The Economics of US Civil War Conscription
The US government had limited power during the Civil War, including an inability to tax income. Similar to conscription plans considered in the War of 1812, Civil War conscription was not intended to compel service, but was a second-best plan to shift the tax burden to state and local governments. The time allowed communities to provide volunteers after a federal call for enlistments, along with substitution and the payment of a fee to avoid service (commutation), meant few were actually drafted---about 2% of all who served. Commutation could have lowered social cost, but appears to have been a binding ceiling on the price of a substitute.
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