ILSM on the Draft

This post is by ILSM…


A comment was made the other day in Angry Bear that the real “cost” of the military in 1968 is understated because the military used conscription to mobilize the manpower to meets its goals in Vietnam and other commitments while fighting the “cold war”.

The US really should have paid more for ‘national security’ in 1968, pay more by choosing the most expensive and profitable way of doing things like using an all volunteer force.

‘National security’ is so vital we should buy the top shelve brand for all its expectations no matter how expensive and unusual.

The commenter accused another poster of not knowing economics and failing to see the uncounted costs of the draft to the draftees and implicitly the community. That there are other issues is a fair point. All government actions have consequences, some intended, most not counted.

The consequences of conscription, colloquially the draft, include: benefits to the government; lower pay for the first term enlistees, reduced recruiting costs, faster growth in manning to respond to mobilization, hard to find skills join the uniformed services that might be too busy pursuing self interest, and a few more that do not come to mind.

There are some costs of the draft: higher turnover, more training (unless you do like WW II or lately with “stop loss” and draft for the duration) and a few more that do not come to mind. Costs to the individual include diverting plans and serving the nation, and maybe getting killed, maimed or psychologically disabled.

The draft seems to only benefit the government, of which we all are a part.

It is difficult to put firm costs or benefits to these. My conclusion from this exercise is the commenter was right and wrong. There are unmeasured consequences and outcomes. The commenter missed that when you consider soft outcomes there are two sides and they often balance or come close to equaling out.

There is a benefit to the general welfare from populating the military with draftees: they tend to balance out the influence of factions who see war as profit. Professional soldiers with the “for profit” suppliers see war as career and consider going off to battle is business development. No nation prospers in long wars; there are huge opportunity costs to continuously readying ourselves for war. Serving draftees provide needed a balance to the lifers.

As I thought about this I recalled the draft riots of 1863. One cause was the process where persons with resources could buy a “substitute” to serve in his place.

I see the current all volunteer force as the government hiring “substitutes” for persons who have ‘soft’ reasons to have some one else fight their war for them.

The “substitutes” are now paid by the taxpayer and the benefits to the taxpayer are not acceptable.

The bottom lines in opposing the draft are: while draftees are cheaper, the opponents of the draft don’t want to give up their “substitutes” and draftees are dangerous to long war, for profit militarists.

The costs of today’s military operations do not matter as long as someone is making money. To take a note from Barry Goldwater: ‘Any profit in the most costly and inept defense of liberty no matter how wasted is not fraud.’

We have always made money at war.

The chickenhawks will get by by conning the taxpayer to buy their substitute.

But, why should the taxpayer buy a substitute for the chickenhawks?


This post was by ILSM