reg rats
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
 
Rats! I'm missing the annual Latke-Hamentash debate moderated by the venerable Ted Cohen, professor extraordinaire of Logic (though the debate relies on nothing of the sort).
Monday, November 24, 2003
 
I'll pass on the following without comment. It's interviews with the journalists on the ground in Iraq conducted by the CBC. CBC News: Deadline Iraq - Uncensored Stories of the War
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
 
Josh Marshal hinted at and then linked to this article in the Washington Monthly. It essentially claims that popular liber-con e-mag, TechCentral Station is wholly owned and operated by a right wing lobbying firm specializing in "astroturf organizing" (creating the illusion of grassroots/broad based support for programs or policies). Moreover, Confessore suggests that content in TCS was manipulated to meet the needs and specifications of the clients of the lobbying firm. Dan Drezner, Chicago prof and occassional TCS contributor avers he has never been censored by TCS and has even written posts their contrary to the interests of the firm's clients.

While I rarely agree with Professor Drezner, the methods and values he brings to his analyses are laudable and I have nothing but the highest confidence in his integrity as an intellectual and as a scholar. On this question, I think he thoroughly misses the boat. It is of no consequence whether his stories on TCS were manipulated. It seems to actually strengthen Confessore's condemnation if they weren't. Sounds odd but stick with me. Were TCS an unabashed mouthpiece of its corporate backers, the ideas expressed there would not enjoy the regard that they do. By mixing corporate propaganda with legitimately conceived ideas, TCS obscures the gulf extant between the two. Were I among the writers whose work was used as a stalking horse for this malfeasance, I would surely not defend them. Instead, TCS and its backers deserve to be fully condemned by thinkers of all stripes for their efforts to manipulate the marketplace of ideas.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003
 
As promised below, the letter received this weekend from Carl. A few things to put the contents into context. First, Kelly and I are getting married. I meant to send out announcements (and still mean to) but am not good at such things, I always feel silly making them, so I put it off. Second, in my letter to him, I complained about a general lack of intellectual community at UNC and particularly that no students or colleagues challenged my often wrong-headed ideas.

With caveats behind, let us turn to the text. Parathetical remarks are his (I’ll indicate any additions/omissions/clarifiers with brackets). Forgive transcription errors.
begin text--
November 8th, 2003
Dear Clint;
I am writing my collective letter to my collective letter to my friends to you rather than Beth because I felt a congratulatory epistle concerning your impending nupitals [sic] was proper and fitting; besides which, I have yet to receive a copy or print of Botticelli’s Castello Annunciation from Beth to adorn my wall locker with. You wouldn’t believe how much a smattering of high culture improves life. The worst thing about Basic is there is a complete void where one would expect man to be playful and to strive towards the transcendant. Everything is mundane and stripped of any significance it has beyond its utility for killing or keeping you alive to kill. Church services are dreadful-maudlin hymns, insipid sermons and a treacly sickening cheerfulness oozes from every one of them. I would pay $75 ot listen to a Bach cantata in peace and quiet- $50 for a Buxtehude fugue, and $15 for a few hours in an armchair with Locke or Luther. Just to speak with someone who knows Faust is he who makes a deal with the devil (or better yet, recognizes the fellow from Augustine’s life) rather than the old deceiver himself would be worth a couple of brutal smokings.
Thank you for your postcard & letter. Concerning the universal obligation to perform military service-it’s all contingent upon the singular nature thereof and to wha extant one must support a government willing to betray the ideals of the society it is supposed to befit (a deliberately vague word), but which still embodies them well enough so that resistance would be neither prudent nor justified. Also, feel free to come up for graduation on Dec. 3rd. I’ll be free from 14:00 Dec. 3rd to 20:00 on Dec. 4th if you have the time, pecuniary resources, and the inclination to do so. You may ask my folks for futher information. It would be great if John and Beth could be snookered into coming down as well.
Marriage-whoa! Way to be, chief. It’s odd and a little droll to be informed of your troth-plight in the midst of so many crumbling marriages of kids. (The wives are realizing that if 9 weeks is bad, a 6 month drought would be unbearable.) I have a great many half-baked thoughts about marriage (among other things) that I’ll refrain from sharing now. Those sorts of thoughts only tend coagulate anyhow when the issue at hand becomes directly pertinant to my life.
I’m also pleased you’re enjoying the act of teaching and still take such delight in bad puns. It’s a shame the environment in which you find yourself ins’t more stimulating-sufficient to say, I have a sneaking suspician it has an edge on Basic. I hope to speak with you at some point about the relation of the social sciences to history. I expect that any differences we had in the past were mere logomachies and not over issues of substance. Folks here are not uniformly evangelical Bush backing Limbaugh fans (although many of them are), but, regardless of their political stripe, their views are invariably poorly thought out and ill-informed. Here too one peers into the minds of one’s fellow men and sees thought processes occuring only to satiate their avaricious, gluttonous, lustful, and slothful passions.

