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Sunday, November 23, 2008

The so-called Poverty Draft just got easier. Is it opportunity or exploitation?

Anti-war and anti-poverty organizations have a common enemy, the so-called Poverty Draft.

The Not Your Soldier project explains the Poverty Draft this way:

The majority of military recruits come from below-median income neighborhoods.  This pattern has been going on for a long time.  It’s called the Poverty Draft, and it’s no coincidence.

It’s the result of the unfair setup where opportunities are systematically eliminated in the communities that need them the most, while the military continues to get more and more funding.

The group also claims:

The pentagon dropped $13,000 recruiting each person who enlisted. Compare that to the $1,115 that is spent on education per student, and you’ve got a pretty clear picture of the government’s priorities.

In a story in the Globe and Mail today, Canadian Forces General Walter Natynczyk says that fewer private sector jobs should make recruiting in Canada easier. The headline “Military hopes hard times mean more recruits” is more fodder for those claiming the military preys on the poor.

Is military service an opportunity for the poor, or is it class exploitation?

While I’m no fan of military interventionism, the Poverty Draft crowd doesn’t seem to arguing in good faith.

First, the military draft is a coercive practice that differs fundamentally from even the most aggressive recruitment tactics. Philosopher Ayn Rand wrote:

“Of all the statist violations of individual rights in a mixed economy, the military draft is the worst. It is an abrogation of rights. It negates man’s fundamental right—the right to life—and establishes the fundamental principle of statism: that a man’s life belongs to the state, and the state may claim it by compelling him to sacrifice it in battle. Once that principle is accepted, the rest is only a matter of time.”

Aggressively targeting low income candidates for military service, however offensive to some, is not a draft; it’s recruitment.

Second, comparing what the pentagon spends on young recruits to what the state spends on education would only be damning if the pentagon were also responsible for public education.

Third, if the military is a legitimate state institution, then providing opportunity to the poor should not be controversial. If the military is not a legitimate state institution, then whether they recruit from the ranks of the poor or the ranks of the rich seems unimportant.

Fourth and finally, poor, young military recruits likely know exactly what they want from the military: adventure, education and personal challenge. And while they are likely to be disappointed by what combat has to offer, I’m not sure this is evidence of trickery. The horrors of war are well documented.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on November 23, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink

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One, the military is worth more than the federal Dept. of Education because it is actually effective at its job. Two, the rich and middle class go into the military at lower rates because of their local environments. Many of these kids are told by their parents and teachers to avoid the military at all cost. There was a book written by a man from an upper class community about how his son surprised him by joining the Marines instead of going straight to college. Much of the book focuses on how he, his friends, and others were taken back by the son's action. Fortunately, in the end, the father recognized and proudly accepted his son's choice. There are only two ways to counter this. One, is to more favorable present the role of the military in movies, television, and prehaps civics classes. An extremely difficult option in Canada where much of the public seems to only remember the military on nov 11th. Until recently, the Canadian military has been financially screwed by every government since Lester Pearson. The other would require the reinstatement of the draft. In the U.S., they might have to model it on the 1950's Australian guidelines where draftees couldn't be deployed unless they volunteer. As for Canada, the Quebec and Ontario populations would never go for it.

Posted by: Shelton | 2008-11-23 9:40:17 PM


"The majority of military recruits come from below-median income neighborhoods. This pattern has been going on for a long time. It’s called the Poverty Draft, and it’s no coincidence."

Actually it is. Soldiers have always been drawn from the poorer ranks of society. They make up the majority of the population, so it is just sheer numbers. Now, if the rank and file soldiers came from the poor and the officers came exclusively from the rich, there would be room for controversy. But most of the officers are not rich either.

Moreover, what makes them think that there aren't less-well-off men and women who are not willing to serve their country out of sheer altruism? I've seen it happen.

"It’s the result of the unfair setup where opportunities are systematically eliminated in the communities that need them the most, while the military continues to get more and more funding."

This implies conspiracy where none need exist. It is hard to believe that the government would do this deliberately when it happens perfectly well without their help. This is just more propaganda.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2008-11-23 10:08:57 PM


The majority of soldiers come from poor families? On what basis is this argument put forth? No recruiter I have ever heard of asks for tax statements from recruits either for them or their parents. They certainly never asked me what I earned before I joined. Like most, I assume, I was a kid out of high school from a middle class family - in my case, immigrants (me being one). Of the 59 others I started training with, I know one came from a rich brewery family (he dropped out), but I have no idea about the rest and I doubt that activists do either. It is just more anti-military drivel.

