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National Public Service

An alternative to national service
  (+13, -5)(+13, -5)
(+13, -5)
  [vote for,

I hesitated before posting this as i'm not sure it's appropriate and there are various reasons it might be MFD'd.

In some countries still, and previously in this one, young adults, often just men, are obliged to spend some time in the armed forces. Depending on governmental policy, conscientious objectors sometimes have the option to do something non-military instead. It's common for people of a particular age to complain that problems with the youth of today or society in general are caused by this no longer being so, but it's also clear that some people would object to going into the forces on moral grounds. Often, what the army does in peacetime is not connected to military service as such, but rather things like rescuing people from disasters.

Therefore, i propose that a policy be instituted whereby young adults spend two years doing paid menial but necessary work, such as working in sanitation, preparing and distributing food to the infirm and various other things. At the end of that time, they are allowed to keep doing that job for as long as they wish, but with possible promotion prospects.

This would have a variety of positive effects. It would fulfil many of the positive roles national service in the military would bring without complicating the issue with the prospect of violence. It would provide everyone with paid work, indefinitely if need be. It would reduce the level of unemployment by taking two years' worth of adults of working age off the labour market. Work that needs to be done but is not economically viable would get done. People who had previously done the work would have more respect for supposedly menial workers on which they may currently look down. They would also gain considerable work experience and skills.

Finally, though i may have reached an age where i can curmudgeonly carp about the youth of today because i've lost touch with my own younger days, i also know that i would have welcomed the opportunity to do this, because the idea has been in my mind for at least that long.

nineteenthly, Aug 26 2008

The German model http://en.wikipedia...cription_in_Germany
"Of all men reaching draftable age in 2005, about 15% served in the military, while 31% performed civilian service or some other form of alternative service. More than 36% were screened out for medical reasons."
The conscription produces a vast amount of foreign aid volunteers also.
I'm all for it [+] [theleopard, Aug 27 2008]

National Parents National_20Parents
Before National Service [mylodon, Aug 27 2008]

Brave New World http://www.huxley.net/bnw/
"...Alpha children wear grey They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm really awfuly glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children." [bungston, Sep 05 2008]


       I'm all for it - although, I think it might hurt the economy a little - we (by which I tend to mean the "West") currently have all of these tasks performed by an influx of willing immigrants, while our layabout youth continue to smoke fags and drink to excess.   

       If this layer of employment were nationalised, it would put lots of small businesses out of work - and we'd really have to put the brakes on immigration.   

       Having said that, I think it's something that would increase national cohesion, give people a purpose, and a little bit of structure.   

       That being said, I think it could be the structureless freedom that we (again in the "West") enjoy that keeps us on top of our game, economically, over other, better organised, and more productive nations.   

       In India, the standard of education is so unbelievably high, likewise China - and this is evident when you work with people from these countries - yet, for all their fine education, few have had the freedom to lie around and get stoned on cheap booze paid for by government handouts.   

       Isn't the excitement of the west all about just that? Shouldn't we be proud of the dynamism and cultural razzle- dazzle that we generate through a policy of letting our youth do its own thing? Sure, it also means we have to put up with stabbings, casual sex, drug abuse and lift micturition, but isn't it all worth it for the global exports this produces - innovation, fashion, lifestyle etc that is eyed jealously by the rest of the world? And mightn't a nationally organised sensibleness stifle all that a bit? (Not sure myself, just asking)
zen_tom, Aug 26 2008

       Well, parenting involves clearing up crap and vomit, preparing meals, washing huge great piles of nappies and so forth, so most people are going to end up doing that sort of thing for several years at some time anyway, so i'm not so sure. Then again, having children is optional, so why shouldn't that be?   

       One thing i'm trying to do here is raise the perceived status of shit jobs. Sewage workers save lives by preventing cholera and other diseases, dealing with garbage/rubbish keeps rats off the streets and so forth, but a doctor has a lot of kudos which a sewage worker lacks. Granted, a doctor has put a phenomenal amount of effort into becoming one and the welfare of their patients sits heavily on their shoulders, but it still doesn't seem fair.   

       [Zen_Tom], interesting you should say that because among south Asian friends, the perception is often that people in their community are more entrepreneurial than WASPs. I'm not sure about small businesses, but it might put certain charities out of existence, which are probably useful for people to do voluntary work for in order to get back into employment. In that case, maybe there should be a way back into the service later in life.
nineteenthly, Aug 26 2008

       I was thinking more of that 'cool' factor - the punk, avant-garde, innovation thing - but the more I think about it, the more I may be talking out of my arse.   