November 10th, 2003
It’s not that the other deadly sins are without their appeal, but anger, pride, and envy involve a certain spiritedness that is decidedly lacking (folks are exhausted). We just got back from a 10k road march (wearing 80lb rucks) after doing hand grenades all morning and afternoon. They are much more powerful than one may have been led to believe by the movies. People are tired and are bickering up a storm. We’ll be left alone for the rest of the evening, moreover, since tomorrow is Veterans Day we’ll just be raking leaves and mopping floors. Pretty dawggone pleasant. We need another Sunday after the cleaning we had to perform yesterday. Uffda!
I wish I could watch the Fire. It sounds as though they’re having a fairy tale season. I recall Bradley left-they must have found something of a diamond in the rough for his replacement.

November 11th, 2003
Armistice Day! Boots are shined, the wall locker’s squared away (inspection at 5p.m.), the bay is damn well near immaculate, and I’ve read enough of Kings I (or II, depending on yr. Preferred nomenclature.) We got our mop replaced by a blue phase (final) banner today- 22 days ‘til graduation. Tomorrow will be taken up issuing Class A (dress) uniforms, so that we won’t be doing real training ‘til Thursday.
There’s not really a lot to say about Basic Combat Training that I haven’t written about in this and other letters. Breakfast is the best meal-the chow is comparable to that of Woodward- a cut below Pierce, but still much better than the dross & slop purveyed in the typical high school cafeteria. We had to eat standing up (holding our trays) a few nights ago when some bonehead decided to hold his tray with one hand when serving himself at the salad bar (he was supposed to set it down.) It is less brutal than one may be led to believe from watching Full Metal Jacket, but just as course, nasty, and boring (and degrading-they love mocking the officer candidate.)
Kings I-IV is well worth reading. The ambiguities of power, nature of providence, and the problems of idolatry (the finite claiming infinite significance for itself) are probed and dealt with on a level far deeper than one one might suspect from a cursory reading. It helps to go with the KJV insofar as the archaic language is not only rolling and powerful, but forces one to slow down one’s pace. I recall Spengler correcting noting that truth is not properly ascribed to such works, but there are only different levels of depth. The previous sentence cries out for a serious expatiation in order to avoid becoming a mere wishy-washy platitude, but I’m going to eschew such an onerous labor at this time. Too many damned distractions.
I wish I knew more about graduate school-it really sounds as though you would be well served by transferring to a school with a more stimulating academic environment. While bright, you are certainly not so clever that your ideas should not be assaulted, or at least challenged. An echo chamber must become a mite tiresome. That said, your current life, especially seen from my current perspective (as do most aspects of civilian life) strikes me as both charming and pleasant. I presume you’re eating grits on a regular basis (I wish they’d serve me oatmeal instead, but this is Kentucky.)
I think that’s about it. Once again, my congratulations to both you & Kelly. Please tell everyone to refrain from sending mail after Thanksgiving, as mail typically takes four days to arrive and December 4th is the last day on which I will receive mail. Along those lines, please feel no obligation to maintain a fast & furious correspondence; write when and as much as you please.

Sincerely,
Carl Thunem

PS. Oompa, loompa, doompity doo,
I’ve got a little story for you,
You can suck a fat baby’s dick,
And lick its fat hairy lips. (Fontenot’s song-lyrics by DS Faust

P.P.S. Please forward my gratitude to Claire L. and John for their missives

--end text

Monday, November 17, 2003
 
REG RAT TO GALLIVANT AS CRES-CAT
Until Monday next week, I'll be posing as a Cres-cat. Please come visit me there.
 
Just got back from Chicago. I have less than no interest in teaching this afternoon. We spent $250 at the Co-op before we dragged each other out to avoid more damage.

The new gym is striking if wholly out of place.

I have a letter from Carl that I'll type up and post this evening.
Friday, November 14, 2003
 
ALUMNI INTERVIEWING
I, too have had the pleasure of making my mark on adolescents' odds of attending the U of C. The first thing I notice in their bright little eyes is shock and horror upon beholding my youthful appearance. I can see the thoughts forming in their skulls: "Where's the middle-aged coot? Is this a trick? Oh my God, my application is so bad that they sent someone my age to evaluate me! Damn! Someone so fresh from high school has to know that National Honor Society is a joke."

