GMAT : Analysis of An Issue

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An Issue

34. All citizens should be required to perform a specified amount of public service. Such service would benefit not only the country as a whole but also the individual participants.


Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion stated above. Support your views with reasons and I or examples from your own experience, observations or reading.


The potential benefits of mandatory public service must be weighed against administrative problems and concerns about individual liberty. On balance, the costs to a nation and to the participants would probably exceed the benefits.

Admittedly, a colourable argument can be made for mandatory public service. It would help alleviate the free rider problems where those who do not contribute benefit from the efforts of those who do. It would mitigate pressing social problems-with education, public health and safety and the environment. It might instil in participants a sense of civic duty, community and individual responsibility. Finally, it has worked on a smaller scale particularly in urban areas where renewal projects succeed in making communities safer, healthier and more prosperous.

Far more compelling, however, are the arguments against mandatory public service. First, who would make assignments and decide what projects are worthwhile and how would compliance be assured? Resolving enforcement issues would require government control in tum requiring increased taxes and/or cuts in other social programs, thereby nullifying the benefits of mandatory public service. Second, a mandatory system would open the floodgates to incompetence and inexperience. Finally, the whole notion seems tantamount to Communism insofar as each citizen must contribute according to his or her ability to a strong state. Modern history informs us that such systems do not work. One could argue that mandatory public service is simply a tax in the form of labor rather than dollars. However, compulsory labor smacks of involuntary servitude whereas financial taxes do not.

In conclusion, logistical and philosophical barriers to mandating public service outweigh its potential benefits for the nation as well as for participants.

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