       But here's a question - Could punk have arisen out of a country that has national (public) service? (Whether the punk movement is something good or bad, I'll leave for another time)
zen_tom, Aug 26 2008

       Rock and roll - surely the expression of the economic conditions prevalent during the golden years of the post-war boom - a time when employment was near full (partly due to the millions killed during the war, and partly due to the conversion of the massive publicly financed military infrastructure to civilian production)   

       These good times of course bred permissiveness, as good times are want to do.   

       I'm not sure where the individualism thing came from, but it may have had something to do with cowboy movies.   

       As for Jazz - everyone knows that that came from Belgium.
zen_tom, Aug 26 2008

       Hm. I have, on a number of occasions, come quite close to posting an version of this idea: "Service Industry Conscription", whereby variously pock and fresh faced 18 to 20 year olds are channelled like effluent into entry level service industry jobs prior to their careers or otherwise in whatever tickles their individual fancies. The ultimate goal would be the creation of a more limited stripe of social cohesion, specifically the social cohesion that comes from being able to empathise with your waitron/till jockey/ etc, rather than having no shared experience and thus acting like a prize nob-end. I suppose National Public Service is more laudable in its aims.
calum, Aug 26 2008

       Punk was a backlash against the postwar tendency towards paternalism. It's the whole German turmoil producing great art versus Swiss culture producing the cuckoo clock business. In a way it's like Thatcherism.   

       My youth was overshadowed by punk. There was a tendency among my peers towards punk, musically and politically, but the actual musicians were older siblings, for example the Au Pairs. My contemporary musicians were sort of poodle rock or folk, and tend to see folk as being a natural extension of punk. Without punk i think synth and prog rock would have taken over the world. The social equivalent of that in this country would, i suppose, have been Harold Wilson's "white heat of technology" and old labour continuing, without Militant or the SDP, and on the Tory side the persistence of a strong welfare state, public ownership of some industries, the state propping up certain industries and strong trade unions.   

       Could you have this without quite a lot of state funding? The question of unionisation is a bit of a quandry here too.   

       It's also made me think about real National Service in a new way. Is it more a Labour or a Tory idea?
nineteenthly, Aug 26 2008

       Well, it's hard to get my headround this new model of thinking.   

       [Calum], post away and i'll wibble.
nineteenthly, Aug 26 2008

       Punk rock kids on the dole [-]   

       I also disagree with people being 'processed' by the government, especially at an impressionable age.
mylodon, Aug 26 2008

       Nice sentiment, nineteenthly, but I've voted against this one. One of the issues with these types of jobs is that they are increasingly provided by often temporary, poorly paid, badly motivated staff. I don't think that press-ganging teenagers into these jobs will do anything to improve the quality of service. Not only that but (as I'm sure angel would point out if he read this), via tax deductions, we are all already spending a third of every year working for the government!

In general, I'm with zen_tom on this one although I would go for a more radical option. Get rid of student loans, give everbody the right to a 3 year grant, claimable anytime after their eighteenth birthday, let them spend it in anyway they fancy (not just formal education) and help them find their own path in life.
DrBob, Aug 26 2008

       Actually i like that idea as well, and i also perceive HMRC as a somewhat parasitic intrusion, though not the people who work for it, a group which includes one of my closest friends. Come to think of it, when do they stop working for the government? Germaine Greer once suggested people should be given a very large sum of money at adulthood which they could then do as they see fit, without however having any other welfare system.   

       I would question the issue of disaffectation, however. During WWII, conscription existed and those involved appear to have been highly motivated to make the ultimate sacrifice for some aim or other. I would like to imagine that i would have been prepared to do the same at the time. That's an example of a system which clearly worked. I'm prepared to accept that this might not work, but why would that be?   

       The other thing is, it may not amount to working for the government as such. Being minimum wage, there would be no income tax on this work, and there are various ways of doing it non-governmentally. It could be put out to tender, run as a cooperative or as a charity, for example. I personally don't like the idea of the first, but i'm trying to suggest a broad range of possibilities from different political perspectives. However, as it stands the coercive element is still there.   