For me, the college interviewing process was wretched and awful: finding homes in parts of the city I'd never heard of, eating pancakes when all I wanted to do was vomit, and in one case, having the interviewer come to my home and talk to my parents. Part of my motivation to do U of C alumni interviewing (besides my utter devotion to my alma mater) was the awesome experience I had at the U of C interview (the only awesome experience in any of my twelve or so interviews). First, the interviewer suggested a location that he knew was familiar to me - the library across from my high school - no driving to obscure parts of the city or restaurants with smoking sections. And the interview itself was more of a conversation than an interrogation. Instead of asking me questions about my extracurricular activities and favorite classes and all the junk that admissions officers glean from applications, he started off by telling me about the U of C. He told me about the Seminary Co-op and the core and the architecture. It was pleasant, took the pressure off of me, and naturally evolved into a format in which he could extract relevant information from me.

As alumni interviewers, (the interviewees don't know this) we don't have any parts of their applications so we can't make qualified statements about their academic preparedness (unless we attended the same high school, as happened with one of my interviewees) but we can pick up obscure pieces of info about them: idiosyncracies that are characteristic of maroons. I knew one fellow would probably be a decent fit for the school when (on top of his stellar academic record) he mentioned that he liked to study in the cemetery. One of my favorite tricks is revealing the unofficial motto of the school (where fun comes to die) and assessing the interviewee's reaction. Who knows? Maybe our end of the process is incredibly capricious. That's why I use the report to mostly write what they say instead assessing it. I'll leave it to Ted O'Neill and the other professional student pickers to quantify and translate applicant idiosyncracies and statements made under duress into fitness for the U of C.
 
Kelly and I are headed to Chicago in a few hours and I'm so excited that I've given up on work for the afternoon (and on teaching coherently in an hour, sorry NC's future). We're (stand-by flight willing) going to a soccer game tonight with John and Clare, going to a wedding, seeing lots of Chicago people, spending time in Hyde Park for the first time since we moved 18 months or so ago.

Most exciting, we get to go to the Seminary Co-op! I know this makes me a giant dork but I've been salivating over this for weeks. I've even denied myself trips to the utterly inferior bookstores around here to conserve money and shelf space. Today is payday and this weekend we're going to blow it all on books (and probably booze and food and Fire paraphenalia).

Let me reaffirm that I love the world where I can teach from 3-4 at the University of North Carolina and catch a 7:30 kickoff at Soldier Field in Chicago. As many things as I take issue with, this is fantastic.


 
I also just filed an alumni interview report (2:30 am last night). I entirely agree with Claire's assessment below. My major qualm, though, is the lie they tell the poor kids about them. The students are explicitly told that the interview will not have an impact on their admission and that it is an opportunity for them to meet an alum and ask questions about the college. We then, on the basis of this chat, are encouraged to say whether or not they should get to attend the U of C. In both of my interviews, the first 1/2 hour was spent with them trying desperately to not give a "wrong" answer. The second half was spent with them telling the truth or something that resembled it more closely. Both of mine were primarily attracted to the U of C because of relatives who live in the city. Odd way to choose a college.


 
LEST YE BE JUDGED

On Wednesday I had the fascinating experience of conducting my first alumni interview--that mildly uncomfortable conversation inflicted by ivory towers upon their applicants. I never went through one of those for the U of C, but I did for other institutions. Having now sat on the other side and read the interview guidelines, I suspect it might be a good thing for me that I didn't.

The entire application process can be a biased, capricious thing, but it seems particularly troublesome to try to assess whether someone is a "good fit" for Chicago or not. (I am assuming here that the applicants are uniformly academically and intellectually qualified.) College is often as much a shaping process after the fact as a sorting process before, and I think many people, at the U of C and elsewhere, choose colleges a bit randomly, for a few good reasons and many bad ones. Once there, they figure out if the place works for them or not, and maybe they learn to love it, but I doubt my own ability to identify the people who will fall into that category.

And just to keep up with the folks at Crescat Sententia, here's a gratuitous Tom Lehrer quote:

We will sleep through all the lectures
And cheat on the exams
And will pass, and be forgotten with the rest.

