The rights, responsibilities of citizenship

Now that Memorial Day commemorations are over, the time may be right to reflect on the meaning of patriotism and the responsibilities of citizenship.

The alienation of citizens, especially youths, is often lamented and blamed on everything from excessive use of social media to lack of prayer in schools. I contend the main reason apathy and cynicism are rampant is the lack of “skin in the game.” How can people be committed if they have such a small stake in this country? Three illustrations:

» Free higher education. The state does have a stake in higher education, because it certainly benefits from an educated citizenry. To that extent, the taxpayers should subsidize education. Courses of study, e.g. medicine, that benefit society as a whole should be subsidized more heavily than those that indulge students’ fancies. Thus, students who want to study 18th century Jamaican poetry should do so, but pay for it. The larger point is that we don’t value what we don’t pay for, and so all students and their families should have “skin in the game” by contributing financially to their own education.

» Taxation. Everyone who enjoys the benefits of living in the United States should pay for those blessings of liberty. This includes very low-income earners, who could pay a very small percentage of even a paltry income, but should have “skin in the game.” At the other extreme, no one should be so rich that they pay no taxes at all — they, too, need to contribute to the society which gave them so much and should pay some non-trivial percentage of their income in taxes, regardless of how many deductions or business “paper losses” they claim.

» War. All citizens have a stake in protecting the country, although the burden does fall on young people. The draft provided at least the potential that all young people could be called upon to serve in the military and thus required a commitment to serve, if called.

The draft had a side benefit of unifying the country by promoting diversity by mixing young people from different races, ethnicities, religions, income levels and geographic regions much better than artificially created diversity programs do.

Those objecting to military service should be offered the opportunity to serve by assisting their communities. Given the humanitarian crisis at our Southern border, why couldn’t a youth corps of all political persuasions be sent to help the children, elderly and immigrant families housed in detention facilities? This would have the additional advantage of freeing up military personnel to train for war, rather than police and social welfare missions.

V. E. Flango

Williamsburg

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