Posted by: Aviator | 2008-11-23 10:49:41 PM


When I was younger I always considered the draft "unfair", in the sense that I was required to give 24 months of my life "to the state".

Over the years though I came to reconsider. A draft that hits all classes and people is in my opinion a good thing. The chance for a politician or even the population to support a war is much more diminished because any mobilzation has a good chance in hitting every able bodied man.

Switzerland has a draft and has done well with it, so do many other countries.

Interestingly enough, when was the last time you heard of a country that has a draft actually going to war on foreign soil?

As for Rand:

"that a man’s life belongs to the state, and the state may claim it by compelling him to sacrifice it in battle. Once that principle is accepted, the rest is only a matter of time.”"

I call Bullshit on, the state IS the citizenry and that also involved the "citizen in uniform" the idea that a general draft leads to all out war is one of Rand's "jumping to conclusions" to force reality into her own worldview / experiences of her younger years and holds roughly as much water in the real world as most philosophies.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-11-23 11:40:43 PM


what the heck. this artical is wrong on the basis that the army recuts only from the poor. i for one and not poor. i come from a family who has enought money to live a a bit of lucry and i want to join the froce. it a job oppratuniy that would be great to do. the froce give me a way to give canadan something back. canada has give me and my family so much and so the least i can do is figth for my beloved contry. to say that the military only recurt from the poor is transihing a good name and it should not be done. i have never, NEVER hear a recruter or any military personal ask moslty or only poor or middle class people. they ask for people from all classes.

Posted by: DarkDemon | 2008-11-24 7:10:05 AM


"When I was younger I always considered the draft "unfair", in the sense that I was required to give 24 months of my life "to the state". Over the years though I came to reconsider."

I'm sure many people who are no longer eligible for the draft now support it.

As for "the state IS the citizen," what is that supposed to mean or imply? The paragraph it appears in seems to be missing a few words, but it sounds like you're saying positively what Rand is warning against: that the state can dispose of its citizens in the same manner as a person disposing of his property.

Posted by: Mark Wickens | 2008-11-24 7:19:09 AM


As for "the state IS the citizen," what is that supposed to mean or imply? The paragraph it appears in seems to be missing a few words, but it sounds like you're saying positively what Rand is warning against: that the state can dispose of its citizens in the same manner as a person disposing of his property.

Posted by: Mark Wickens | 24-Nov-08 7:19:09 AM

What I am saying is that the citizens own the state. That in a Democracy a citizen does (in part) control what goes on.

Heinlein in Starship Troopers (the book, not the movie) made this idea pretty clear too, as in his world only the people who have given to the state (society) were allowed to decide it's direction.

For Rand the Government is the de-facto enemy, coming out of a totalitarian system this makes perfect sense, in a working (and yes, ours isn't working anymore but that would be too long a write up as to why right now), participatory society this isn't the case.

If there is no punishment / are no consequences for ones action one is more willing to go along. Why would anybody oppose a war if the Government waging the war is doing this with "hired guns" or I personally wouldn't be affected?

Sure, there are moral reasons why some people may object to it, but for most people the line between good and bad is drawn at their own skin.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-11-24 5:31:04 PM


First, the very phrase "poverty draft" insinuates that choosing a career as a soldier is somehow dirty, dishonourable work. These people make their bias and prejudice plain before they even make it to the preamble. Even their working title is an attitude.

Secondly, people learn skills in the army--organization, efficiency, teamwork, morale building, esprit de corps, how to work productively with your fellow man under even the worst of conditions--besides any actual trade they may enter. High-tech trades can often translate to profitable careers in civilian life after retirement from the army.

Thirdly, the United States does not spend just $1,115 per student. It varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but it's usually between $5000 and $7000 per student per year. Interestingly, Catholic schools supply an education generally regarded as superior to the public one for only about $3000 per student per year.

More of the same Leftish claptrap by the usual Grade-A shit birds.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-11-24 5:51:09 PM


Just another bunch of non productive, sour-puss control zealots who need to get a life. There is no data confirming their claim, and frankly even if it were so, who cares. People are free to apply or not to apply, and by the way not all applicants are accepted. I know many (not poor) who chose the military for various reasons, and the younger recruits ended up with real job training and experience and were able to find the same kind of work after their military career.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-11-24 6:14:07 PM



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