David R. Henderson  

Thomas Ricks's Fiasco

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The Selgin-Sumner-Tobin Model ... A One-Penny Proof...
In late June, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the former commander of international forces in Afghanistan, called for reinstating the draft. "I think if a nation goes to war, every town, every city needs to be at risk," he said at the Aspen Ideas Festival. "You make that decision and everybody has skin in the game."

This was the first time in recent years that a high-profile officer has broken ranks to argue that the all-volunteer force is not necessarily good for the country or the military. Unlike Europeans, Americans still seem determined to maintain a serious military force, so we need to think about how to pay for it and staff it by creating a draft that is better and more equitable than the Vietnam-era conscription system.


This is from Thomas E. Ricks, "Let's Draft Our Kids," New York Times, July 9.

I don't have time to criticize all the mistaken and or woolly thinking in his target-rich op/ed. I will note two things, though.

First, by quoting McChrystal up-front and never gainsaying his statement, Ricks pretty clearly agrees with McChrystal that, with a draft, "everybody has skin in the game." That's the opposite of the truth. The draft allows the government to shift the cost of manning the military from the taxpayer in general to the draftee. Economists for the Gates Commission in 1969 and 1970 estimated that the implicit tax on draftees, average not marginal, was over 50%. The way to have everybody have "skin in the game" is with general taxes to pay for war, not with taxes that single out people who are "unlucky" enough to be young and healthy.

Second, Ricks states:

And libertarians who object to a draft could opt out. Those who declined to help Uncle Sam would in return pledge to ask nothing from him -- no Medicare, no subsidized college loans and no mortgage guarantees. Those who want minimal government can have it.

Do you see the "the hell with you" tone he has? It seems pretty clear that he's not taking objections from libertarians very seriously. First, it wouldn't be only libertarians who object. The draft issue is a quintessentially libertarian issue: who owns your body, after all? But you don't have to be a libertarian to object to the draft. Second, is he actually saying that the only way you can get out of the draft is by giving up all the benefits of the welfare state but none of the other costs, such as the taxes that pay for them? I think so.

Finally, although Ricks doesn't say it in the op/ed (although he comes close in the last paragraph), I think Ricks's argument, and McChrystal's, is essentially that when the rich and powerful have their kids drafted, they'll suddenly start paying critical attention to foreign policy. I used to accept this argument. That didn't make me favor the draft because I always thought it was profoundly unfair--even uncivilized--to put millions of innocent people in involuntary servitude so that their parents would become politically active.

But fairness and civilization aside, the argument doesn't stand on its own grounds, as Chad W. Seagren and I have shown here.


Comments and Sharing


CATEGORIES: Labor Market , Taxation



COMMENTS (60 to date)
Eric Blair writes:

I don't even care about the other arguments against a draft: I note that Ricks didn't serve, even when he could have.

And *NOW* he thinks there should be a draft?

That gets a big hearty Go to hell, Mr. Ricks from me.

Jon Murphy writes:

One thing I don't understand about the draft argument:

How is giving the government the power to commandeer the vast amount of resources for war (humans included) supposed to prevent the government going to war? If we truly want to prevent war, then shouldn't we make it harder, not easier, for the government to wage war?

stephen writes:

I can't think of one political constituency that his plan would appeal to. I like how he tried to square the "unions are cool with slaves doing their work for them" circle.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Eric Blair,
I’m not defending him, but Ricks could use the fact that he didn’t serve as part of his argument now. It’s precisely people like him that he advocates drafting because, goes the argument, they will be more outspoken against military adventurism.
@Jon Murphy,
How is giving the government the power to commandeer the vast amount of resources for war (humans included) supposed to prevent the government going to war? If we truly want to prevent war, then shouldn't we make it harder, not easier, for the government to wage war?
I’ll respond to your second sentence and then your first.
Second sentence: Yes.
First sentence: The argument is that by riling up the rich and powerful, because the government threatens to take their sons, the government would face a higher cost of going to war. As I said in my post, Chad and I have found the flaw in the argument. But that’s the argument.
@stephen,
Yes. That was weak. When McCain proposed something similar in the late 1980s, it was a serious enough threat that the Hoover Institution held a conference on it. Various presenters, including me, pointed out that the unions would segment off the jobs in which the conscripts could be most productive, thus leaving very low-productivity jobs to the conscripts. Here’s the book based on the conference.

