A little state slavery never hurt anyone

At the grand old age of 95, Dame Vera Lynn seems to have a clearer idea than either David Cameron or Ed Miliband about what needs to be done to fix the nation’s “broken society.”

The Forces’ Sweetheart advocates national service for all male school leavers, irrespective of their backgrounds. “All young men should have a certain time in the Army, instead of going running around wild for a few years after school,” she says. “They would learn discipline and they would learn a good trade. It would be a good opportunity.”

The problem is that it really is state slavery.

30 comments on “A little state slavery never hurt anyone

  1. What about feminism and women’s equality?

    Why should men have to do national service and women not?

    Nice one Vera

  2. One good thing about a conscription army is that it is harder for a government to send their soldiers to fight outside the country than it is with a pure mercenary one. And a bit of reticence in general can be expected from despotically inclined politicians when a large part of the populace is armed, so the slavery in a universal conscription army may oppose state slavery in general?

    One may wonder whether the high level of democracy in Switzerland (many referendums – show of hands decision making in the town square) is not causally related to the fact that nearly every man stores military weapons in his house, so as for the country to be able to repel possible invaders with the use of a high level of local knowledge. And one might ask whether the dictatorships elsewhere do not depend on a high degree of independence – that is separation from the popular will – for the armed forces?

  3. The Army doesn’t want them. Really not. We can’t use people in combat who really don’t want to be there, we can’t afford the people or other resources to train them.

    What would we do with them? Have them paint equipment and barracks we no longer have? We are making highly trained soldiers redundant ffs.

    And Bob’s point.

  4. A colossal expense for starters. Why not just enforce the fucking law we have and make an example of violent offenders?

  5. Yeah, and Britain was never healthier and fitter than it was under rationing, so let’s bring that back as well.

  6. All these young people, stabbing each other and causing mayhem. What we need is to teach them how to shoot straight and use high explosives. That’ll sort the country’s problems out, for sure.

  7. There are nice armchairs in most officers’ messes. And I’m old enough to sit in them hurrumphing about the appalling dress standards of today’s subalterns. With a copy of the Torygraph to hand!

  8. “They would learn discipline and they would learn a good trade. ”

    They were supposed to have done that at school.

    However I would modify it: those not in full time work or employment to go into National Service.

    I wonder then how many would leave school undisciplined and without being able to work?

  9. Nothing like a post on conscription to bring out the armchair soldiers.

    Since HTML lack an irony tag it is unfortunately left to the reader to infer it. It doesn’t always work.

  10. However I would modify it: those not in full time work or employment to go into National Service.

    Right. So you’re going to send the Army – who can’t use them, don’t even have menial shit for them to do any more (stuff the ‘learn a trade’), can’t afford to look after them, and need all of their competent people who haven’t been made redundant (and you don’t want NEETS being looked after by people we wouldn’t trust with actual recruits) to do the work HMG give us, the dross. Thanks. Really. Just what we need.

    Just consider the simple budget. Where’s the money for this all going to come from?

  11. However I would modify it: those not in full time work or employment to go into National Service.

    Oh, fabulous. You’ve just turned not having a job into a criminal offence punished with incarceration and high risk hard labour.

    Marvellous. What’s the next step to Utopia? Magdalene Laundries for the girls?

  12. This woman obviously has no idea what the modern military is like. I’ve just finished 20 years in the US Navy and worked with Army and Marine units.

    The military doesn’t teach discipline – certainly the services make explicit the ideas that form the backbone of discipline, things like taking pride in your work and owning up to your mistakes.
    But realistically speaking any appearance of exceptional discipline compared to the civilian population is simply a matter of age and our getting rid of people who can’t do the job.

    Learning a trade? depends upon your MOS/rate – how many infantry guys can convert their training directly into a civilian equivalent? Well maybe the cleaning shitters part.

    Not running wild? What does she think any 18-20 year old will do when his room and board is paid for and he has quite a bit of extra money to spend and no obligations?

  13. Surreptitious Evil – “So you’re going to send the Army – who can’t use them, don’t even have menial shit for them to do any more (stuff the ‘learn a trade’), can’t afford to look after them, and need all of their competent people who haven’t been made redundant (and you don’t want NEETS being looked after by people we wouldn’t trust with actual recruits) to do the work HMG give us, the dross. Thanks. Really. Just what we need.”

    The Army has been falling short of its recruitment targets lately. They could use more boots on the ground. This is where the British Army is lacking – most due to government incompetence now we have more generals (if you include Brigadiers) than tanks and more admirals than major vessels. It is also what modern fighting needs – fewer tanks, more grunts in places like Afghanistan. Can’t afford to look after them? We spend little on the Armed Forces, but still a lot. More than enough to pay for conscription. Which we would be paying for through the dole anyway. If we had more soldiers, fewer useful people, like NCOs, would be made redundant. Win-win.

