So why not make it mandatory?
“Well, for one thing, it’s probably unconstitutional,” Delaney concedes. And most legal scholars agree. “It is an idea that undermines one of the fundamental principles of a free society: that people own themselves and their labor,” said George Mason Law School professor Ilya Somin at a panel on mandatory national service organized by the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service last year.
“We are not the property of the government, of a majority of the population, or of some employer. Mandatory national service is a frontal attack on that principle because it is a form of forced labor—literally so,” Somin said.
Then there’s the cost. The current AmeriCorps program has 75,000 members and costs $425 million. About 3.5 million people graduate from high school each year, and another million or so drop out. Using these numbers, expanding AmeriCorps to a national program would cost about $25 billion per year. Not to mention the impact on the economy of pulling millions out of the workforce, particularly at a time like today when employers are struggling to find workers to fill available jobs.