Child Labour
The Forced Volunteerism Oxymoron
by Francois Tremblay (e-mail: [August 18th, 2000]

     With the return of school days comes the liberation of now-happy parents. But this liberation is also accompanied by the return of slavery. Yes, it’s time to talk about an ugly subject: forced child labour. I had trouble stopping myself from retching while writing this article.

     Now before you click elsewhere, no, I’m not talking about the kind of slavery where children are sold. You already hear enough about that by “human rights organizations.” I’m talking about right here, right now -- the kind of slavery where American children’s souls are sold. I’m talking about the mass of oxymorons that we call “enforced voluntarism.” The fact that now more and more children have to become forced volunteers in order to graduate.

“...a study published in the Psychological Science has shown that mandatory voluntarism makes people less likely to volunteer later in life.”

     The voluntarism movement was made in order to begin forcing people to participate in programs approved by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The National and Community Service Trust Act was signed by Clinton in 1993, and established the Corporation for National and Community Service, which seeks to support volunteering to help education, public safety, and eco-nuts everywhere. Notions of “paid volunteerism” in government offices started to spread. But, since it wasn’t working all that much (why be paid for volunteerism when you can get paid for a real, useful job?), there was quickly talk of enforced volunteerism. Now, more than a third of schools force students to work. At least, unlike Mao’s Chinese schoolchildren who had to work the rice fields, the children are supposed to get paid by the government.

     Before I continue, I know what you want me to say at this point, so I’ll get it out right now: what the fuck is “enforced volunteerism” supposed to mean? To volunteer, by definition, is... voluntary. I’m sorry for once again having to be Mr. Obvious, but “enforced volunteerism” is a politically correct news-speak way of saying “forced labour.” You work, and you’re forced to. Alright, so you can refuse to graduate, but what are the chances of that? The expression “compulsory volunteerism” is as absurd an oxymoron -- as Libertarian Party chair Steve Dasbach once said -- as “voluntary income tax compliance, Social Security Trust Fund, or an honest politician.”

     Like a totalitarist society straight from the slums of a Rand novel, we have suddenly decided to inculcate the message: you are a pawn of our needs. That’s not exactly what I had in mind when I said schools should urgently begin teaching ethics and fill this gap in education. I was thinking about teaching independence, rational thinking and goodwill, not forced labour. But leave it to governments to do the exact contrary of what is good and right.

     I suppose it should be no surprise that all parties have agreed on this. This issue is a perfect point of agreement between the two parties because it combines economical and social slavery. Why complain when you can bash people in the head in a way that makes everyone happy? And what’s more, it involves “the good of the children.” The only question left is why hasn’t it been passed before?

     As for the criteria for what is accepted or not, they are unclear, but obviously education and “social needs” are on the list. As for what society really needs, if we take the government’s actions as a barometer of what it considers problems, sorrow and stupidity seems to be needed. Here is one program [click here] and its proposed activities: talking to old people, singing to the flag like good soldiers, environmentalist tripe and... well, more tripe.

     Also, anything that makes you feel good or boosts your self-esteem as a person is forbidden [click here] -- wait, isn’t that their whole social policy anyway? -- therefore barring the Eagle Scouts as a possible “accepted community work.” Just when their motives seemed to be clear enough, they hammer us on the head with an extra hint...

“The goal of politicians is no longer hidden under layers of popular laws or taxes. They feel confident and big enough to attack us without any second thoughts.”

     The success of enforced voluntarism has even more chilling consequences: proponents are now crying for extending this program to more and more segments of the population. The Boston Globe, for example, has quoted Scott Shuger, a consultant for the government and prime proponent of the school voluntarism movement, as espousing mandatory, government-controlled enrollment in voluntarism for all 18 year-olds. The Denver Post, not to be left behind, quoted an unnamed White House official saying that “compared to what government could do, voluntarism was ‘a 1 compared to a 10.’ It could prove valuable as a supplement to government in attacking the nation’s social ills, but it would never be a replacement.” Since 1985, legislators have been pushing for national service, and with these development their dreams are about to become reality. The day when the entire population will be forced to labour for “voluntarism,” like in Communist China, is not too far away.

     I don’t need to tell you how stupid the whole idea is. Even excluding the obvious attack on our rights of action, voluntarism, like any other activity before the government took it over, used to be flourishing. But now, since we have created more and more poverty and took over charity, the situation is degrading rapidly. Furthermore, a study published in the Psychological Science (Stukas, Snyder, Clary) has shown that mandatory voluntarism makes people less likely to volunteer later in life. The same thing was found in a 1991 study about blood donors.

     The philosophical basis for voluntarism could not be more obvious: enforcing altruism at all costs. Clinton said the following quote in April 1997: “[c]itizen service is the main way we recognize that we are responsible for one another.” That, along with the provisions in the law that prohibits to do “voluntarism” for organizations which give out awards or special recognitions, shows the pure altruism of this measure in a crystal clear way. The children of America are openly being educated to be sacrificial animals for the “good” of their society.

     This openness should be disquieting. The goal of politicians is no longer hidden under layers of popular laws or taxes. They feel confident and big enough to attack us without any second thoughts. Granted, children are much less likely to complain than adults.

     If you are a student caught to do voluntarism, I do have a suggestion for you. Last June, a student made the news because she dared work for the legalization of marijuana [click here]. Follow her example and try to find a pro-freedom organization near you. Many of them will be happy to help you. Fight the system’s altruist bias by promoting reason and independence.

     If together we can still show that we have genuine care despite our leaders’ attempts to destroy it, maybe we can make a difference.

Further Research

  • The Corporation for National Service: Homepage
  • Google Directory: Society:Organizations:Public Service:AmeriCorps
  • The New American: Bind Us Together!
  • The Future of Freedom Foundation: Mandatory Volunteerism: Were Orwell Alive, He'd Die of Laughter
  • The Ayn Rand Institute: Volunteerism Destroys Education: Why President Clinton Wants to Draft Our 9-Year-Old's
  • The Yale Herald: Mandatory Community Service is Truly Oxymoronic
  • The Cato Institute: Taking the Voluntary Out of Voluntarism

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