Big Brother Wants Your Son

Wendy McElroy
Jun. 27, 2014

California Assembly Bill 2201 is indicative of a quiet but growing trend. The US is not only militarizing its police departments to handle a “national emergency” but it is also making certain it can conscript the civilian population at will.

AB 2201 is entitled “Selective Service and Drivers License for Vehicles.” Almost every male between 18 and 26 years old who applies for a driver's license or for a renewal at the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) would be automatically registered with the federal Selective Service System (SSS).

If the applicant is 16 years old, then his information would be automatically forwarded to the Selective Service upon his 18th birthday. Females are excluded.

Registering with the SSS is mandated by the federal Military Selective Service Act, and it includes all documented or undocumented male immigrants. Names of 'eligible' males are collected and maintained by the SSS in order to facilitate a military draft or a civil conscription in times of “national emergency.”

The SSS stated its mission in a 2005 Annual Report to the Congress of the United States which seemed to clearly mix military and civilian conscription. The agency claimed to serve “the emergency manpower needs of the military by conscripting untrained manpower, or personnel with professional health care skills, if directed by Congress and the President in a national crisis." Civil conscription refers to using draftees to address domestic problems such as a natural disaster or civil unrest. Compelling civilians to fill the domestic needs of the state during peacetime may sound alien to Western ears but it has deep roots in European feudal tradition. To make it work, however, compliance must be high.

100% Compliance Necessary for a Draft to be 'Fair'

An effective strategy to hike the registration rate is to link it to the 'privilege' of possessing a driver's license. Being able to drive is an employment and lifestyle necessity for many young men. Bill Galvin, a conscientious objector at the Center on Conscience, suggests that young men simply “not apply for a driver’s license until they turn 26 years old.” But many cannot afford to follow his advice.

The linking of DMV-SSS is slowly spreading across the country with dozens of states forging a mandatory sharing of information. On its website, the SSS makes a misleading claim. “As of October 25, 2013, 40 states, 4 territories, and the District of Columbia have enacted driver’s license laws supporting SSS registration.” In fact, many of the states offer registration as an option to applicants rather than as a requirement.

And so the SSS is pushing for 100% compliance. Its website states, “Maintaining a high compliance rate is of concern to officials because it means that any future draft instituted...would be fair and equitable.” Its website trumpets, “in May 2002, the state of Delaware, which enacted driver's license legislation in 2000, became the first state to reach nearly 100 percent registration compliance since the Agency began compiling this data. In that same year, seven other states increased their compliance rates by 3 percent or more after enacting similar driver's license legislation.”

Actually, what is amazing is that compliance rose only 3 percent even when attached to the 'privilege' of having a driver's license. This is a defeat, not a triumph.

The situation in California is particularly significant because the state is a bastion of resistance to registration. At least five bills similar to AB 2201 have been introduced and one way or another. In 2011, for example, SB 251 was approved and the amended version died a lingering death on an appropriation's committee table.

California also has one of the highest non-compliance rates for registration; an estimated 42 percent of 18-year-olds do not comply. Allowing a huge state to flaunt the SSS would complicate conscription and cause a political backlash.

California Cannot be Permitted to Hold Out

The California DMV currently shares the personal information of applicants with the SSS, which is then used to mail out registration cards. That's not enough. Through automatic registration at the DMV, the SSS could skip the step of mailing out cards and the risk of their non-return.

How exactly would AB 2201 change the process? When a state links the two agencies, all license or renewal applications typically declare that a signature on the form constitutes automatic consent to registration. A data-sharing agreement then gives the SSS immediate access to the information, including social security numbers.

On May 27, AB 2201 passed the California House with strong bipartisan support and it is currently before the Senate where it awaits a hearing by the Transportation and Housing Committee. Passage is likely.

The Carrot and the Stick

The bill is painted in humanitarian terms as a measure to help precisely the people it targets for oppression: young men. Republican Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, who sponsored the measure, declared, “AB 2201 will ensure that young men can take full advantage of educational grants and job opportunities available to them. At a time when tuition and unemployment rates are on the rise, I am happy to see this bill move forward.”

“Tuition” and “job opportunities” are stressed for a reason. Two federal laws currently withhold educational grants and federal employment from males who do not register with the SSS. Almost every state has followed suit with state funds and jobs. .

And, yet, close to half of California's young males still refuse to register. The SSS needs more than the carrots of money and jobs. It needs a stick. But the attack cannot be an overly aggressive one such as throwing young men in jail. That would be a poor way to win the 'youth vote' in November elections. Instead, the SSS prefers the stick of punitive measures that make it seem as though people are choosing for themselves by accepting the terms of a driver's license.

California's attempt to count young men as though they were inventory on a government shelf is being opposed. Unfortunately, the counter-attack does not proceed from principles but from technicalities. For example, the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (COMD) declared, “AB 2201 would make the state an active partner in gender discrimination. The Dept. of Defense no longer excludes females from most military jobs, yet Congress has continued to require only males to register for a possible future draft. AB 2201 would make the DMV an active participant in such discrimination.”

Such technical objections have worked in the past but they are weak tea to those opposed on principle.


COMD raises the word on everyone's min: “draft.” Why else the push for registration? Personally, I think the return of a military draft to the United States is unlikely; there has not been one since 1973 and it is a political grenade. But civil conscription is increasingly likely. Last year, President Obama delivered a speech in praise of what he called “national service” – “a new civic rite of passage for all young Americans.”

And it could be authorized by his signature under the rubric of “national emergency."

Bottom line: it doesn't matter whether a gun or a shovel is forced into a young man's hands. The result is still state-slavery.

[Editor's Note: Historically in the US one of the main reasons individuals have left the country was to avoid war. The Vietnam War is a good example of this with many would-be soldiers fleeing north. In the globalized world such an option is not available. You have to prepare in order to survive and prosper, and preparation starts now. For more information on living a freer, happier life, start here. To get out of dodge now with no reservations, click here.]
Wendy McElroy is a regular contributor to the Dollar Vigilante, and a renowned individualist anarchist and individualist feminist. She was a co-founder along with Carl Watner and George H. Smith of The Voluntaryist in 1982, and is the author/editor of twelve books, the latest of which is "The Art of Being Free". Follow her work at

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