Arthur_500 writes:

Development of policies should be based on reality of humanity and not just on academic ideals.

Marginal tax rates when applied to life seem to be little more than academic. Two or more years in an activity be it school, jail or the military is the same for all individuals - it's time.

In fact, one could argue that service in the military might even improve the overall monetary value of an individual's service to a future employer. After all they have had to undergo certain discipline, work in a large organization, receive training in specific skills, be away from mommy and daddy, and learn to break complex activities into systems that can be easily understood and carried out.

Raising taxes, either to pay for healthcare or a war or gold toilet seats at a national monument is easy to hide. Everyone has to pay them so everyone ignores them.

However, requiring service to the country (military or otherwise) demands each family to be affected equally. A member of that family must give up their time to serve the country. This affects everyone equally - no marginal quantification here - as time is not alloted to every individual equally and we have no way of knowing when our time is up.

I could support an equal draft. All members of society must report to duty for a minimum of two years between the ages of 18 and 24. No exeptions.

Even in the military there are individuals who never serve in combat roles so the idea of joining the National Guard or serving in Americorps or some other wishy washy group can become irrelevant. Likewise exceptions for eyesight, flat feet, etc. Every American should be able to have some duty they can fulfill unless physically or mentally handicapped beyond basic funtioning.

Once they have been a part of the government they can see first hand the inefficiency and waste. They can better discuss the events of which they are actually a part of. they can object to how our government acts.

Recently there was a blurb on this very forum regarding Public Employee Unions and how they have inherrently too much power. I agree. Now put every American in the military (possibly doing civilian tasks) and see how much power they gain.

RH writes:

He says that if you don't want to serve in the military, you can go teach in inner-city schools or bring meals to old people. What would that have to do with making people bear the costs of war? Even if people started voting against war and Ricks got his wish, the government still gets two years of your life. This makes me think that it's not all about foreign policy, but getting free labor for his pet causes.

Also, this could back fire. Military could become a lot more powerful and the king of all interest groups.

J.D. writes:

"no Medicare, no subsidized college loans and no mortgage guarantees."

Funny he doesn't add "no taxes." I can opt out of the system, but you still force me to pay into it?

I think I'll pass...

ThomasL writes:

@David

Most of the Anti-Federalists were hoping for an all-militia armed forces. Some of the "skin in the game" arguments of a draft apply equally to a militia, but with a different structure.

Any thoughts on that older arrangement?

stephen writes:

David,

Thanks.

Ken B writes:

IMO nearly all arguments to re-instate the draft are dishonest because they are not meant to be taken seriously. They are a flamboyant way of highlighting some other contention, such as "libertarians are not real partiots" or "republicans are chicken hawks". Lo and behold we find both of those peddled here.

Robert Bell writes:

"The way to have everybody have "skin in the game" is with general taxes to pay for war, not with taxes that single out people who are "unlucky" enough to be young and healthy."

Looking at the abstract of your paper, I wonder what is your thought about the wealthy and political powerful vis a vis the tax code? For example, if such a person held assets in a foreign country that were seized by that foreign country, the cost of an invasion of that country would be borne by everyone in the home country, but the wealthy person might benefit disproportionately?

Randy writes:

@ Jon Murphy

Re; "...then shouldn't we make it harder, not easier, for the government to wage war?"

Agreed. I'm for all volunteer financing of the military too. That's how wars were limited in the 16th and 17th centuries. Professional armies were expensive, and the King had to pay for them.

@ Ken B

Exactly. And these folks usually seem to be deliberately ignorant of the Vietnam lesson. McChrystal doesn't ignore it, but thinks it can somehow be done better. I can't imagine how. This is not a fair world - its a political world.

