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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why National Service is a good idea which will never happen

The other day Mark Ellen and I were mulling over the benefits of bringing back National Service with the carefree air of codgers who will never be called upon to do it. As the registered owners of offspring who are in or have recently passed through the age group in question we know there's something to be said for it, and since since no government is ever going to have the nerve to bring National Service back it seems safe to rehearse some of the arguments.
  • There are 770,000 British people between 19 and 24 who are not in work, education or training. Barring the sudden revival of the country's manufacturing base or the return to sense of the professional bodies who've made a degree a basic requirement to entry to their ranks, that's not going to change. It's going to get worse.
  • The habit of work is the most important life skill you can acquire. Young people who've spent years watching daytime TV are going to find it impossible to pick up the reins of a productive life.
  • Take John Peel. He was a classic case of a young man who hadn't a clue what he was going to do with his life and National Service threw him in with a whole load of types he would not otherwise have met, sent him overseas, no doubt put him to work doing some mind-numbing tasks, taught him to rub along with other people and probably did him more good than daytime TV would have done.
  • If you talk to anyone of any distinction in their seventies and ask them how they ended up doing what they did, they will frequently say "it was National Service".
  • If we had a conscript army there is no chance of a government of any stripe getting involved in overseas adventures like Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya. It would simply not be worth the political risk.
  • It's bound to result in less pallid indie bands.