       Some of the advantages of this as it stands are that there is guaranteed paid work available to all, work experience, work that needs to be done actually gets done and everyone gets to appreciate what it's like to do a menial job. I can think of a couple of other options which lose some of these advantages. One is to make it available as an option throughout working life, which is then basically the same as [HegelStone]'s idea i think. Correct me if i'm wrong.
nineteenthly, Aug 26 2008

       //During WWII, conscription existed and those involved appear to have been highly motivated//

I don't think that you could extend that particular example to the current situation (not yet at least). It was under rather extreme circumstances with clearly defined enemies dropping bombs on people's homes as a motivation.
DrBob, Aug 26 2008

       "Being minimum wage, there would be no tax on this work"   

       It's been a long time since I worked for minimum wage, but I recall paying taxes on it.
normzone, Aug 26 2008

       Maybe there's a difference between where you are and here. I have worked part-time for minimum wage for an employer at the same time as running the partnership business i do, and although i had to declare my income as an employee, i didn't pay tax on it.   

       Being bombed to the extent this country was is indeed a motivation, but preventing hypothermia in the old and dysentery and leptospirosis in the young are also pretty good reasons certain work should be done. It's probably not as direct a motivator, but ultimately, if no-one does the work, there's a good chance you will die of some fatal but easily preventable disease, and a death from cholera rather than being bombed is still death. I can see people might not be motivated, but i also don't really see why.
nineteenthly, Aug 26 2008

       I thought the purpose of High School and College was to ready people.   

       I'm all for making people work at least part time on government projects to get welfare, and I even think requiring the government to provide jobs might be OK.   

       But I don't buy conscription.
Bcrosby, Aug 27 2008

       OK, [Ian], thanks for that. I was aware of that with WWI, and come to think of it my maternal grandfather was probably traumatised by the whole thing (second world war). A conscientious objector from the Second World War said he felt guilty about it but his children reassured him that he'd done the right thing. I really don't buy that NVDA could've succeeded in WWII.   

       [Bcrosby], people are already forced to do a lot of things by the government, with pretty flimsy justifications.
nineteenthly, Aug 27 2008

       // people are already forced to do a lot of things by the government, with pretty flimsy justifications //   

       Now that you put it like that, why not.
mylodon, Aug 27 2008

       The thing is, it's rare that anyone voluntarily undertakes to obey the law and it's not feasible to opt out of obeying the law generally by moving to an unoccupied part of the world such as Antarctica, the open ocean or outer space. In practice, everything a government does which has any consequences for any of us is in a sense an infringement, if you look at it that way. Most people in the developed world go to school at some point and regard it as mandatory, most people pay either income tax or VAT and so forth, and they haven't asked to do that, so that could be seen as coercion. Providing people with an opportunity to receive an income, a reference and useful experience for future employment by doing something socially useful is much less of an infringement than many other things which people generally take for granted. I would say the pretext for that is a lot less flimsy than many other things which people generally accept, including military conscription, which is widely practiced.
nineteenthly, Aug 27 2008

       People don't object to doing things that people have long been made to do. People object to being made to do new things.
calum, Aug 27 2008

       Deftly put. People are always being made to do new things though, every time a new law is passed. People object more strongly to some things than others, but the coercion is always there in some form.
nineteenthly, Aug 27 2008

       Thanks, [theleopard] for the link. I have German connections and was thinking of that when i came up with the idea.
nineteenthly, Aug 27 2008

       I remain unsure what the point of this is. The clearest articulation I have seen is that it will "raise the perceived status of shit jobs. " Why does this matter?   

       /It's common for people of a particular age to complain that problems with the youth of today or society in general are caused by this no longer being so/   

       I suspect that those who so complain think that military experience specifically is what is lacking: the order taking, rule following, many pushup doing, potato peeling etc. I doubt many of these folks would think that a random government job would provide the equivalent.   

       - from me because I fail to see the point.
bungston, Aug 27 2008

       So you are saying there is no point in fishboning this idea because whether or not I like it I'll get used to it. In the end.   

       You may not realize that of many things proposed involving coercion, not all succeed.   

       Yeah, maybe 'helping people out' does not seem to be a bad thing to coerce, but once the control is there, the mission creep begins. Even worse, this greatly extends the moral influence the government can use to manipulate the people into doing whatever it wants.   