Ken B writes:
then shouldn't we make it harder, not easier, for the government to wage war?

I'm not at all sure we should. I do understand the argunent: government as a power unto itself, public choice, etc. But I have a couple of objections.

I think there are just wars. I think the war agaisnt the Nazis was one (I think many here disagree.) I would like just and necessary wars to be *less* costly. I would like the constraint on war to be moral.

I also wonder how strong the 'deterrent' effect really will be. And I worry about how costs affect the course of the war. Sunk costs has a grip on the mind of most. It might be easier to end low cost wars I think.

Which was worse, 20th century style high cost war or Frederick the Great style low cost war?

My confidence level either way is not high.

MatthewH writes:

I am not particularly exercised one way or the other -I am fine with the all-volunteer army and don't feel the need to revisit that decision.

However, earlier in the week I was thinking about the connection between military service and citizenship. Historically, "militias" have been the mainstay of military forces. Greece, Rome, Feudalism, and in the US even up through the Civil War. No standing armies, but when wars start everyone is expected to show up (not that they actually did). Professionals supplemented this. Even during the early part of the Cold War the US army was built around the idea that the professional army was the officer, noncom, and specialist core and the combat arms would be filled out by a draft if the war actually started.

So why are things different now? Leading theories in my mind: we don't fight wars with mass armies anymore, we are rich enough to substitute capital for labor (eg: drones instead of infantry), or the wars we fight now are not severe enough to warrant calling up the militia. However, I'd be interested in other thoughts. I usuallyl just lurk, but you caught me on a day I was thinking about the subject.

Jon Murphy writes:
First sentence: The argument is that by riling up the rich and powerful, because the government threatens to take their sons, the government would face a higher cost of going to war.

Dr. Henderson,

I get that. I am just wondering the additional logic.

Let me ask it like this:

Assume the draft is a completely random process.
Assume that the "influential rich and powerful" are the so-called 1%.

If the draft is completely random, then the probability of an offspring of the "rich and powerful" is around 1%, right? So there is a 99% chance his son would not be drafted. Given those odds, would the rich man be willing to spend much of his wealth and influence to prevent something that has a 99% change of not occurring?

Jeff writes:

Does everybody just forget that we did have a draft... and we still had wars? Needless ones, to boot.

Jon Murphy writes:

By the way, I have not read your paper yet, but plan on tonight. This blog is one of my favorites :)

Kevin writes:

John Murphy:

Let me ask it like this: Assume the draft is a completely random process.
Assume that the "influential rich and powerful" are the so-called 1%. If the draft is completely random, then the probability of an offspring of the "rich and powerful" is around 1%, right? So there is a 99% chance his son would not be drafted. Given those odds, would the rich man be willing to spend much of his wealth and influence to prevent something that has a 99% change of not occurring?

Uhh, no. The 1% would make up 1% of whatever proportion of the population was sampled, but their odds of being drafted would be determined by the size of the draft, not their share of the population. That is, if everyone between the ages of 18 and 24 years is drafted into service, then the odds of the children of the 1% being drafted are 100%.

The draft is slavery (or: I Can't Believe It's Not Slavery, if you prefer). There aren't many (half-way mainstream) policies that would make me consider leaving my home (Canada), but a draft might just do it.

Jon Murphy writes:
The 1% would make up 1% of whatever proportion of the population was sampled, but their odds of being drafted would be determined by the size of the draft, not their share of the population.

Probably a reason I had to take Stats twice :-P

Just kidding, I only took it once (and passed). I'm embarrassed I made such a rookie mistake. Thanks, Kevin!

MingoV writes:

What General McChrystal and others of like mind fail to grasp is that if EVERYONE had "skin in the game" [of war], then we would have no troops in the mideast, and he'd be out of a job.

My proposal for everyone to "have skin in the game" is to require that all military actions be funded solely with a flat-rate per-person monthly tax (with no exceptions or exemptions). With this scheme, our current war in Afghanistan would cost a family of four $120 per month. At that cost, Senators and Representatives would have succumbed to voter pressure and ended our involvement years ago.