Lehrer, of course, went to Harvard.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
 
INFLAMMATORY IMAGES
If you have any interest in gastroenterology, then you should check out the following websites. Given Imaging, an Israeli company, developed a disposable capsule that replaces many traditional, invasive forms of endoscopy. Basically, you swallow the capsule and images of your GI tract are conveyed remotely to your physician while you go about your daily activities. If you've ever had an endoscopy, you can appreciate the minimal invasiveness of this procedure as compared to traditional endoscopy - tube rammed down your GI tract (through one end or another) while under heavy sedation, being pumped full of air, barium enemas and other unpleasantries. I especially recommend the inflammatory bowel disease videos from this magical little capsule. There are some great ulceration pics to geek out over, especially the Crohn's disease videos. You might also be interested in some hemorrhoid images from a site devoted to this ubiquitous disease. Warning: these images are not for the vasovagal prone.
 
MATRIX OPERATIONS
I love the Matrix and linear algebra too much to think about Revolutions any longer. Therefore, I point to Mike Shecket's commentary on the movie and am done with it.
 
This is why I didn't go to law school.
 
ANOTHER PRICEY GIFT
If the FAO Schwarz camper didn't break your bank, perhaps you can buy your sweetie the Victoria's Secret Fantasy Bra and Panty. Yes, you're reading that price correctly. Before the decimal there's an eleven and six zeroes. Call me practical, but I can't imagine it to be very comfortable having compressed silica and carbon hugging all those sensitive areas. Do you think pricing varies with size?
Monday, November 10, 2003
 
In posts below, Beth and Claire (welcome by the way) both say the gender genie identifies them as male. There are only two appropriate conclusions
1. Beth and Claire are actually men
2. Beth and Claire plaguerised from men throughout college and into graduate school.

The internet is never wrong!
For what its worth, I'm identified as male on every paper I've tried. Even a short, supportive paper on feminist theory came back strongly masculine. Kelly is also a man.
Saturday, November 08, 2003
 
APOLOGY AND CLEANING REC
Ok. I know that my blogging hasn't been all that productive since my guest tenure at Crescat ended and I sincerely apologize to any high-brow Crescat readers I may have dragged here in hopes of reading intelligent posts from me. I can only tell you that soon my mental juices will be replenished and I hope that you don't abandon my blog altogether. (Perhaps my cobloggers will pick up my slack??)

In the mean time, following the lead of great bloggers evalutaing vacuums, I would like to make a recommendation about an excellent product that I recently purchased after my beloved schipperke vomited on multiple areas of the carpet. After weighing the benefits of renting vs. buying, I decided to shell out $259 to buy the Hoover Steamvac to assuage my hypersensitive sense of hygiene. Folks, if you have it in for dirt and you have carpet, it's worth your while to own one. First, I'm satisfied that it thoroughly cleaned the offensive areas. But perhaps more importantly, from a clean-appearing, low-traffic 6 ft. by 4 ft. area of carpet, the gallon of water/detergent post-steam was black. Black and incredibly filthy. So black and filthy that I'm tempted to think that there is some component of the detergent that turns the water black to allow suckers like me to visualize results. Could Hoover do that? Hmm. Maybe my new toy will just give me a complex about how dirty my apartment is but I have to admit, I get a rush seeing how disgusting the water looks after I steam. The filthier, the better.
Friday, November 07, 2003
 
Thanks much to Beth, for the welcome and for the generous invitation to join the blog world. I'm not sure if I will be at all regular as a blogger, but I'm entranced at the idea of a little soapbox of one's own. My favorite compliment I have ever received (with the possible exception of "you smell like an old saxophone") is "you're the coolest opinionated person I know." As such, why not take the opportunity to shout out those opinions into an unknown pool of readers?

This was all inspired by my response to Beth's comments on the Gender Genie, which takes pieces of writing and attempts to identify the gender of the writer via a clever algorithm. Like Beth, I write like a boy. I gave the "gender genie" nineteen samples of my writing--fifteen essays on assorted topics, most of them from college, and the four essays I've just written for my application for graduate funding from the National Science Foundation. Of these, two came up female. Those two were my "how you will enhance education and diversity in science" essay for NSF, and a final paper I wrote for a Biogeography course in college. Unlike Beth, I wrote many pieces in college on gender issues, and those were all (supposedly) male-authored.

