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Terry Branstad
Terry Branstad
Governor of Iowa
Subject: It's a No Brainer

In a new article in the Huffington Post entitled, "National Service is a 'No Brainer'," Terry Branstad, the Governor of Iowa, waxes on about the glories inherent in service to the state. He begins:

It is no secret in Iowa that service and volunteerism are near and dear to my heart. Service was a core component of my first inaugural address in 1983 and, in my most recent inaugural address in 2011, I highlighted service as part of a new covenant between government and the people we serve.

As with most people who support national service, Branstad intermingles the terms volunteerism and service as though they were equivalent. This is no accident, and is done with a subtle but sinister purpose. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:

1: a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service

1: proceeding from the will or from one's own choice or consent
2: unconstrained by interference
5: having power of free choice

1a: the occupation or function of serving
1b: employment as a servant
2c: contribution to the welfare of others
4b: useful labor that does not produce a tangible commodity

While volunteerism is explicitly a matter of free individual choice in pursuit of something of value, the idea of service contains within it an implication of duty (servant) and altruism (the welfare of others). The purpose of weaving these two terms together is to undermine the the idea of personal value and choice and replace it with a sense of external duty. And in case there is any doubt that this is the goal, consider the following definition from the World English Dictionary:

the principle of donating time and energy for the benefit of other people in the community as a social responsibility rather than for any financial reward

Here, we see that the pursuit of the volunteer's own values have disappeared, being replace by "the benefit of other people," while "social responsibility" has been substituted for what was once a free and unconstrained choice. And what we are left with is volunteerism without any remnant of the voluntary. This process illustrates how language is intentionally undermined in order to change the very manner in which the uncritical person thinks.

Branstad certainly drives this point home when he informs us that there is a "new covenant between government and the people." A covenant is a binding agreement—one which he has unilaterally imposed upon the rest of us by fiat, without need of our consent.

But that is just the beginning. In reading through the remainder of Branstad's article, it becomes abundantly clear what the Governor means by voluntary.

Branstad speaks glowingly of numerous federal and state Service organizations including: AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service, the Volunteer Generation Fund, the new national FEMA Corps partnership and Reading Corps. But never does he consider what makes each of these groups possible? Every one of them is funded by taxpayer dollars—taxes taken from individuals under threat of force and then used for purposes which they may or may not support. You might think that there is nothing voluntary happening on the input side of this equation, but Branstad's covenant says otherwise.

And what about the people who directly participate in each of these organizations? Do the recruiters, trainers, schedulers, managers and administrators of this wide array of programs "volunteer" their time? Do the service providers working in these programs simply donate their efforts? Does Governor Branstad follow his own heart-felt advice and freely contribute his time and energy in service of the people of Iowa? Of course not. In most cases all of these people are being paid for their efforts. Again, you might argue that this isn't volunteering — this is what the rest of the world on the paying side of the "grand bargain" just happen to call a job. In the private sector, people might think of their job as an exchange of value-for-value with their employer, but there are few if any who would describe their working to earn a living as "volunteering". So how does it magically become so when administered by government? The answer is Newspeak.

Maybe, when thinking about volunteering, Mr. Branstad has his school system's Service Learning program in mind. In this sweet scheme, states get federal dollars in exchange for requiring school children to perform community service activities as a requirement for advancing from grade to grade, or graduating. Well, these kids are certainly not receiving a paycheck for their required work, and there's no escaping the requirement, seeing as school attendance is mandatory. So there is nothing ambiguous here. This is outright slavery—forced work without any form of compensation. But I guess if you are a person with a mind as "flexible" as Branstad's, you can reconcile your support for the 13th Amendment with your support for programs such as this by simply calling it volunteerism. Problem solved.

Governments were formed as protectors of individual rights, and were accorded a monopoly on the use of retaliatory force, constrained by codified law, in an attempt to insure that that use of that force was objective and just. Force is the only tool in the politician's box, and this is why the Constitution strictly limited the scope and powers of all forms of government. But today we are living in a post-Constitutional era where the reach of government is practically unconstrained. All of the service programs lauded by Branstad are actually wealth-transfer schemes, using force to extract earnings from one group of citizens and placing it in the pockets of another group. But beyond that, the real but unstated end-goal is the establishment of mandatory national service requirements for all American citizens, where everyone will be conscripted into years of service to the state.

To all freedom-loving people, I would argue that you not only avoid any form of government "service" programs, but that you work to actively oppose them at every opportunity. If so inclined, there are many opportunities to contribute time, money or effort to private organizations engaged in meaningful activities. But every contribution to these government programs provide not only resources, but a sanction for the further establishment of a system rapidly evolving into a master-slave relationship — and you, most certainly, are not going to be the master!

There is one point that Governor Branstad makes with which I do wholeheartedly agree. For him, service is a "no brainer." Well, he said it, not me.

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