       [Calum] People object more about new things they dislike, because they have a more likely chance of defeating them. It's not simply a matter of people getting used to anything, it's a matter of people finding the task of changing an established institution daunting. Otherwise all societies would reset everytime a large group of children turned 18, or every end of tax season.
mylodon, Aug 27 2008

       That's always so, and it's a bad thing, i agree. I'm more saying that things are worse than they appear in that respect.   

       However, maybe look at it this way. The majority of children in the wealthier economies go to school for most of their childhood. This is often actually optional but this tends not to be explored. Towards the end of their schooling, they undergo work experience for a short period. They're not paid for it. This is similar, but for a longer period.   

       As you may know, we home educate as a family. In a sense, therefore, this idea is hypocritical because i'm suggesting a compulsory period of work. The law in this country says that parents or guardians have to ensure their children are educated, either at school "o r o t h e r w i s e". How about i alter this idea to say that every young adult has to do work of this kind, either as part of this state-organised service "or otherwise". That is, as well as doing it this way, they have the option of organising it themselves, for instance by volunteering for charity or the Red Cross.   

       I get where you're coming from and it probably isn't a coincidence that Germany has a system like this and also is a country where schooling itself rather than education is compulsory for children, which i think (i may be wrong) is unusual.   

       Oh yes, and in a sense society did sort of reset when baby boomers reached eighteen, though it also went back again to some extent.
nineteenthly, Aug 27 2008

       I like the idea of more people doing anything that is a service to others, with the notable exception of war.
johnbakersmon, Aug 27 2008

       After pondering the reelection strategy of the republican presidential ticket, the scales fell from my eyes and I revisited this idea to change my vote.   

       /The clearest articulation I have seen is that it will "raise the perceived status of shit jobs. " Why does this matter?/ - me.   

       Here is why. The mythos in the US is that a person is upwardly mobile, upwardly in this case implying away from jobs requiring physical labor - "shit jobs" and towards those requiring more education and less physical labor. If one theoretically can move up, how cna one justify to ones elf a lack of such movement. In the lingo of Brave New World (read it), if a gamma is not locked into gammaness but can become a beta, why should he not strive to do so? Lazy? Stupid? These are the stigmata that come with shit jobs.   

       If what one is in itself does not confer pride and respect (because one works a "shit job", probably for life), one can gain some selfworth by defining onesself as "not the other", and then denigrate the other. Effete, windsurfing, quiche-eating betas! But this paradigm of group definition has deep roots. Currently, the common experience of striving as a group towards a common goal is that of school sports, and such sports always defines an other, the competitor, who is disparaged and mocked, thus elevating the school which is "not the other".   

       19thly proposes a common experience which satisfies two goals: striving towards a common end which does not necessitate a demonized "other", and making menial jobs the forum for this striving, thus elevating them beyond their necessary but unglamorous purpose. This is good and good.   

       Perhaps there is a way to do this without adding to current requirements heaped on young adults: maybe adding this to the high school experience. Currently high school ends before the working day ends. There is time in the day to add a common experience such as 19thly proposes, linking it to the experience of socialization that already is high school.
bungston, Sep 05 2008

       When I am president of this fine new world you are creating, I shall have my child-cogs build a pyramid for me. Nobody will complain because I will have a series of posters made:   

       "Those who do not do their part for the glory of society, are not fit to be a part of society!"
mylodon, Sep 05 2008

       The Tories have nicked my idea!
nineteenthly, Apr 08 2010

       Oh my God, don't even joke about it, [Ian]. What a total fuck-up.
nineteenthly, Apr 08 2010

       So you're reponsible for the proposed "Cameron Youth" movement the Tories are planning then, [nineteenthly]?
Aristotle, Apr 08 2010

       I wouldn't say responsible exactly. Not yet, anyway.
nineteenthly, Apr 08 2010

       I was going to post this idea and found that Nineteenthly already had. I really love this.   

       Another job I would add to this would be picking crops. This idea occurred to me when I heard the old saw "Immigrants do the jobs American's aren't willing to do." and thought "Are we really that arrogant? Maybe we need to pick our own crops for once to get a little lesson in humility."   

       Two years of working in the fields, coming home at night to do your studies. This doesn't sound that bad. Get some fresh air and exercise and important lessons about respect for people who do the work a society needs done to keep afloat.
doctorremulac3, Jun 11 2016


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