My interpretation is that all of this has much more to do with genre than with gender. The algorithm simply counts frequency of use of a number of words, and from these assigns a "maleness" and a "femaleness" score. But in the original article that generated the algorithm (you can get to it from the gender genie site; I haven't totally figured out linking yet), the authors note that words characteristic of women's writing are also found more frequently in fiction, and words characteristic of men's writing are found more frequently in nonfiction. Many many different kinds of writing--memoirs, journalism, scientific articles--fall under the heading "nonfiction," and it is fairly obvious that these will all have different typical uses of language. I am therefore skeptical as to how much of the algorithm's success can be attributed to differences in language use by men and women, and how much to differences in the types of writing typically done by men and women.
 
WHICH EL LINE ARE YOU?
In the spirit of self-exploration, Will Baude points to this quiz. Apparently, I hold true to my south side roots.

green line
You are the green line. You dwell in the ghetto,
and damn, you're proud of it. The streets of
your kingdom may not be paved with gold, but at
least you have a place where you know you rule.
Just don't go cruising too late at night
without a shotgun.


Which Chicago 'El' line are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

 
NEW REG RAT
I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce a new reg rat, Claire Lunch, biology PhD student at Stanford and math/stat/bio alumnae of the U of C. Just to round up, though we pontificate on much more, disciplines now represented are biology, math, statistics, law, sociology, medicine, and public health.
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
 
HOW INFORMED IS MY CONSENT?
A reality TV show in which unknowing heterosexual men become intimate with a pre-operative transsexual (who I might add is quite stunning) has been stirring up a lot of talk by Will Baude at Crescat Sententia and by the Curmudgeonly Clerk. While the legality of the issue at hand is beyond my knowledge, I, like Will, find disclosure-as-part-of-informed-consent daunting. How much information does a person need to disclose before participation in behavior with that person is consensual? Common sense tells me that people need to take responsibility for themselves when entering into "risky" behavior and that others shouldn't be misleading. But how much required disclosure is enough, and how much is too much?

Disclosure laws for HIV and other communicable diseases seem to be the easy case (as opposed to Will's other examples of bad breath, sexual ineptitude, etc.) because HIV is deadly and not obvious for potential partners to detect. Mandatory HIV disclosure laws are a useful tool of public health, but they make me very uneasy, and not because of the privacy/ personal freedom consequences to the infected. Rather, I take exception with mandatory disclosure laws because they undermine a person's responsibility to be accountable to himself. I've been talking a lot about liberty lately and how I believe that every man has a right to act as he sees fit without infringing upon others' basic rights. But crucial to that concept is that it is the responsibility of each man to be accountable for his actions. Yes, we should not be hindered from choosing our occupation or books or sexual partners and we should be free to reap the benefits of our labor and our decisions. But freedom means that we reap all the consequences of our actions, including the liability.

I believe wholeheartedly that anyone with a communicable disease (and knowledge of that disease) should inform his partners of their risk. But it isn't right, in all cases, to legally compel him to do so. Though I don't think that a person should be legally compelled to say "I have HIV" before getting intimate, I do think that the person is required to tell the truth if asked by his partner, or to inform his partner of newly detected infection if the partner asked at a prior time, or to inform a spouse of an infection acquired from a breach of contract (or other means). Misleading is fraud and should be punished. But a person's consent should not be considered uninformed if he doesn't ask and proceeds anyway.
Sunday, November 02, 2003
 
GENDER GENIE
Crooked Timber points to this algorithm that professes to guess your gender based on a writing sample. According to the genie's analysis of 25 of my writing samples for classes (yes, she has nothing better to do on any given Saturday night --ed.), I'm a boy! Only one of my samples tested female positive, and it was a (required) paper on Aristophanes' Assemblywomen in which I had to include a lot of words like "sexual," "equality,", and "women." If you couldn't tell, I'm not a big gender studies fan and will go to great lengths to avoid anything that stinks of psychology. I'm interested if there are quality differences between male and female program-designated texts of similar subjects. My guess is that scientific and philosophical texts the algorithm designates as male receive higher grades than those designated female and that "female" texts in fuzzy topics like gender and culture studies score better than corresponding "male" texts. Anyone have a large enough sample to try?
Saturday, November 01, 2003
 
DUTY TO SERVE
This week I heard from my friend and fellow U of C alumnus, Spc. Carl Thunem from boot camp in Fort Knox, Kentucky. As Carl is not exactly what I envision as the typical army private, I asked him to share his motivations behind joining the army. Spc. Thunem was nice enough to give me permission to publish his thoughts. Here’s the excerpt from his letter dealing with the reasons for his military service:

