Bring back mandatory civilian service: a tool against wealth inequality
In the previous three parts of this series, I have reflected on how wealth inequality can be seen, and how it is reproduced in the Netherlands, all in relation to politics, the media, the tax system, and the educational system. To completely eradicate the problem, the preliminary change must come from a shift in attitude in our society. I argue that this shift can be created through the introduction of a mandatory civilian service.
One of the dangers of a society with high wealth inequality is that there is a large presence of economic divide in society.
Take for instance the educational system, where there has been an increasing rise in attendance of private schools, starting at kindergarten all the way until high school or even higher education. The children from wealthy families will grow up always surrounded by a wealthy bubble at school and with the community the children create. This disconnect from the average Dutch person and the Dutch society can have negative effects on the feelings of solidarity. To improve the conditions of our society, we need the involvement of all citizens. Whilst – in my articles for BAISmag – I have argued for a revamp of the tax system, for real, fundamental change, it has to come from the society, an increased sense of solidarity, and I believe a mandatory civilian service is one way to start change, and to prepare the next generations to take care of eachother.
In the Netherlands, conscription was first introduced all the way back in 1810 by Napoleon, and was abolished on the first of May 1997. Whilst there still is compulsory enlistment, compulsory attendance was eliminated. Now it is time to re-introduce the mandatory service, but with some changes. The mandatory civilian service. I propose that all Dutch citizens between the ages of 18 to 25, will have to enlist in the mandatory civilian service for nine months. However, they will be given a choice for not just the army, but also social service. In a social service, Dutch citizens will have to work in fields that support the Dtuch community, for instance health care, elderly homes, or any organisation that does good for society. During the mandatory civilian service, all enlisting people – regardless of socio-economic status – will be put in the same boat for nine months. No matter your background, everyone now is in the same position and will have to work together and do good for society.
The mandatory civilian service will have two main positive effects. First, as the war in Ukraine has shown us, it is important to be able to have infrastructure to protect and support your own country, and the presence of a stronger and larger army and civilian service will help serve as a safety net. Furthermore, this service has to address labour shortages in the social service industry. The second, and for this article’s more important benefit, is the development of the youth. Doing good for society for nine months, being grounded in and surrounded by a ‘real’ display of society, will be greatly beneficial for the development of a sense of society and solidarity. A new generation that realises the necessity of fighting wealth inequality, a new generation that is not shy to advocate for higher income tax or inheritance tax, despite the fact that it might financially negatively benefit them. A mandatory civil service will help build a society that cares for each other.
by Joost Kamp
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