National Service Program

Last week David Brooks had this to say: “We need a National Service Program. We need a program that would force members of the upper tribe [class] and the lower tribe to live together, if only for a few years. We need a program in which people from both tribes work together to spread out the values, practices and institutions that lead to achievement.” I like this idea–a lot. ‘Tis unfortunate that the political winds keep asinine ideas on the table and exclude useful ones.


2 thoughts on “National Service Program

  1. Ummm, “Force” them to live together? Sorry, but that is kind of dumb. Rich people would rather die, and poor people would rather puke. If economics taught me anything, all you have to do is provide incentive. Forcing your kids to do everything you say doesn’t usually contribute to a loving atmosphere, but if you give them some sort of incentive then they can have a goal to work towards, and hopefully learn something during the process. I think it worked for my childhood. Scott Adams of Dilbert has a funny article that kind of portrays how I think we could use incentives better:

    Just a thought: The Church does a decent job of mixing “tribes” if you will by using ward boundaries that are supposed to be divided according to the Spirit. In Manhattan for instance, we had millionaires sitting next to government welfare recipients at church. One Bishop of an english ward in Harlem lived in the projects, and many of his congregation were extremely wealthy wall street folk. I am sure they teach each other a lot. Just remember: “Know this, that ev’ry soul is free To choose his life and what he’ll be;
    For this eternal truth is giv’n: That God will force no man to heav’n.” -pg. 240 hymnbook

    1. I really like the idea of a mandatory service program for kids right as they get out of HS. I like what Teach for America does, or the Peace Corps, or the LDS Church for that matter with the missionary program. There should be a lot more of these institutions, precisely because the Church and other institutions like it do a great job of mixing the groups. Military service should be put on the table, but should not be the only option.

      The problem with Scott Adams and what I like to call the “WSJ school of thought” is that it fails to recognize that America’s problems aren’t merely financial. Societies are enormously, mind-blowingly complex. Perhaps a by-product of capitalist mode of thought is to take all of these complexities—culture, religion, education, wealth, race, etc.—and put them all under the heading “economics”. But America isn’t going to change morally or socially without moral or social institutions. David Brooks had another relevant article this week:

      “The list of factors that contribute to poverty could go on and on, and the interactions between them are infinite. Therefore, there is no single magic lever to pull to significantly reduce poverty. The only thing to do is change the whole ecosystem.

      If poverty is a complex system of negative feedback loops, then you have to create an equally complex and diverse set of positive feedback loops. You have to flood the zone with as many good programs as you can find and fund and hope that somehow they will interact and reinforce each other community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood.”

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