Pat Tillman, RIP

— Pat Tillman, the NFL star who turned down millions of dollars to join the Army Rangers, has been killed in Afghanistan. I am deeply impressed by Tillman, and am grateful for his choice to serve. His family and friends have every reason to be profoundly proud.

I bring up Tillman, because it’s worth bringing up in its own right, but also because it bears on the conscription issue pursued below. Being killed in active military duty is not a little hitch in one’s life plan; it’s the conclusion. The taxes that finance our volunteer military are a burden, but a justifiable burden. Burdening young men involuntarily with the prospect of death in combat is unjustified, if not unjustifiable. Tillman’s choice to make military service part of his life plan was an expression of his autonomy that we have every reason to admire. And though his death is tragic, Tillman himself recognized and embraced the high risk of death inherent in service in the special forces. He would have preferred to live, but, judging from accounts of his character, he did not eschew the possibility of completing his life by dying in the service. On the other hand, men who are drafted and killed have had their lives stolen from them. Their deaths are unrelated to the ends they had chosen for themselves, and are the consumation of nothing but a moral crime.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center