Many people are of the opinion that it is the civic duty of every American to become involved in at least one or more years of compulsory public service, either military, educational, environmental, or some other iteration of serving the public. In the United States, currently there are no such mandates on a federal, state, or local level, although at various times legislators have introduced bills proposing such mandates.. In certain settings, mandatory public service is an essential part of completing a task, such as graduating from high school or performing public service as a condition of parole. There is a great deal of apathy towards specific duties exhibited by Americans; one only has to look at the percentage of voters in both midterm and presidential elections to see how little people are engaged in the political process, regardless of the fact that election results have a tremendous result on people’s lives. However, forcing people to participate in some sort of civic activity is a violation of personal freedoms, the right to choose whether one wants to become involved, and if so, what activities that person chooses to do.

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For an example of what happens when military service is mandatory, the draft that was in effect during the Vietnam War illustrates well the consequences of compulsory service. People of means were able to skirt the mandate, for instance, by attending college to avoid the draft, or using their family connections to somehow avoid being conscripted into the service. Others fled to Canada or other countries in order to escape being called to duty, so that essentially the war was fought by people who were unable to avoid the draft, so that the soldiers who went to war tended to be people of less means and so were unable to find ways to avoid military service. The military that actually fought the war did so because they were ordered to take up arms, and refusing to do so would result in extremely damaging situations. Young men who avoided service when they were called could serve time in jail, or had to flee, resulting in leaving their families behind. Some of those soldiers were unable to return home for years or even forever, because of the fear of prosecution for avoiding the service. There was a tremendous amount of disruption within the United States regarding the Vietnam War, as families were often separated as well as emotionally; in addition, the nation as a whole was extremely divided about the Wore itself, the draft, and those who avoided serving time in the military.

Americans are guaranteed certain rights under the Constitution, including the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The latter two concepts, i.e. liberty and the pursuit of happiness are significantly compromised if people are forced to become active in public service; one can also argue that their participation in something not of their choosing is likely to be halfhearted and resented as well. There is likely to be a tremendous difference in the performance of someone who volunteers to become active in some role as opposed to a person who is forced into that action.

People who support the idea of compulsory public service do so on the basis that a society works best if its members are active in cooperating with each other. People who are part of a society are obligated to make some type of contributions or sacrifices in order to maintain their membership in this group. If a person is lucky enough to be born in a country like the USA, with all of the rights and privileges that are automatically bestowed on citizens, the least he or she can do is give something back to the society. That would seem to be a small price to pay for all that American citizens receive purely because they were born here.

As stated, however, forcing people into compulsory public service directly violates the concept of personal freedom. In addition, the example of the draft that the military implemented during the Vietnam War demonstrates that forcing people into serving creates a wide range of consequences, mostly negative, and leads to divisiveness and psychological consequences that may last forever. Lastly, people are likely to perform well if they are voluntarily engaging in some activity, rather than being forced into it.