Mandatory National Service Bibliography

Intro Essay | Vocabulary List


Love of Country: US Ready for National Service? (2020). This is a really good, easy to read overview that includes a history as well as some pros and cons of national service.

Pete Buttigieg wants a national service program. Could it heal a divided country? (2019). So is this article — a good, brief read with the pros and cons, with a special focus on the pros and cons of it being mandatory.

Will America embrace national service? (2019). This paper examines the case for national service, highlights the various ways in which that service could unfold, and concludes that large-scale national service is needed in America now. Note: It does conclude that mandatory national service is politically infeasible and that the government should finance paid opportunities for service.

Breaking Down the Pros and Cons of Mandatory National Service (2023). This is a very short article, but it does say the army missed the 2022 recruiting goal by 25%.

Military Conscription and Its Role in Shaping a Nation (2022). This is an undergraduate research paper and the publisher encourages you not to cite it but points out that it is useful for building understanding. With that in mind, the link is included here but we did not cut any cards from it for the release.

Military Service and Democracy: From World War II to Iraq and (2020 Book). “When I became secretary of defense,” Ashton B. Carter said when announcing that the Pentagon would open all combat jobs to women, “I made a commitment to building America’s force of the future. In the twenty-first century, that requires drawing strength from the broadest possible pool of talent.” That “pool of talent”—and how our nation’s civilian and military leaders have tried to fill it—is what Military Service and American Democracy is all about. William Taylor chronicles and analyzes the long and ever-changing history of that often contentious and controversial effort, from the initiation of America’s first peacetime draft just before our entry into World War II up to present-day conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. A history that runs from the selective service era of 1940–1973 through the era of the All-Volunteer Force of 1973 to the present, his book details the many personnel policies that have shaped, controlled, and defined American military service over the last eight decades. Exploring the individual and group identities excluded from official personnel policy over time—African Americans, women, and gays among others—Taylor shows how military service has been an arena of contested citizenship, one in which American values have been tested, questioned, and ultimately redefined. Yet, we see how this process has resulted in greater inclusiveness and expanded opportunities in military service while encouraging and shaping similar changes in broader society. In the distinction between compulsory and voluntary military service, Taylor also examines the dichotomy between national security and individual liberty—two competing ideals that have existed in constant tension throughout the history of American democracy.


Mandatory Service Would Create a More Equal Society (2020). This is a short article that makes the basic point that mandatory national service would support societal healing.

The need for a mandatory national service program (2021). This article argues that everyone should have to do service but individuals should be able to opt out of military service and choose another form of service if they wish.

The Case for Mandatory Service (2020). This article argues mandatory service would boost civic engagement and national unity. Like the previous article, it argues military service should be optional.

The Case for Universal Military or Civilian Service in America (2022). This article agues all Americans should have to serve in a service program and that it will help repair the fraying social fabric.

It’s Time for a National Service. (2021). This article argues that national service will unite the country and reduce teen depression.

Time to Consider Mandator National Service to Fix Our Broken Country (2021). The article argues in favor of mandatory national service, including that military service should be required.

No One wants a Draft to Fight Iran, but National Service Could Be a Good Thing (2020). This article argues the voluntary system unfairly puts the burden on racial minorities, especially Black people and Hispanics and that we need a draft to restore social cohesion.

The Case for Mandatory National Service (2022). This article argues that service should be mandatory but that people should be able to choose among service opportunities and not have to go into the military.

Compulsory Military Service as a Social Integrator (2020). This study based on mandatory service in Israel argues that military services facilitates tolerance and integration.

Why We Need a Mandatory Year of Service (2021). This argues compulsory service builds community.

Mandatory National Service: How to Fix Polarization (2019). This argues a voluntary program won’t solve the need for national service.

US Democracy Needs a Mandatory National Service Program (2019). This argues the program must be mandatory.

In Defense of a Mandatory National Service Requirement (2020). This paper defends mandatory national service as a response to democratic decay. Because democracy cannot be maintained by laws and incentives alone, citizens must care about the quality and attitudes of their society’s members. In an age of increasing segregation and conflict on the basis of class and race, national service can bring citizens from different walks of life together to interact cooperatively on social problems. It offers a form of ‘forced solidarity’. The final sections of the paper consider objections to this proposal.  The article does require you to purchase it.

