Waldo suggested in commenting on my recent post about Barack Obama's plan to require Middle and High School students to volunteer that I was "tacking close to the freepers" in my comparison of the plan to corvee labor, serfdom, and slavery.
But, then again, the idea of compulsory service learning rubs me so far in the wrong direction that it is difficult for me to restrain the blood shooting out through my retinas.
You see, my family has a long tradition of volunteer work. Children are raised with the expectation that they will volunteer their time, their effort, and--when appropriate--their money for good causes. I could go into exhaustive detail, but that would (a) sound suspiciously like bragging; and (b) defeat the other principle we teach our children, that such work should be done with humility and not fanfare.
Other families, other individuals, don't necessarily feel that obligation, and that's OK. The essential component of volunteering is ... well, the voluntary aspect of it. You volunteer because you personally feel like you're a part of a tradition of service, because you personally feel an obligation, because you personally want to make a contribution...
When the State can require you to give back, however, this inverts the paradigm. Somebody besides you decides what is sufficient, and what kinds of service count.
You are not giving from your heart--you're meeting a requirement.
The ability to impose that requirement opens a particularly dangerous door. There is a fundamental difference between passing over to the State money that you have earned in the form of taxes, and the State having the direct ability to require non-compensated labor.
There are all sorts of high-sounding rhetoric to be employed here in support of the idea that not to want to "give back" is somehow, ah, selfish.
This is classic reframing in the best traditions of George Lakoff, when everything permitted becomes compulsory....
And if that puts me in company with the Freepers, so be it.