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Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Self-Ownership: A Philosophical Argument for the End of Selective Service

At the age of 18, almost every male in the United States must formally register with Selective Service. This “civil obligation” yields significant legal penalty if ignored. Selective Service is the government program that facilitates military conscription, or in layman’s terms, a draft.

The draft, which has been dormant since 1973, should never be revived. It is a flagrant violation of natural rights. This is not merely my opinion, but an opinion derived from the ideas of many of history’s brightest minds.

All human beings are entitled to natural rights. These are the basic human rights granted to all people simply by the fact that they are human. These rights were first theorized by 17th century English philosopher John Locke, whose ideas were then applied to the United States by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence.

These rights might sound familiar to you. They definitely should. Jefferson’s natural rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Running parallel to the natural rights doctrine is the concept of natural law. According to the ancient Greek intellectual Aristotle, natural law is law that leads man to his natural end. In essence, laws that unnecessarily interrupt or jeopardize a person’s life are not natural.

The Roman politician Cicero furthered Aristotle’s theory by contending that moral obligation supersedes legal ramifications. As such, unnatural laws should not be followed.


Selective Service is a program that impresses men into military service against their will. This is a textbook violation of liberty, and puts the men in question into possibly life-threatening circumstances. This violates two of Jefferson’s three natural rights, while also ignoring the guidelines set forth by Aristotle and Cicero.

The argument that exists in favor of the draft argues that military service is a social obligation. In short, we “owe it” to our government. This is a clear misunderstanding of the purpose of government.

As defined by Locke in his social contract theory, and paraphrased by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, government’s primary purpose is to protect man’s natural rights. Anything that jeopardizes them is contrary to the purpose of government.

Today I invite you to concur with these geniuses of history and stand opposed to the existence of a military draft. Write your senators, and ask them to consult history when dealing with this issue.

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