And, for those who have forgotten, the draft has not been ended. Obama, at the stroke of his pen, could resume the draft. No other action is required.

Mr. Econotarian writes:

The rich and powerful arranged for their children to avoid the draft.

This precisely parallels the way the rich and the powerful arrange for their children to not be brought up on drug charges (or even if they are stupid enough to be caught, they get off without jail time).

Do not lose sight of the New York Times. I propose that the editors of the NYT find writers to pen statist views, views which the editors are happy to publish. Paul Krugman also comes to mind. When a ruckus ensues the complaints are aimed mainly at the writers, but not at the NYT!

I think the NYT is the main player here. If NYT editors could not make arrangements with Ricks and Krugman, the editors would find others to write statist views.

MJGreen writes:

@Arthur_500 Once they have been a part of the government they can see first hand the inefficiency and waste. They can better discuss the events of which they are actually a part of. they can object to how our government acts.

Yes, they'd probably object to how the government drafts citizens. If your hope is that it will spur civic action, the first (and thus only) triumph will probably be repealing the draft.

Eric Blair writes:

There was a draft in the 1950's and the 1960's and that didn't stop the US from getting involved in either Korea or Vietnam.

Although it's pretty clear that experience of Vietnam ended the draft.

Chris writes:

The idea is sound in theory. In practice it hasn't worked (how has relying on reserve forces affected the propensity to send young men and women to war?).

Even if it's a great idea, we will not have a draft unless/until there are circumstances similar to events of the 1940s.

Since politically we cannot have a draft, how about a law that requires the sons/daughters/nephews/nieces/grandchildren of (a) K-Street lobbyists, (b) elected officials and their staffs, (c) anyone in the top tax bracket to join the Army infantry and serve in-country before any 'ordinary' soldier/marine/airman/sailor could be sent into combat?

Nathan Smith writes:

How about this: anyone who takes government money to help with college-- subsidized public universities, federal students loans, etc.-- gets drafted. That helps remove the social gap whereby "Fishtown" serves in the military and "Belmont" doesn't. It also creates a stimulus for the middle class to look for alternatives to expensive college, and for anyone who can afford not to get educated on the taxpayer's dollar to find another way.

David R. Henderson writes:

@MingoV,
And, for those who have forgotten, the draft has not been ended. Obama, at the stroke of his pen, could resume the draft. No other action is required.
That’s not true. We have “only” draft registration. Draft registration ended under Ford in about 1975 and was resumed, by legislation, under Carter in about 1980. The President cannot introduce the draft except by legislation.

libfree writes:

Personally I favor a Swiss approach, a well trained army designed specifically for defense. While I'm sure that geography played an important part of their approach, I still think it's a feasible proposition.

yet another david writes:

@Ken B:

I think there are just wars. I think the war agaisnt the Nazis was one (I think many here disagree.) I would like just and necessary wars to be *less* costly. I would like the constraint on war to be moral.

I also wonder how strong the 'deterrent' effect really will be.

I don't see why fighting just wars and achieving a strong deterrent requires the draft.

Further, if a society believes so strongly that a war is just and must be fought, why would they not be prepared to pay their soldiers an amount that would fully compensate the soldiers for the risk and danger that they would be exposed to? Does a draft not imply that a society is in fact unwilling to bear the costs of the war they apparently believe to be just? Does it not suggest that in fact they want to bask in the warm glow of fighting a just war but make someone else bear the greater proportion of the costs? And if society would be unwilling to fight the just war if made to bear the full costs of a voluntary force, what does that say how strongly society feels about its justness?

wef writes:

[Comment removed for policy violations. --Econlib Ed.]

Charlie writes:

This has everything to do with the definition of our individual statuses. As we climbed from subject (bound to serve) to citizen (privileged with responsibilities) to the Enlightenment concept of private person (free to follow our own agendas), we ran afoul of the far left, who would much rather have us subject to their agenda.

masstexodus writes:

Let's draft our seniors! (they are more focused on the value of social security and medicare ...)

