Shouldering the Burden: Shedding America's Failed Welfare State through National Service


Ben Dalgetty

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Forty-eight years after President Kennedy challenged the nation to act for the greater good, looking beyond individual needs, an unprecedented opportunity to institute a universal service program might finally fulfill this vision. Since William James first proposed going to war against nature in 1910, America has experimented with service programs from FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps to Kennedy's Peace Corps and President Clinton's Americorps program as well as hundreds of state and local programs. These programs, as well as those in place across the globe serve as excellent case studies of what does and doesn't work. Given the continued staggering of the economy, and President Obama's background in community service, it is necessary to reexamine the possible benefits and costs of a national service program. There are valid reasons national service programs have never been universal before, but the outline of a program used in this research approaches these concerns with a minimizing harm approach, fully aware of the unwieldy weight of federal legislation and bureaucracy. The proposal focuses on maximizing benefits to the community, not the individual, working in conservation, education, health-care, child-care and other industries, a much needed supplement to the level of service the government can provide those in need. The difficulty of legislating a national service requirement is readily apparent, but the benefits outlined in this paper make readily apparent the need to, at the very least, substantially increase federal funding to service programs across the board.


Regina Freer




Anderson Fund Grant

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