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Why is the Military Draft Common? Conscription and Increasing Returns

  • Yew-Kwang Ng

    (Division of Economics, Nanyang Technological University and Department of Economics, Monash University)

It is well-known that if the required number of military personnel is large, paying the soldiers their hire may involve very high taxes. While conscription involves the inefficiency and unfairness of violating free choice, it may save significant distortionary costs of taxation. It is not well-known that, even in the absence of these distortionary costs, conscription may reduce the inequity of having very low marginal utilities for soldiers if they are paid enough to attract their voluntary services and very high marginal utilities for civilians if they have to pay very high taxes. Having all citizens serving an equal fraction of time may be inefficient as there are high degrees of increasing returns in military services due to both training costs and learning by doing. Conscription may then increase the expected utilities of all individuals.

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Article provided by Society for AEF in its journal Annals of Economics and Finance.

Volume (Year): 9 (2008)
Issue (Month): 2 (November)
Pages: 373-384

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Handle: RePEc:cuf:journl:y:2008:v:9:i:2:p:373-384
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  1. Casey B. Mulligan, 2005. "Conscription as Regulation," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(1), pages 85-111.
  2. Browning, Edgar K, 1987. "On the Marginal Welfare Cost of Taxation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(1), pages 11-23, March.
  3. Panu Poutvaara & Andreas Wagener, 2007. "Conscription: Economic costs and political allure," Economics of Peace and Security Journal, Economists for Peace and Security, vol. 2(1), pages 6-15, January.
  4. Pak Shun Ng, 2005. ""Why Not A Volunteer Army?" Reexamining The Impact Of Military Conscription On Economic Growth For Singapore," The Singapore Economic Review (SER), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 50(01), pages 47-67.
  5. Christopher Jehn & Zachary Selden, 2002. "The End Of Conscription In Europe?," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 20(2), pages 93-100, 04.
  6. Poutvaara, Panu & Wagener, Andreas, 2005. "To Draft or Not to Draft? Efficiency, Generational Incidence, and Political Economy of Military Conscription," IZA Discussion Papers 1559, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Warner, John T., 1995. "The economics of military manpower," Handbook of Defense Economics, in: Keith Hartley & Todd Sandler (ed.), Handbook of Defense Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 13, pages 347-398 Elsevier.
  8. Ross, Thomas W, 1994. "Raising an Army: A Positive Theory of Military Recruitment," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(1), pages 109-31, April.
  9. John Warner & Sebastian Negrusa, 2005. "Evasion costs and the theory Of conscription," Defence and Peace Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(2), pages 83-100.
  10. Asch, Beth J & Warner, John T, 2001. "A Theory of Compensation and Personnel Policy in Hierarchical Organizations with Application to the United States Military," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(3), pages 523-62, July.
  11. John T. Warner & Beth J. Asch, 2001. "The Record and Prospects of the All-Volunteer Military in the United States," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(2), pages 169-192, Spring.
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