Jonah’s already touched on this topic over at the Liberal Fascism blog, but this passage from Obama’s recent speech on national service is worth repeating:
Just as we teach math and writing, arts and athletics, we need to teach young Americans to take citizenship seriously. Study after study shows that students who serve do better in school, are more likely to go to college, and more likely to maintain that service as adults. So when I’m President, I will set a goal for all American middle and high school students to perform 50 hours of service a year, and for all college students to perform 100 hours of service a year. This means that by the time you graduate college, you’ll have done 17 weeks of service.We’ll reach this goal in several ways. At the middle and high school level, we’ll make federal assistance conditional on school districts developing service programs, and give schools resources to offer new service opportunities. At the community level, we’ll develop public-private partnerships so students can serve more outside the classroom.
Looking at Obama’s speech in its entirety, there are indeed some interesting points, and maybe even some good ideas, but the coercive elements of this particular part of his program are yet more evidence of a candidate who has little appetite for restricting the reach of the state. That’s a comment that could, alas, also be made about wide swathes of the GOP, but those looking at candidate Obama should be under no illusions. At his core, he’s not just about volunteerism, he’s about compulsion too.