Conscription should be mandatory for everyone (2022). This argues that service in the military supports a life of professionalism.

Compulsory Service Could Unite America (2021). This article argues that mandatory service is needed to promote national unity.

The Progressive Case for Military Service (2006).  This article argues that leaving it optional reinforces classism and racism.

The Deepest Obligation of Citizenship: Looking Beyond the Warrior Class (2018). This article contends that we need mandatory military service to constrain unnecessary wars; plan for potential great power war; and  fulfill obligations as citizens.

Rangel: Reinstate the draft (2015). The title of the article is self-explanatory but not very useful.

Affirmative — Military

Can the military solve its recruiting crisis? This article doesn’t discuss national service but does argue the military faces a recruiting crisis.

Affirmative — Social Division

‘Idiots,’ ‘criminals’ and ‘scum’ – nasty politics highest in US since the Civil War (2023).  This article isn’t specific to service, but it highlights the division issues many affirmative debaters will argue mandatory national service reduces.


What are the effects of mandatory military conscription on crime and the labour market? (2016). The findings show that military service increases the likelihood of future crimes, mostly among males from disadvantaged backgrounds and with a previous criminal history. The only positive effect of conscription for this group is the decrease in disability benefits and the number of sick days.

Apodaca: Compulsory national service is a long shot, but let’s talk about the idea (2020). The article is generally supportive of national service but highlights problems with making it mandatory.

The false promise of national service (2022). This makes the basic argument that mandatory service is authoritarian and impractical.

Why Military Service Should Not Be an Obligation of Citizeship (2018). This article argues that forcing people to join the military will hurt the military. It also answers the common arguments as to why it will help the military

Young Americans should be required to give a year of national service (2021).  This article argues in favour of national services but says it should not be mandatory.

Mandatory National Service is a Morally Bankrupt Idea (2021). This article argues national service is slavery.

Mandatory National Service: A Bad Idea that Won’t Die (2021). This article argues national service is slavery and answers common arguments in favor of it.

The Case Against Universal National Service (2013). This article answers the common arguments in favor of mandatory national service.

A Dysutopian Version of a Free Society (2019). This thoroughly answers all the common arguments in favor of mandatory national service.

Conscription hurts: The effects of military service on physical health, drinking, and smoking (2023). Studying Korea, this article argues that those who are conscripted into the military are more likely to drink and smoke, as well as suffer long-term negative health consequences.

The Opportunity Costs of Mandatory Military Service: Evidence from a Draft Lottery (2020). Conscription forces young men to serve in the military, irrespective of their opportunity costs. Using random assignment in the Danish draft lottery, we find a negative average effect of peacetime military service on earnings, an effect varying by ability, with high-ability men facing a $23,000 lifetime earnings penalty but with low-ability men facing none. This gradient is robust to different measures of labor market prospects. Educational disruption is an important mechanism, while service has little effect on health or criminal activity. The opportunity costs of conscription are borne by men with the best labor market prospects.

The long-term effects of military conscription on educational attainment and wages (2021). This study investigates the long-term effects of peace-time military conscription on educational attainment and earnings by exploiting a policy change that exempted a complete birth cohort from military service. We find that compulsory military service decreases the proportion of Dutch university graduates by 1.5 percentage points from a baseline of 12.3 per cent. In addition, being a conscript reduces the probability of obtaining a university degree by almost four percentage points. The effect of military service on earnings is also negative and long-lasting. Approximately 18 years after military service, we still find a negative effect of 3 to 4 per cent. The effect of conscription on educational attainment does not fully explain the wage reduction.

Why a Former Secretary of Defense Says We Don’t Need a Draft or Mandatory Public Service  (20210). The title is self-expanatory.

Mandatory Service Won’t Restore American Unity (2022). This paper defends mandatory national service as a response to democratic decay. Because democracy cannot be maintained by laws and incentives alone, citizens must care about the quality and attitudes of their society’s members. In an age of increasing segregation and conflict on the basis of class and race, national service can bring citizens from different walks of life together to interact cooperatively on social problems. It offers a form of ‘forced solidarity’. The final sections of the paper consider objections to this proposal.