Larry writes:

Most professional military men that I know are against a draft because the recruits that we get are now of higher quality and more motivated than if we just drafted everyone. Also, we do not need all 18 year olds - that would be way too many people.

The proponants for a draft also fail to understand the first purpose of our armed forces - that is to win on the battlefield. It is not a social service organization. A fairly compensated, motivated, and well trained and equipped force is what we need. We do not need a large force that we have raised by drafting all 18 year olds for any other purpose than to defeat our enemies.

Steve writes:

In the pre-volunteer military, draftees who failed or refused to perform your assigned duties were subject to levels of discipline up to and including in certain circumstances, capital punishment. Can we just assume that these temporary slaves will cheerfully complete their two years of "teaching in low-income areas, cleaning parks, rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, or aiding the elderly" with only the carrot of a future tuition stipend to motivate them? Wouldn't we also need a stick of some kind? Say, for example, you are conscripted to teach in a low-income area and consistently fail to keep order in your classroom. Could you be re-assigned to a punishment brigade cleaning parks, maybe wearing a distinctive orange jumpsuit? How would this work exactly? If I'm an elderly shut-in, I definitely want to be sure my conscript is properly motivated to bring me my meals on time.

SDN writes:

Or, MingoV, they would have fought the war the way it should have been: by giving it the same treatment the "fanatical" Japanese got in WWII. Indecisive tactics (see Gulf War I, etc.) ALWAYS cost more in the long run than simply killing enough of the enemy that they see attacking you as a losing proposition.

The best way to avoid spilling an ocean of blood eventually is demonstrating your willingness to spill a lake of it instantly.

Dave Everson writes:

Most conscription schemes only keep the draftee on active duty for about two years. Many enlisted jobs require more than a year of training to become qualified. That would leave the military with roughly one year of useful service from a draftee in many cases. Additionally, a different sort of discipline is required with draftees compared to volunteers. You can keep volunteers in line by simply threatening to toss them out. Draftees, serving against their will require compulsion and, in many armies, violence to force compliance.

I occasionally see a younger person who causes me to think they might benefit from a few years in the army but I seriously doubt their enslavement will improve them or our nation.

SDN writes:

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Rich K writes:

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yet another david writes:

libfree said:

Personally I favor a Swiss approach, a well trained army designed specifically for defense. While I'm sure that geography played an important part of their approach, I still think it's a feasible proposition.

Yes. I don't mind the Swiss model. It has number of advantages from even a libertarian perspective.

1) it is purely defensive,

2) because it covers a broader age range, it limits opportunities to shift the distribution of benefits and burdens of a decision to fight - this is all the more so since many senior business people are also senior officers,

3) military weapons are kept at home, thus providing a check on the state,

4) it is part of a larger package of small government policies, including low taxes and stable money,

5) the military cannot be used against the "people" or to sustain the state against the people's wishes.

John McPhee wrote an absolutely superb (short) book on the Swiss army and the Swiss - "La Place de la Concorde Suisse".

Daedalus Mugged writes:

If there is to be a draft, I think it should be of both sexes, and the draft pool should be the ages of 40-55.

That said, I obviously don't think there should be a draft.

dadling writes:

I believe that every American, Men & Women, should be subject to military service, such as is done is Israel.
Except for the physically unable, there should be a total obligation to serve the country. No deferments, except for the physical inabilities and even those people could serve in other capacities.

DHStranger writes:

One of the flaws I see Ricks arguments to tie military service to the welfare systems is that it will more greatly impact poorer minority communities more than it will the more affluent communities, which tend to be dominated by "whites". Since those in the affluent communities would not need the massive welfare state, they may be more willing to avoid military service.

There are already complaints that the military is overrepresented by minorities, particularly blacks, who see the military as a way out of their impoverished backgrounds. But tying entitlement benefits to military service will exacerbate the problem.

