Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Peace Corps is Not Voluntarism Because Taxation is Not Voluntary

President Donald Trump’s budget calls for cuts in the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the agency that administers the Peace Corps  and other “voluntary” national service schemes. Leftists who worship at the altar of government force are apoplectic over these cuts. To Leftists like New Jersey Star-Ledger guest columnist Linda Stamato, a Rutgers University Faculty Fellow and frequent Star-Ledger contributor, an America without “a critical role for government” in philanthropic service equates to “a dystopian view of an America that does not care about people, and should not.”  

Stamato opens with President John Kennedy’s famous—or, more precisely, infamous—admonition to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” She then quotes Robert Kennedy, “who said that ‘the purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.’" What follows is a litany of work done by “citizen volunteers,” both in America under VISTA, and abroad under the Peace Corps. Stamato writes

Trump's budget is anything but a "New Foundation for Greatness" as it is dubbed. Its recipe turns us away from common purpose, promotes self-regard, and, indeed, cruelly disregards the needs of those who are not the privileged wealthy. Trump poisons the nation against its own and tries to turn us inward. His government slashes, dismantles and diminishes its role, seeking to erase its presence on the civic landscape.

I left these comments, expanded and edited for clarity:

The Peace Corps and its ilk are not about volunteering, because they are not voluntary. No government program is. They are tax-funded monuments to politicians’ vanity and craving for unearned credit. That is the opposite of volunteerism. It is coercion. And it is the worst kind of coercion; not the coercion of a street robber, which the law protects you from, but legalized coercion, which leaves you defenseless. Add to this injustice the increasingly common practices like high schools including “community service” requirements attached to graduation, and you have to wonder how much of the participatory voluntarism really exists in these programs, and how much is just backdoor coercion.

If you want to follow RFK’s admonition to make the world a better place, then start by ending government funding of the Peace Corps et al, completely privatize them, and leave people free to decide for themselves whether they want to voluntarily pay for or join them. That’s true Americanism—voluntary for the person joining the program, and voluntary for the people paying for it.

Government is by its very nature an instrument of force. Any program in which government is involved is not truly voluntary and thus not moral. Anyone who advocates denying Americans the voluntary choice of whether or not to support these vanity monuments has no moral standing to champion good will volunteering.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a matter of “should or should not someone help another.” That is strictly an individual choice, and no one has ever proposed to outlaw charity or philanthropic service, whether carried out individually or in voluntary association among a number of individuals.
But neither should it be coerced.

And don’t be suckered by Stamato’s argument that these programs are about people acting for “common purpose.” Stamato observes:

Trump's budget is anything but a "New Foundation for Greatness" as it is dubbed. Its recipe turns us away from common purpose, promotes self-regard, and, indeed, cruelly disregards the needs of those who are not the privileged wealthy.

The only kind of purpose that is truly held in common are those that are private, voluntary associations among people who willingly join and who likewise leave those who don’t agree with the purpose or who would rather put their efforts toward what they personally regard as more important concerns free to pursue their own lives. There is nothing “common” about a purpose imposed by government force, since those who disagree are forced into it. It is, in fact, a chain gang, the chain being the only common link holding everyone together in the government program.

Trump proposes to cut, but not eliminate the funding Stamato whines about, as he should. Stamato clearly sees the vast majority—“those who are not the privileged wealthy”—as incompetent, helpless bums. This brazen lie is vital to the socialist agenda. The opposite, capitalism, does indeed “promote self-regard,” which is precisely what makes capitalism moral, and is precisely what must be exterminated to pave the way to a socialist utopia. Stamato would probably object that she doesn’t want complete socialism, just enough to satisfy what she regards as worthy enough proposes to impose on America. But once you accept the principle that a government-imposed “common purpose” is the ideal, and self-regard must be subordinated to that purpose, you’ve accepted totalitarian socialism as the ideal, and that’s the only end that can logically be expected, sooner or later.

There is no “proper role for government to support and sustain” charity. It’s not what your country—i.e., your government—can do for you. Nor is it what you can do for your government. It’s whether you as an individual, possessing as you do your own mind, are free to act upon your own judgement based on your own personal values, goals, and aspirations, and whether your government protects or violates that sacred sovereignty.


Never mind that Trump’s cuts will “not . . . save a whole lot of money.” Citing the Detroit Free Press, Stamato claims the whole program only costs “just .000275% of the entire federal budget”; “only” $1.1 billion. Ant it’s true: even getting rid of CNCS won’t make a practical dent in the government’s claim on our wallets.

But in terms of freedom, it will, if properly framed. The principle behind the CNCS infects most of the federal budget and claims $trillions in current tax dollars and tens of $trillions in future liabilities. The government chains spread far and wide, and continue to spread. Unfortunately, Trump won’t name the anti-liberty, anti-individual rights, anti-American principles of collectivism and statism to justify the Corporation for National and Community Service cuts, because the same argument would apply to all government chain-gang “common purpose” programs, including Social Security and Medicare, which Trump explicitly says he won’t touch.

Related Reading:

Individualism vs. Collectivism: Our Future, Our Choice—Craig Biddle

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