Saturday, November 08, 2008

Bureaucratizing Charity: Obama's plan to make all Americans community organizers

According to his website, President-in-Waiting Barack Obama has a plan to conscript American youth into voluntary service:
The Obama Administration will call on Americans to serve in order to meet the nation’s challenges. President-Elect Obama will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year. Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.
So, how exactly is this different, in principle, from the draft?

I'm not sure conservatives even understand what is wrong with this. So let me give it a try.

A conservative approach to help people in society would involve offering incentives for people to help others, and encouraging charitable institutions outside of government to do the work that is natural to them.

The liberal approach is to mandate that people help each other. It's chief impulse is to systemize and standardize as much of society as possible. In this respect it is socialism on a much grander scale. Socialism is at least content with organizing and controlling the economy. But plans like this one betray an even larger liberal vision beyond socialism. Programs like mandatory community service are a sign that the government is not content with trying to control the economy, but, having grown fat (and powerful) by gorging itself on the economy, it has now set its hungry sights on the rest of society.

But you can't force people to love their neighbor: all you can do is to keep government from weakening those voluntary associations in society, like churches, who can best persuade them to do so. And, unfortunately, programs that try to mandate charity only serve to undermine the natural charitable acts of private individuals operating through private institutions.

It has been pointed out by people such as Thomas Sowell and James Kalb that the modus operandi of the secular liberal elite is to discourage the natural workings of society in favor of large scale rational planning. Here is James Kalb, in his excellent new book, The Tyranny of Liberalism, explaining the underpinnings Obama's community organization plan:
Because liberalism is a principle of government, its triumph arrives with the triumph of the men and institutions favored by the arrangement of power it proposes. It is thus the ideology of the ruling class. The victory of liberalism is the victory of managers, experts, educators, media organizations, and rationally organized bureaucratic and commercial interests. Such people and institutions benefit from large-scale rationalized organization of social life, which demands comprehensive systems of planning, training, indoctrination, and control, and of gathering, analyzing, and disseminating the information large formal institutions need to operate.... [T]he reduction of politics to administration and technique puts power in the hands of those who find it most persuasive and do most to promote it. Liberalism advances their interests and they determine its content.
These kinds of policies are no different, in principle, than the welfare programs of the Great Society and forced busing: they are social engineering programs.

UPDATE: The website has since changed the language from what was quoted above. Wonder why.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mandatory volunteerism. Has a ring to it doesn't it?

Art said...

Picking out one part of this:

Martin, you said "A conservative approach to help people in society would involve offering incentives for people to help others.. ". That is, in a nutshell, what the proposal for community service in schools and colleges could be. That is, if the "requirement" (I am not sure that is what it is) is seen as one by which institutions may access Federal dollars.

If only Obama would use the same approach for the growing numbers of private institutions that are lining up to get their piece of the bailout pie.

dean said...

Martin...

Apparently enough was made of this yesterday that Team Obama has changed the wording on the America Serves web page to read as follows...

Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by setting a goal that all middle school and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year and by developing a plan so that all college students who conduct 100 hours of community service receive a universal and fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free.

I wonder how far along into his administration he'll be before he changes this back. If he doesn't change it back, I wonder (not really) where the money is going to come from for these $4,000 tax credits.

To complicate it even further, if a student's parents foot the bill for college, and the student puts in his hours of community service, who gets the tax credit? Mom and dad, or the graduate?

The college provision basically amounts to getting a part time government job to help pay for college. The motivation is to earn money, not help others because it's the right thing to do. Of course under the original wording, motivation isn't even a factor, unless we can assume there are dire consequences for refusing to "volunteer." THEN I can see how one would be motivated to be indentured to the government.

sporcupine said...

Wow.

I would have sworn that conscription and voluntary service were opposites.

Also, I sure thought that offering help to pay for college was an incentive, not a mandate.

Thanks for clarifying the terminology.

Concise, lucid analysis like this is just what conservatives should use to reshape the Republican party and the nation.

Anonymous said...

Sporcupine..Does your density preclude swimming for you?

Anonymous said...

So who determines what constitutes community service? Sorry, but I give at the office, and, on April 15.

sporcupine said...

Anon @ 4:12,

No, no, porcupines don't swim, they fly.

War is peace, slavery is freedom, voluntary is mandatory, incentives are conscription, ignorance is strength, and if you look out your window, you'll see 20 of us quilled-Americans going by in a V-formation.

You'll be fine if you just don't fixate on imagining that words mean today what they meant last week.

Anonymous said...

sporcupine, it seems California voters just made sure, for the time being anyway, that the word marriage means today what it meant yesterday. Maybe some judges can re-define legislate, again.

sporcupine said...

Great non-sequitur play, Anonymous.

I parry your thrust with....

Habeas Corpus!

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, habeas corpus for non-citizens captured on battlefields. Not to worry, sporcupine, Obama will soon close Guantanamo and peace will reign. Perhaps sharia law which justifies fathers killing their daughters because they wore short skirts will be granted first amendment privilege? BTW Will pro life and school choice activists receive education tax credits or will there be an official cause list?

Martin Cothran said...

sporcipine:

I would have sworn that conscription and voluntary service were opposites.

Ever heard of irony?

Anonymous said...

Oh, goodness yes, 10:22, there will be a list.

sporcupine said...

Nope. Never heard of irony, never practiced it, wouldn't recognize it if it walked up and hit me with a cream pie.

Anonymous said...

Ask not what you can do for your country, but what your country can do for you.

jah

Lee said...

> Wow. I would have sworn that conscription and voluntary service were opposites.

I think most people know the difference. Some of us are probably hoping Obama does.

Before they changed the wording:

> "Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year."

"Require." Hmmm. Doesn't sound like that means "volunteer".

Sounds like this may be the administration that's going to put the fascism in "liberal fascism."

> Ask not what you can do for your country, but what your country can do for you.

Ah. So I guess there is no honorable reason, then, to oppose conscription of fifty-year-olds to perform "services" which are deemed good in the eyes of liberals. jah has spoken. Unless we submit to a law requiring services from us heretofore reserved for criminals, we are somehow greedy and unpatriotic.

Oh well. It always happens. When a faction acquires power, it always overreaches. This one is not going to stick unless the Democrats burn the Reichstag... er, Congress.