    “Just consider the simple budget. Where’s the money for this all going to come from?”

    Conscription is usually cheap. It is a full time professional force that is expensive.

    14Ian B – “What’s the next step to Utopia? Magdalene Laundries for the girls?”

    We could do worse. We do do worse. Apart from simply leaving them to live with the full consequences of their actions, this seems the best solution to me. Better than what we are doing at the moment.

    15Agammamon – “The military doesn’t teach discipline …. But realistically speaking any appearance of exceptional discipline compared to the civilian population is simply a matter of age and our getting rid of people who can’t do the job.”

    And of the US Armed Forces. Whose drill instructors aren’t allowed to do things like yell at people at any more. Probably true of the British Army as well. But not of service in the Armed Forces in general. Because people with real sanctions to back up their NCOs and drill instructors often manage to teach discipline.

    “Learning a trade? depends upon your MOS/rate – how many infantry guys can convert their training directly into a civilian equivalent? Well maybe the cleaning shitters part.”

    The British Army is the world’s largest and most effective Adult Education service. It takes a lot of soldiers with limited literacy and teaches them all, without exception, how to read. That is a useful skill. Teaching them to get up before 11 would be useful for Britain’s underclass.

    “Not running wild? What does she think any 18-20 year old will do when his room and board is paid for and he has quite a bit of extra money to spend and no obligations?”

    Good point.

  14. If you have done military service it is not so easy to get back to doing universities studies
    And you might even be married etc.
    And just how many machine gunners does the UK need.

  15. john malpas – “If you have done military service it is not so easy to get back to doing universities studies”

    Well that is alright then – as modern students show no signs of being able to do university level studies either. They will fit right in.

    “And you might even be married etc.”

    Ahh for the days when you could support a wife on a student’s scholarship.

    “And just how many machine gunners does the UK need.”

    More than we have now. The question is how many NEETs do we need and what the f**k are we going to do with the ones we have? This blog seems to take the “starve them to death slowly” approach (which I am not entirely out of sympathy with) when it doesn’t have a tolerance of the status quo. However it is a little hard for me to see that tolerating the present utter dysfunction is less cruel than conscription.

    It would teach them to read, get them out of bed in the morning, give them some good habits like being able to polish their shoes, let them see some of the world, increase social cohesion, and perhaps even teach them to have some perspective on what is important. Can’t be worse than the alternative.

    And yes, it is a form of state slavery, but as the State takes 40% of everything we produce, is this form of tax so much worse than all the others? We all work Monday and Tuesday for Dave. Why not two years at eighteen?

  16. The Army has been falling short of its recruitment targets lately. They could use more boots on the ground.

    1. No it hasn’t.
    2. Yes but there is no money.

    now we have more generals (if you include Brigadiers) than tanks and more admirals than major vessels.

    Civil service rank equivalence. Get rid of that (or make it based on pay rather than CS grade. Also, for the former, only true if all you count as tanks is Chally 2.

    It is also what modern fighting needs – fewer tanks, more grunts in places like Afghanistan.

    It’s what Afghanistan needs. Don’t spend the next 20 years gearing us up to fight nothing more than the current war. If all we’d have concentrated on from 1972 was Op Banner, the Falklands would be celebrating 30 years of re-unification with Argentina.

    Can’t afford to look after them? We spend little on the Armed Forces, but still a lot. More than enough to pay for conscription.

    But not enough to look after double the Army’s size in NEETs. Even if all the Army did was turn itself into an MTP version of Hi-de-Hi.

    If we had more soldiers, fewer useful people, like NCOs, would be made redundant. Win-win.

    We have no money. Anyway, we had a couple of hundred thousand NEETs, we wouldn’t have “useful people”, you’d have just turned us in to various grades of prison guards.

    Why not two years at eighteen?

    Because, to get back to the original point – we’ve got no effing use for them.

    Just as a note – many of the Army’s recruits come from a very similar background – location, academic (lack of) success – as the NEETs we are talking about. There’s one big difference. They want to join. It’s the same with the volunteer armies during wartime – the vast majority ‘wanted’ to join – whether that was genuine, peer or societal pressure. And that can be used to mould team spirit etc. Compare the US Army in the two WWs and Korea, versus Vietnam.

    I seem to recall you’re an academic, from things you have said. Apologies if this is wrong but you seem to have absolutely no idea how dreadful (for everything except the unemployment figures) Dame Vera’s proposal would be.

  17. The ultimate arguement against compulsory service is simply this –

    We are not property of the state or society.

  18. The Army doesn’t want them. Really not. We can’t use people in combat who really don’t want to be there, we can’t afford the people or other resources to train them.

