Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Essay: William James. "The Moral Equivalent of War." 1910.

10-second review: William James suggests that the "moral equivalent of war" would be universal service for young people in the country's behalf. Young people would be "drafted" to be trained to work in mines, on highways, etc. Thus the military virtues--the conceptions of order and discipline, the tradition of service and devotion, of physical fitness, unstinted exertion, and universal responsibility, which universal military duty is now teaching--would be preserved without war.

Quote: “To coal and iron mines, to freight trains, to fishing fleets in December, to dish-washing, clothes washing, and window washing, to road building and tunnel-making, to foundries and stake-holders, and to the frames of skyscrapers, would our gilded youths be drafted off, according to their choice, to get the childishness knocked out of them, and to come back into society with healthier sympathies and soberer ideas.” p. 54.

Comment: I wonder if the ideas in this essay influenced John F. Kennedy when he suggested the Peace Corps. Harry S. Truman suggested universal service after WWII. Couldn't get it through Congress. RayS.

Best American Essays of the Century. Editors: Oates and Atwan. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. 2000.

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