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Thursday, June 09, 2011

Mandatory service hypothetical

On the law and courts discussion email listserve Lief Carter just posted this hypothetical on mandatory service (I reprint it with his permission):

Would anyone care to comment on the following hypothetical?:  Congress passes a mandatory national service act in which, for the improvment of the economic and social infrastructure of the United States, all able-bodied Americans must, between the ages of 18 and 25, devote two continuous years of service in their choice of the U.S. Military or a National Service Corps or a comparable organization.  They will work for minimum wage.  Would this law not pass constitutional muster?  Would such a blanket requirement have any closer a connection to interstate commerce than mandatory health insurance?  [In this regard has anyone seen an estimate of how much $$s ought to be saved via the fewer inefficient emergency room treatments of the uninsured poor once the new system goes into effect?]  Are there significant quantitative differences in the degree of intrusion on personal liberty between requiring people to shell out some X dollars/month for health insurance (which a majority of Americans already do) and devoting two years of their lives to something they would not freely choose to do themselves?

It's an interesting question. Of course Lief is not the first to think on this issue - many have posited he basic idea of mandatory service in the US. However, I find the Constitutional issue less interesting than the potential social and policy implications of such a law. If we did have such a requirement what would be the limits - could you get out of service with a doctor's note? What would we do with people who refused to serve? Could the government, in times of need, recall servers to serve again at a much older age? Would this be analogous to the military draft or a very different proposition?

Posted by Jeff Yates on June 9, 2011 at 12:13 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Culture, Current Affairs, Law and Politics | Permalink


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Amazing knowledge and I like to share this kind of information with my friends and hope they like it. Thanks.

Posted by: DC Mobile Notary | Aug 3, 2019 9:56:06 AM

since congress has the power to raise armies and the national service would be there to protect the military requirement in the case of conscientious objectors (to keep them honest and genuine objectors not just those trying to get out of service) , it wouldn't need the commerce clause....as for the 13th amendment problem-see above commen

Posted by: duh | Jun 10, 2011 12:38:26 AM

Of course they do not resolve the Commerce Clause question, but with respect to the liberty-related constitutional questions, see, FWIW, Butler v. Perry, 240 U.S. 328 (1916), and the Selective Draft Law Cases, 245 U.S. 366 (1918).

Posted by: Marty Lederman | Jun 9, 2011 12:36:48 PM

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