    My father and uncle both did National Service and both reckon that it was a complete waste of time. The men didn’t want to be there, the forces didn’t want them there. Just about everyone has ditched it.

    Fact is, it would be disastrous. If you told most comp sci graduates that they’d have to spend 2 years in barracks after graduation, they’d be rushing to go and live in the US instead.

  19. “Stick em in the Army!” is the sort of knee-jerk, vaguely authortarian point of view that rarely survives contact with reality. For a start, a lot of today’s armed forces jobs require youngsters to be quite bright; serving in the ranks is no longer just about being cannon fodder. You have to be pretty intelligent and motivated to be able to navigate a guided missile destroyer, work on a Typhoon fighter, practice to be a reconnaissance soldier, build bridges, and so on.

    And in any event, it is a form of state-mandated coercion. It is bad enough that the state forces young adults to stay in education as long as it does. Instead, we should be looking to cut the school leaving age and make it easier for firms to take on apprentices.

  20. JP

    knee-jerk, vaguely authortarian point of view

    In the same sense that Ritchie is “vaguely” wrong about economics and Hitler’s invasion of Poland was “vaguely” naughty.

    SMFS

    Magdalene Laundries for the girls?”

    We could do worse.

    You now have no credibility. Not a jot of it left.

  21. “The problem is that it really is state slavery.”

    Oh, really now. It might be wrong and authoritarian, but unless the conscripts are going to lose literally all their rights and become the legal property of their officers/of the government, it’s not really comparable to actual slavery.

  22. it’s not really comparable to actual slavery.

    Only because we can’t sell the little buggers on …

    Well, okay, they get paid as well. But not very much if SFMS has his way.

    And it’s even written in to ECHR [Art 4(3)(b)] that we can work them to [not quite – Art 2(2)] death. Same Article that forbids slavery.

  23. “but unless the conscripts are going to lose literally all their rights and become the legal property of their officers/of the government, it’s not really comparable to actual slavery.”

    Let me see –

    1. You can’t leave without being imprisoned or even killed.

    2. Your rights are now defined as whatever the government wants them to be – you no longer have any inherent rights that the military is bound to respect.

    3. Any compensation you get is solely at the discretion of the government.

    If its not slavery, that’s only because its time limited, but its definitely involuntary indentured servitude.

  24. 4. in a firefight, you can be lawfully ordered to engage in an action that will likely cost your life (“you, you and you – go and take that machine gun position.”) We rightly laud soldiers who throw themselves on grenades to save their colleagues. There’s not much glory in ordering someone else to leap on the grenade for you, even though in warfare it’s sometimes necessary.

    It’s a question of autonomy. The cardinal rule by which libertarians should act is that people are sovereign individuals and should be masters of their fate to the greatest extent possible. Slurpy Weevil, as an Army bod, is of course right on the money as to why this is a dreadful idea in practical terms, but even if it turned out a generation of disciplined hoplites, solved youth unemployment, the skills gap, etc. it would still be wrong.

  25. “Only because we can’t sell the little buggers on … “

    Is that really the only difference, then? So I suppose that if a member of the government (whomever we consider “owns” them — the PM, or the Minister of Defence, maybe) decides he’s bored and wants to kill one for fun, that would be fine, because they’re his property, and he can do what he wants with them? Or if he decides he quite fancies one of the people on national service, he’s allowed to have sex with them, and that person doesn’t have the right to say no? Or if they’re accused of a crime, their owners will punish them however they want, without any trial or due process?

  26. Surreptitious Evil – “2. Yes but there is no money.”

    We have to pay the money anyway. Why not as token wages for conscripts rather than as the dole, prison costs and insurance?

    “Also, for the former, only true if all you count as tanks is Chally 2.”

    What else is there to count?

    “It’s what Afghanistan needs. Don’t spend the next 20 years gearing us up to fight nothing more than the current war.”

    Except for the next 20 years we will probably be fighting no one but al-Qaeda or its like. Which is why the government has decided it does not need things like tanks or aircraft or major naval vessels.

    “But not enough to look after double the Army’s size in NEETs. Even if all the Army did was turn itself into an MTP version of Hi-de-Hi.”

    I disagree. And, as I have said, we have to pay for them anyway.

    “Because, to get back to the original point – we’ve got no effing use for them.”

    All evidence to the contrary. Britain has not had such a small Army since, well I don’t know when, some time around Cromwell?

    “They want to join.”

    Indeed. But people, especially at that age, are not fixed in their views. They are flexible. They have no idea what Army life will be like and they can be shown that it is not all that bad.

    “Compare the US Army in the two WWs and Korea, versus Vietnam.”

    They conscripted in all four of those wars. Where is the comparison? The difference was in Vietnam their upper class got out of it and there was a large paid-by-the-Communists group of people working to undermine their morale. What other difference matters?

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