But the worst part of Ricks's rational for conscription is so that the government can utilize "cheap" labor. Basically, he is saying that American workers demand too much money for menial to low-skilled jobs. But if the high price of labor is really a problem, the best step that the government to take is to rollback the minimum wage and hire high school kids to do those jobs at free market value.

Ken B writes:

@yet another David: Neither do I.

Where did you get the idea I am arguing for the draft, especially after I essentially accused Ricks of bad faith in advocating it? On the other thread I also argued the DRH was right in his conclusion even though I thought his argument poor.

Randy writes:

Just read the Ricks piece. Its all about benefits and nothing about costs. But the costs are obvious with even a second of thought.

Snorri Godhi writes:

"A man who wants to avoid the draft or get a
safe job is likely, therefore, to put many more of his and his family’s resources into personal
avoidance than into political agitation."

This sentence in the paper at the last link is so intuitively obvious that it should settle the issue.

On the other hand ... it would be wrong to say that the anti-Vietnam war protests were ineffective. On the contrary, they were very effective in convincing Europeans that Americans are warmongers. (Just as the civil-rights protests convinced them that Americans are racists.)
They might also have given comfort to the enemy, with the result that the Vietnamese suffered not just the war, but Communist rule as well.

yet another david writes:

@Ken B:

I didn't think that necessarily you were in favour. I interpreted your second set of comments as implying that you weren't necessarily opposed either but that you were uncertain.

I interpreted your first argument as addressing, insightfully in my view, the motives of those on the left that make the argument for re-instating the draft but not as necessarily making the point that there couldn't ever be a good substantive argument in favour of it made by honest people. I assumed therefore in your second comment when you were expressing some uncertainty about whether to make it easier or harder for governments to go to war that you were including the possibility of the draft being used to make it easier in the case of just wars.

Apologies if I misinterpreted you.

MingoV writes:

David R. Henderson replied:

The President cannot introduce the draft except by legislation.
This is Obama we are referring to. He recently used an executive order to legalize the status of hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants. He could just as easily reinstate the draft via executive order.

DonM writes:

Back when the militia was the mainstay of defense, Army officers were taught to be thrifty with their men. Rather than use conscripted or mercenary soldiers who were expendable 'scum of the earth' (especially considing the numerous loopholes which protect the children of productive or powerful parents), militia men were thought to be the honored men of their communities, honest, hard working, with years of knowledge in their field. Such men should not be thrown away in hopeless attacks.

Accordingly the militia-regular attacks would use the militia to dig and occupy trenches which were thought to be relatively safe, and regular soldiers with specialized training (artillerymen) occupied the more hazardous forts, and regular infantry conducted the initial dangerous assaults.

Sherman wrote that during the Civil War that every means of raising troops known to man had been tried, and that volunteers were by far the best.

DonM writes:

In the Greek wars, Athens fielded a Navy with hired professional rowers from the lower classes in the city to operate city owned ships. They were normally for starting or continuing war because they would normally be paid only when they were on campaign.

By contrast, the Athens Army consisted of land owners in militia who paid for their own equipment, and were normally against war, who would have their farms ravenged by invasion. They would normally not be paid for their service.

steve writes:

Dave- Your paper confuses parents with 18 y/os. The parents were the ones with resources they would spend on getting their (rich) kids out of the draft. It was the kids who would protest, for the most part. There was also no reason why the parents could not also protest.

Having served in the draftee military and all volunteer military, I understand the position of the career military who want to keep the volunteer model. However, anyone who thinks that the risk of being drafted did not affect behavior is willfully ignorant and/or did not live through those days.

Steve

matt cooper writes:

I think most those who have commented missed that Ricks does not advocate sending his draftees to war.

"These conscripts would not be deployed but could perform tasks currently outsourced at great cost to the Pentagon: paperwork, painting barracks, mowing lawns, driving generals around, and generally doing lower-skills tasks so professional soldiers don’t have to. If they want to stay, they could move into the professional force and receive weapons training, higher pay and better benefits."

