Somin in WSJ Opinion Journal: National Service for Seniors?

Many elderly and middle-aged people could perform national service in the form of office work and light menial labor, says Professor Ilya Somin. In a Opinion Journal op-ed, he argues that forced labor in the form of national service might be as, or more, suitable for people beyond the age of those normally targeted by proposals for civilian service, the 18- to 21-year-old group.

Somin points out that it is easier to impose the burden of national service on the young because they are less likely than the remainder of the population to participate actively in the political process, thereby benefiting less from the ability to advocate on their own behalf or through the efforts of lobbying groups.

Uncle Sam Wants You, Gramps, Opinion Journal, October 8, 2007. By Ilya Somin.

"Indeed, the moral case for conscripting the elderly for civilian service is arguably stronger than that for drafting the young. Many elderly people are healthy enough to perform nonstrenuous forms of 'national service.' Unlike the young, the elderly usually won't have to postpone careers, marriage and educational opportunities to fulfill their forced-labor obligations. Moreover, the elderly, to a far greater extent than the young, are beneficiaries of massive government redistributive programs, such as Social Security and Medicare--programs that transfer enormous amounts of wealth from other age groups to themselves. Nonelderly poor people who receive welfare benefits are required to work (or at least be looking for work) under the 1996 welfare reform law; it stands to reason that the elderly (most of whom are far from poor) can be required to work for the vastly larger government benefits that they receive.

"Middle-aged people are also not obviously inferior candidates for civilian 'national service' than the young. I know I could do most kinds of service better today than when I was 18. To be clear, I am not arguing for imposing forced labor on the elderly or the middle-aged; but I do believe that doing so would be no worse than imposing that burden on the young."

Read the article