I don't know why I torture myself with useless and difficult thought experiments, but I find myself debating which is worse between military conscription and chattel slavery. This brings to mind the schoolyard debate over whether it would be worse to burn or freeze to death. I think in order to openly debate myself on this question without bringing offense to too many readers I must remove the quandary from its historical context. To clarify, I am not considering the difference between being a slave in the antebellum American South or an Egyptian pyramid laborer on the one hand and fighting for the "good guys" in any of the various attempts to "make the world safe for democracy" on the other. I don't think such a question could be answered, and frankly, it doesn't interest me in the slightest.
So imagine the situation that a war started tomorrow and a draft was instituted the day after. Your number was called and your only opportunity to avoid compulsory military service was to submit to slave labor to a private farmer for a period of time equal to the alternative military term. What would your preference be?
When placed in this context, I think the decision is easy. I would much prefer private slavery to groveling before the state for the privilege of having my ass shot off. Clearly the risk of death is less in slavery, and the risk of killing is practically zero. Further, in slavery I could appeal to the good nature of a single person as opposed to the mob (a.k.a. the democratic majority), an entity with no heart and no brain. I have no delusions of being set free as that would sort of ruin the thought experiment, but it is nice to know that I could at least try for favorable treatment.