Is mandatory “community service” a good idea?
What is the libertarian response to those who state that mandatory “community service” in elementary and high schools is an excellent idea?
Some students defend this policy in these ways:
- It helps to decide a career path.
- It expands their horizons.
- It does not smack of socialism because this program is simply an aid for students.
- These programs give the community a chance to see the good side of teenagers.
- It does not affect learning standards.
- Learning, by performing charity work, can be an out-of-class, hands-on experience.
- It teaches cooperation, teamwork and involvement.
- The community should be pleased that youth is getting involved.
- It teaches students with lessons like team effort, patience and compassion, that cannot be acquired by other means, e.g. textbooks and lectures.
What’s a libertarian response?
‘Mandatory’ means forced — at gunpoint, if necessary. When we force people to do things, for their own good or the good of others, we violate their right of self-determination.
Libertarians respect the rights of others to choose their own path — that’s what liberty is all about. If community service is such a good deal, we should have no trouble persuading people to do it voluntarily. If we can’t convince others that our way is best, maybe we should humbly consider the possibility that it isn’t!