Gateway Pundit brings news of Obama's plans to require children in middle and high school to perform fifty hours of service annually. Savor for a moment the irony of our first African-American president re-introducing involuntary servitude then consider that he does not specify whether this child labor is going to be compelled with the minimum wage or something more forceful. And do rid your mind of any inappropriate comparisons to other national youth programs.
I suppose it's good to see The One's enlightened return to a first principal of our great country: to wit, that children should be gainfully employed. Alexander Hamilton thought that child labor would be a boon to our manufacturing industries. He was proved correct and child labor laws eventually ended the practice. Perhaps there were reasons for those child labor laws. (At that last link, please disregard the section titled "Forced or Compulsory Recruitment of Children for Use in Armed Conflict.")
I sincerely doubt that these children will be gainfully employed since, as any good Keynesian like Our Dear Leader knows, "The government should pay people to dig holes in the ground and then fill them up." Perhaps someone would be kind enough to mention Bastiat's insights about the broken window...
I would personally like to thank all of the college students that worked on Obama's campaign. Since his plan calls for a hundred hours from each of you annually, you can continue doing so!
Update: Coyote Blog observes that the way to tax people who do not make money is to take away their labor.
Update 2: Greg Mankiw sees this as a sort of new draft. I'll note that America's most decorated Marine, Smedley Butler, lied about his age to serve his country. I can only wonder who the first such patriotic fourth or fifth grader will be!
Update 3: Glenn Reynolds has noticed with an unusually verbose: "FREEDOM!" and link to a blurb at Overlawyered. What does the Instapundit think of the constitutionality of the proposal?
Update 4: While not directly related, Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek mentioned the passing of Marshall Fritz on election day. Fritz was the founder of the Alliance for the Separation of School & State. It's likely that his organization will be in the vanguard of this fight, so do what you can to support them. Here's information on donating and here's their How Can You Help page.
Update 5: Dr. Helen believes it will be no more successful than the government's self-esteem programs of the 70's and 80's. She (and her commenters) ask: why not make it voluntary? That would be a reasonable improvement, but why not start there? Why did they choose to start with "required" service?
Update 6: Glenn Reynolds brings news that the change.gov site has been edited and the community service has been reframed as a goal not a requirement—perhaps that's why they call it change.gov. The new text is:
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.For reference, here's a copy of Gateway Pundit's screen grab. The text above is a re-write of the portion underlined in red:
He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.—George OrwellUpdate 7: Kudos to the Obama team for making this slight policy adjustment! I'd recommend that you guys port the change.gov site to a wiki. That will allow everyone to see the sausage being made—the historical edits to each page. Open government is a very good thing and it will prevent the new administration from being painted as Orwellian.
Last Update: Re-reading my initial post I have to admit that I was a bit over the top. What can I say... I was pretty fired up.
Cliff Mason over at CNBC has a post arguing that mandatory voluntary service is an oxymoron. Boston-based blogger Arkady finds irony in the pre-election fear that McCain would bring back the draft and is rightly concerned about the growth of government. I think he implicitly understand The Practical Rules of Bureaucracy. I will have a lot more to say about those someday...
Some final thoughts... Child labor law is not (and should not) be a barrier to high schoolers and college students doing volunteer work. I like the idea of encouraging children to do more work. In fact, I'm currently reading Young Bucks: How to Raise a Future Millionaire which encourages parents to train your children in entrepreneurship at an early age. (Here's the Glenn and Helen Show interview with author Troy Dunn.) My fear is that an Obama administration would structure volunteer work to preclude or restrict volunteering through religious organizations and religiously aligned colleges.
My brother was enrolled in ROTC at Grove City college his freshman year. The following year there was effectively no ROTC at Grove City. I believe that was a result of the Grove City College v. Bell decision and administrative actions at the college. I agree with the left that Federal dollars should not be spent on religiously affiliated institutions; however, I also believe that individuals should be empowered to choose such institutions and the way to empower them is to reduce their tax obligation on a dollar for dollar basis. Note that this works very well with my Pigovian Income Tax proposal... something else I'll have more to say about later.
Child labor law also needs to be re-visited. In particular, it needs to be modernized to recognize and encourage children to work in the IT sector. I have no specific recommendations because I know very little about the law, but I am sure that laws written a fifty or a hundred years ago to address problems in agrarian and industrial work can not all still be relevant.