draft would encounter widespread opposition and engender such intense discord as to weaken the very fabric of society it seeks to strengthen.
It is true that the draft seeks "to provide for the common defense," and that the common defense requires a common effort and sacrifice, but in light of the justifications proposed, I think defense of this draft will be anything but common.