Among the many ideas and policies Obama has voiced, one that most disturbs me is the idea that all Americans should be required to give civilian service to the nation. Few ideas so clearly express what is wrong with Obama's mind.
Voluntary private service and charitable giving is one thing; universal mandatory civilian service to the nation is another. The core of America, as Tocqueville saw nearly two centuries ago, is voluntary social organization. Largely created and worked by the middle class, tens of thousands of voluntary organizations, from FFA to PTA to AAA to community hospital support to YMCA and YWCA to church choirs, have played a significant role in reforming our social ills and rectifying our failings. Springing out of the individual's desire for a better world and motivation to contribute to America's betterment, they personify freedom. They represent society's own self-identification and solution of problems. Voluntary private organizations are truly progress from the bottom up.* It is not irrelevent to recall that such organizations were the heart of the anti-slavery movement and the anti-segregation efforts.
Mandatory service expresses opposite impulses. Mandatory service organized by the state would lay a foundation for facist authoritarianism. (My concern is shared by other critics 1, 2.) It would diminish the social energy available for private service organization. It would suppress freedom in favor of uniformity. Passage by the House and Senate of expanded national services and establishment of a commission to bring a recommendation on universal, mandatory, national service (GIVE Act: Generations Invigorating Volunteers and Education) is a step away from American freedoms. Universal mandatory civilian service should not even be entertained. What's next from Obama--mandatory voting? Or maybe each American should be compelled to sign an oath of personal loyality to, that they would be ready to give up their life for, Obama "The One"?
*And here is where Obama's Marxist education reveals itself. The Marxists in the first half of the 20th century came to the conclusion that the industrial masses were not inherently revolutionary. (Left to themselves, the industrial masses would drift into fascism, not communism.) They had to be led by an intelligentsia of organizing activists; this was Lenin's conclusion. It was thenceforth a principle of faith among the Old Left of the 1930s and the New Left of the 1960s that radical social reform, driven by popular unrest, would only happen when the masses were organized and directed by activists--"community" activists like Obama himself. It is beyond Obama's understanding that Americans of the lower and middle classes are inherently energetic, self-organizing, and self-directed. Put differently, authentic self-governing democracy is possible because of this American drive of self-organization; this is not the kind of democracy that Obama believes in. His belief in state-directed service is an expression of the notion that a cadre of trained, educated activists is needed to rouse the people, to articulate their inchoate needs, and to develop programs of action that lead to social reform on their behalf. They don't know what is good for themselves.
The Marxist notion that the masses don't know what is good for themselves also shows up in Obama's ignorance and disbelief in free markets. Adam Smith's notion was that the individual person best knows their own needs and interests and therefore best makes buying and selling decisions. Obama doesn't belief people have this economic capability, either.
As I have said before, it is difficult to believe that Americans elected this Left radical president and it is difficult now to believe they haven't figured out what he is saying to them. I think that the duplicity of the media and press in white-washing Obama's views has had a hand in the popular misimpression of Obama. An honest and educated press would have served the interests of freedom in this crucial struggle over Obama's effort to transform the nation on a New Left template.