Service in the military is categorically different from every other occupation sanctioned by state and society; moreover, it is necessary for the survival of both. I am not well-suited to professional soldiering (just ask my drill sergeants), but am convinced of the moral necessity of my service. In a society professing its allegiance to the ideal of democracy, all persons should be accorded dignity based, not on their talents, but on their moral use thereof. Since all persons possess equal potential dignity (since they are all capable of moral action), they all participate in the culture and are stakeholders in society. They have thereby incurred the duty and the privilege of serving it in various and sundry roles. I believe I will best to that as a lawyer. That said, the fact that military service is unique and necessary in a manner that no other service is makes it universally obligatory, lest it fall alone on those for whom it is financially attractive. If the elites fail to serve, they will have eschewed their responsibility and undermined the society which has so richly rewarded them by betraying its ideals. Period. To reserve military service for the lower middle class (as we effectively do through our financial incentive programs) is to claim that my lifeblood is worth more than theirs. This is something an 18th century English aristocrat might do with ease (and quite properly as the peasants could not achieve full humanity [which mutually implies] society did not accord it to them), but I cannot. (It can work in reverse too – Sparta). Besides which, societies in which the elites fail to serve in the military (late Rome, Abbasid caliphate, Heian Japan) have a mighty poor track record. America will not be well-served in the long term by a professional military.


At one time I was inclined to agree with Carl on the value of an obligatory citizen army to a democracy. We all benefit from our democracy because it accords all of us equal chances, so each individual is unencumbered by law from pursuing what matters to him. There aren’t laws preventing me from becoming a physician because I’m female, or the daughter of non-physicians, or because I live in a town that already has a thousand physicians. Because my form of government affords me equality of opportunity and doesn’t put artificial limitations on the fulfillment of my potential, don’t I owe it something? Don’t I, as well as everyone else who enjoys these benefits, have the duty to protect this system, to ensure that its ideals aren’t destroyed by a malicious outside entity?

As wonderful as our democracy and its resulting freedoms are, and as noble as I think it is to pledge one’s life to protecting them, I think that it is a dangerous mistake to believe that it is our society or government that gives us the opportunities and freedoms we cherish, that our freedoms must be bestowed upon us by a government or even our fellow men, in essence, that the freedoms we cherish are rightfully subject to taking by others. This isn’t to say that freedoms aren’t taken by others: I could point to any one of a number of governments whose citizens are prohibited from the most basic of freedoms. And it would be very difficult (to say the least) for a person to enjoy the kind of liberty we do without government cooperation. But does that mean that our government gives us our liberty? Our form of government is great because it (in general) respects our individual choices and liberty. But that liberty is rightfully every man’s, regardless of government and therefore, it’s a travesty to believe that we owe our government or society for respecting it.

To talk of the moral necessity of all who enjoy it to protect their freedom is to undermine it, to degrade its value and basic nature to man. Yes, it is true that the kind of society we have does not arise and isn’t maintained without conflict but I am not saying that we do not need an armed force: I am saying that it is not a government or society’s place to conscript an armed force.

Spc. Thunem states that he is compelled to serve because if the elites do not, then the burden falls on those with lower socioeconomic status. Volokh Conspirator Jacob Levy blogged on this issue some time ago. Here’s what he had to say:

But another name for "conscription" is "compelling young men [and, in Israel, women] to accept below-market-clearing wages for military service." If we needed to increase the number of men and women under arms by a quarter-million, there'd two ways to do it. One would be to raise military wages and salaries, and keep raising them, until enough fit candidates were willing to enlist, accepting the opportunity cost of years of prime educational or career time as well as the cost of risk to life and limb. This would require everyone (well, all taxpayers and future taxpayers) to bear the cost of this big new army. It would also, presumably, reduce the much-hyped racial and class inequalities in who enlists, since the financial opportunity cost of three years of one's life is higher the higher one's earning potential.

The other would be to say to the young men [and, maybe, women] who will bear the risk to life and limb that they must also bear the financial burden, by compelling them to serve at a suppressed wage. It's more-or-less unavoidable that the primary life and limb risks involved in national defense will be borne by healthy men and women who happen to be young adults at the time a war happens to strike. It's not unavoidable that the older, the less fit, and the younger and the future generations that will presumably benefit from increased security be spared the expense of equipping an army, that those bearing the greatest risks also be forced to bear the financial cost. Conscription seems to me a deeply unfair concentration of burdens and sacrifices, just the reverse of what's claimed for it.


Even if the elites were not able to find a way out of conscription, the burden of serving would still be greatest to the poor because if service is required, wages need not be competitive. If we truly value our freedom, then the way to protect it is not to compel service, but to pay what the market demands to those willing to risk their lives to protect it.

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