ObamaCorps vs the Voluntaryism of Free Markets

May, 2009

President Obama’s revival of President Clinton’s AmeriCorps program, the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act, now called the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, aims at America’s youth. Now a voluntary program but originally mandatory, it will probably go back to being mandatory, given how fascist in nature most of Obama’s acts of governance have been so far. Even if it remains voluntary, it will no doubt be coercive.

There are plenty of young people of high school or college age who do volunteer work, some of whose purpose is to accumulate experience towards future work in the “social services” sector, such as caring for the elderly or working with disabled people,  and some of whom just enjoy helping others. These young volunteers are genuinely motivated to help others and aren’t forced nor coerced into these activities. And there are plenty of adults who also do volunteer work.There are also many teens who are very achievement-minded, who excel in their academic work as well as have part-time jobs, either out of self-motivation or from their parents’ pressure. And there are those who are not motivated, and some of those are “troubled” teens. It seems to me that these groups are the ones the AmeriCorps proponents are after, these more “impressionable,” non-future-oriented youths who may be more likely to fall into the trap of submission to the state.

Here are some examples of how people serve others: steel workers and carpenters in the manufacturing sector serve the companies they work for, but are really serving the actual consumers who need the items they produce, such as computers, trucks and office buildings. There are people in the service sector who serve people who need groceries, get coffee at the local diner and clothes at the department store. And of course there are charities who serve the needs of those who can’t afford the daily necessities. And there are professionals such as doctors, lawyers and accountants who serve many people’s needs.The people in the “social services” sector such as nurses and nurses’ aides serve the needs of medical patients and teachers serve the needs  of children and young adults who need to be educated.

Now, the people in all these groups are not forced nor coerced to serve others; they do it voluntarily, and yes, most of them are paid for their work. They receive a financial compensation which is in their self-interest and they do a service to others, and their work is not planned or mandated by state authority with the armed force of legal compulsion. At the same time, there are many, many people throughout the population who do volunteer work, also in absence of government mandates or coercion–they do it out of their own genuine concern for others. People who lack that concern will probably not do volunteer work even if it’s mandated by government. You would have to have state-imposed conscription to force them to do such “involuntary servitude.” However, their sacrifice is not needed.

Perhaps what AmeriCorps supporters like Obama and Kennedy are really talking about is not just sacrificing time and effort to serve others, but sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice, that comes from the belief that people inherently “owe” something to the society.There seems to be more of an authoritarianism behind those who want the federal government to administer a very large social program of “volunteers” to serve their fellow citizens. It creates more of a “servant to the state” than serving one’s fellow citizens. The real priority of people for these big-government programs seems to be more government, more powerful state, and less freedom. Evidence of this can be seen in the amount of money the pro-higher taxes groups spent on the recent campaign in California, outspending by 10-1 the anti-tax groups. The pro-taxers could’ve spent those millions directly on programs for the elderly and disabled.

There is just something about a population of citizens engaged in labor and trade that effects in serving others, freely and without state mandates or control, that authoritarian control-freaks just don’t like. The randomness of free markets in the human services sector, as well as in business, produces better and more efficient service to others right at the level of those areas because the actual people involved know best what’s needed, certainly better than some centralized bureaucrat does.

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