Guests debate universal service requirement

Samantha Sigler

Visitors to Linfield College debated both for and against compulsory universal service May 6 in Riley Hall 201.

The debaters were asked to answer whether it should be allowed to require all 18-year-old citizens to commit to compulsory 18 to 24-month service in either military or civilian service. The two debaters were asked to focus specifically on the version created by the Clinton administration.

Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute, argued for having a program that was not compulsory but would instead allow young people to engage in active citizenship.

In contrast, Tom Palmer, senior fellow at the Cato Institute and director at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, argued that young people should be free to choose whether they participate in service.

“It was a spirited debate,” said Nick Buccola, assistant professor of political science. “It was well attended [and] a successful event.”

Palmer and Marshall discussed the pros and cons of having compulsory universal service, which Buccola said made people feel a little bit pulled in both directions.

“I think that the liberty aspect of it is very powerful,” Buccola said. “I thought it was a really interesting contrast for people to see.”

Often times, debates over issues such as universal service do not fall into ideological categories. Typically the essential contested concepts involve liberty, patriotism, obligation and the common good, Buccola said.

“I am still in the process of educating myself on the issue, Buccola said in an email.

“I can identify some persuasive arguments on both sides. I hope students come away with a deeper appreciation of the arguments on both sides of this debate. Although I think a system of universal service is unlikely to be adopted any time soon, there will continue to be serious discussions about more modest versions of this proposal.”

Samantha Sigler

News editor

Samantha Sigler can be reached at
[email protected].