In a recent conversation about whether there should be a civil service draft in America, I made a couple comments. Notably, that the American spirit would be harmed tremendously by the notion that the government is literally everyone's boss (true and important); and that the upsides are not even remotely on the same scale as the downsides (notably, enslaving people).

When people say civic service is valuable, I agree, which is why it's so important they be able to sign up for such work. But to say it's so valuable we ought to have a draft, and "let" people from diverse backgrounds have a shared experience, my brain gets a bit scrambled. This is very different from my usual method of considering these issues. It's good to get scrambled every once in a while, but I think my initial assessment has a lot to recommend it.

Perhaps a more refined response to this could be stated more directly: I do not oppose slavery because it is insufficiently valuable. What a preposterous reason to oppose slavery! But even if I did, I would not attempt to solve that problem by making the only people with slaves be government bureaucrats!

World War 2 presents perhaps the only American endeavor meritorious enough to make the draft appealing. But it's been used, in America, many more times. An outside-view approach therefore says that, on the margin, we should be more skeptical of the usage of the draft – WW1 and Vietnam were likely made much worse by the draft, and they were not ethically compelling situations to begin with. The civil service draft argument says that we ought to lower our standards, and use a draft even in peacetime, or for non-war purposes! I think this is bad analysis, and lacks the wisdom history has to offer.

I also take the modern military's insight that all volunteer armies are substantially more effective fighting forces. This has a super high prior for me – I think free markets are better at doing almost all market oriented tasks, for instance – but it's worth contending with this as well. The military does not think it benefits a war effort to institute a draft, and they would know. They have wisdom, and that wisdom trained them to caution. The civilian government might pretend it would know what to do with people who don't want to be there, but I am extremely skeptical.

So we don't know if the task is necessary, and we don't know if non-volunteers will be useful. But we also don't know how massive increases in the power of mid-level bureaucrats will impact those they wield their power over. If you thought Me Too was an avalanche of sexual misconduct, this would be tectonic. And that would be the minority of the abuses of power, only the most recognizably corrupt and salacious. Most power abuse would be crushing to the human spirit in millions of ways that might be hard to describe.

And, obviously, it's morally wrong. Of course that would be the bottom line here: it's morally wrong to enslave others to a task, even if you know it's useful, even if you know it's necessary. Slave farmers did the necessary work of farming food. The work being necessary doesn't even remotely impact the question of whether it is wrong. And it is wrong.