After 12 years mostly in public schools he wants 2 more years to hector and boss Americans. I like the "free child care" part. You could entrust your babies to the care of sullen, teenaged conscripts. Great plan, comrade Ricks.

1charlie2 writes:

Hey, how about this ?

Beginning in 2013, upon reaching age 60, age 50, age 40, or age 30, retired or employed, everyone must serve 1 year in a Head Start, Peace Corps or some other community-service program, paid at an E1's rate. They get military-like benefits for that year, but they have to leave their current job, benefits, and wages behind. In fact, they must fulfill their obligation in a different state from their normal residence.

I recognize they are not up to the physical demands of the military, but they will demonstrate the importance of such service, and serve as shining examples of their commitment to "the Draft." Senators, Congressman, Governors, ex-presidents, EVERYONE who is compos mentis.

Under age 30, everyone gets drafted for 2 years as infantry, or they can enlist for 4 years in a different qualified specialty.

Officers must have 4 years active service before being commissioned. No easy ways out.


(No, as a vet I still hate the idea of a draft, but I was noodling with how to REALLY give everyone "skin in the game.")


wagnert in atlanta writes:

If we are to have a draft, I move that we start with 56-year-old newspaper pundits who shirked the first time around. Since they already have money, they can clean toilets for a couple of years on their own dime. And if they don't want to serve, no Medicare, no Social Security for them.

Tom writes:

Sure Mr. Ricks, we can have a draft - provided in includes you and you are the first to be inducted.

Ken writes:

Funding wars would wake people up.

A $1 per gallon gas tax to pay for the Iraq war would have raised awareness. As it is, people think the tooth fairy pays for everything.

SMSgt Mac writes:

I’ve never found Ricks’ commentary relevant. This time is no different. Rick's citation of McChrystal's views is a weak appeal to authority. Are we supposed to be impressed? (oooh a General!) --Sorry, I’ve known too many Generals. And this particular General never truly served in a 'draft' military: The draft ended between his first and second year at West Point.
One shiny 2Lt McChrystal stepped into a brand new ‘happy’ military family of nothing but 'volunteers' (including re-upped draftees) and then rose through the ranks commanding people who just voted with their feet every 4/6 years: they either stood and took oath again or hit the road without TOO much grousing in-between. He never had the 'pleasure' of serving in an active duty unit populated with young draftees, most of whom were every bit as 'conscientious' if not perhaps as ‘devoted’ as any volunteer, but also counted among them the ‘agitator’ minority who weren't 'good' at all and made unit life miserable for the rest of us every chance they had.
I enlisted at 18, when they were only drafting 19+ year-olds. I lived through the transformation to the All Volunteer Force as it occurred as a junior NCO, and served long after the Draft became a bad memory for us. I've never known anyone who served during the 'draft era' and later who missed the ‘draft’ for one second.
I have noticed a common thread among the 'advocates' for bringing back the draft though: they ALL seem to believe it is acceptable behavior for them (advocates) to even DESIRE to direct and exert control over many thousands of other people's lives. I believe Sowell best refers to these people as 'the Annointed'. The only major variable between them are the ulterior motives and designs behind their advocacy

Jeff McCabe writes:

Why anyone would want to trade our effective, highly motivated military for one consisting of people who don't want to be there? We are not Israel, with a enemy on every border wanting to destroy us. Their conscripts had every reason to be motivated, although I think those numbers are decreasing also.

Ed Dolan writes:

David, you are right on the mark. Both Ricks' and McChrystal's arguments are spurious. I can understand why you didn't want to take the time to dismantle all the wooly economic thinking in Ricks' piece. However, I, being a glutton for punishment, undertook that very task in my post today:

David R. Henderson writes:

@Ed Dolan,
Thanks. Your piece is nicely done. What looked “cheap,” even ignoring opportunity costs, turns out to be very expensive indeed.

Peter writes:

Ricks' bargain includes exemption from taxation and any regulation beyond common-law tort? Sign me up.

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