Opponents of compulsory national service claim that such a program is not in keeping with the liberal principles upon which Western democracies are founded. This reasoning is reminiscent of the argument that a tax on one’s income is undemocratic because it violates one’s right to property. Such conceptions of the liberal state fail to take into account the intricate character of the social agreement that undergirds our liberties. It is only in the context of a community that the notion of individual rights has any application; individual rights are meant to define the limits of people’s actions with respect to other people. Implicit in such a context is the concept of shared sacrifice. Were no taxes paid, there could be no law enforcement, and the enforcement of law is of benefit to everyone in society. Thus, each of us must bear a share of the burden to ensure that the community is protected.
The responsibility to defend one’s nation against outside aggression is surely no less than the responsibility to help pay for law enforcement within the nation. Therefore, the state is certainly within its rights to compel citizens to perform national service when it is needed for the benefit of society.
It might be objected that the cases of taxation and national service are not analogous: While taxation must be coerced, the military is quite able to find recruits without resorting to conscription. Furthermore, proponents of national service do not limit its scope to only those duties absolutely necessary to the defense of the nation. Therefore, it may be contended, compulsory national service oversteps the acceptable boundaries of governmental interference in the lives of its citizens.
By responding thus, the opponent of national service has already allowed that it is a right of government to demand service when it is needed. But what is the true scope of the term “need”? If it is granted, say, that present tax policies are legitimate intrusions on the right to property, then it must also be granted that need involves more than just what is necessary for a sound national defense. Even the most conservative of politicians admits that tax money is rightly spent on programs that, while not necessary for the survival of the state, are nevertheless of great benefit to society. Can the opponent of national service truly claim that activities of the military such as quelling civil disorders, rebuilding dams and bridges, or assisting the victims of natural disasters—all extraneous to the defense of society against outside aggression—do not provide a similar benefit to the nation? Upon reflection, opponents of national service must concede that such a broadened conception of what is necessary is in keeping with the ideas of shared sacrifice and community benefit that are essential to the functioning of a liberal democratic state.
1. Which one of the following most accurately describes the author’s attitude toward the relationship between citizenship and individual rights in a democracy?
(A) confidence that individual rights are citizens’ most important guarantees of personal freedom
(B) satisfaction at how individual rights have protected citizens from unwarranted government intrusion
(C) alarm that so many citizens use individual rights as an excuse to take advantage of one another
(D) concern that individual rights represent citizens’ only defense against government interference
(E) dissatisfaction at how some citizens cite individual rights as a way of avoiding certain obligations to their government
2. The author indicates all politicians agree about the
(A) legitimacy of funding certain programs that serve the national good
(B) use of the military to prevent domestic disorders
(C) similarity of conscription and compulsory taxation
(D) importance of broadening the definition of necessity
(E) compatibility of compulsion with democratic principles
3. Which one of the following most accurately characterizes what the author means by the term “social agreement” (line 8)?
(A) an agreement among members of a community that the scope of their individual liberties is limited somewhat by their obligations to one another
(B) an agreement among members of a community that they will not act in ways that infringe upon each other’s pursuit of individual liberty
(C) an agreement among members of a community that they will petition the government for redress when government actions limit their rights
(D) an agreement between citizens and their government detailing which government actions do or do not infringe upon citizen’s personal freedoms
(E) an agreement between citizens and their government stating that the government has right to suspend individual liberties whenever it sees fit
4. According to the author, national service and taxation are analogous in the sense that both
(A) do not require that citizens be compelled to help bring them about
(B) are at odds with the notion of individual rights in a democracy
(C) require different degrees of sacrifice from different citizens
(D) allow the government to overstep its boundaries and interfere in the lives of citizens
(E) serve ends beyond those related to the basic survival of the state
5. Based on the information in the passage, which one of the following would most likely be found objectionable by those who oppose compulsory national service?
(A) the use of tax revenues to prevent the theft of national secrets by foreign agents
(B) the use of tax revenues to fund relief efforts for victims of natural disasters in other nations
(C) the use of tax revenues to support the upkeep of the nation’s standing army
(D) the use of tax revenues to fund programs for the maintenance of domestic dams and bridges
(E) the use of tax revenues to aid citizens who are victims of natural disasters
My Take was