David R. Henderson  

An Unfair Tax on Unlucky Young Men

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"The draft was an unfair tax on unlucky young men," Henderson said. "Economists of the 1960s saw that clearly, and about two dozen of them worked hard to end it."
This is from Payton Robb, "Henderson speaks about economists' role in ending the military draft," Daily Toreador, October 26, 2017. It's her report on my talk last night at Texas Tech University. Thanks to the readers of EconLog who came up to say hi afterwards.

Update: A commenter asked how economists helped end the draft. Here's my article on the topic:
https://econjwatch.org/file_download/84/2005-08-henderson-char_issue.pdf. It's a pdf.


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CATEGORIES: Labor Market , Tax Reform , Taxation




COMMENTS (8 to date)
Mike W writes:

How...and when...did these economists help "end" the US military draft?

https://www.sss.gov/Home/registration

It seems that it is actually just dormant.

David R Henderson writes:

@Mike W,
For the answer to your question, see the update. I’m guessing that you’re distinguishing between the draft and draft registration.

Mike W writes:

The link doesn't seem to work.

I am really interested because I don't think there is a difference between the draft and draft registration...i.e., when the government needs the bodies they will reintroduce "the draft"...e.g., see the "Project 100,000" program during the Vietnam era.

David R Henderson writes:

@Mike W,
I don't think there is a difference between the draft and draft registration...i.e., when the government needs the bodies they will reintroduce "the draft"...e.g., see the "Project 100,000" program during the Vietnam era.
There’s a huge difference between the draft and draft registration. We have draft registration. We don’t have the draft. That says right there that there’s a difference. Moreover, a draft would be very hard to get back. The government always “needs the bodies.” But for 44 years, they have gotten those “bodies” by recruiting more, paying more, etc.

Mike W writes:

Recruiting and paying more might fill the ranks sufficiently during peacetime, but when the shooting starts, and continues for an extended period, those methods are not enough. During the most recent period when the government needed more bodies, when the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were running concurrently, it resorted to a backdoor draft. It made reservists do multiple tours and extended tours. In a more intense conflict I can imagine the US reinstituting a draft.

Jon Murphy writes:

@Mike W

Recruiting and paying more might fill the ranks sufficiently during peacetime, but when the shooting starts, and continues for an extended period, those methods are not enough.

In the 28 years I have been alive, the US has been in war for all of them (I'm including smaller conflicts, like policing action in Somalia. If we just look at major wars, then it's 22 years. Major wars being: US invasion of Panama, Iraq I, Bosnian War, Afghanistan, and Iraq II). The US has had no need to resort to a draft during these war-torn years. When they've needed to recruit more, they've offered more pay. When they needed fewer, they offered less pay.

Short of a world war, I do not see the US in a position of needing the draft, even when considering an extended period of war.

I also object to your term "backdoor draft." There was nothing like a draft going on. Increasing tours and making people do multiple tours, people who agreed to such conditions is not the same as a draft which forces people who do not want to be soldiers to be soldiers.

Mike W writes:

"In 2004, the platforms of both the Democratic and Republican parties opposed military conscription, but neither party moved to end draft registration."

"John Kerry in one debate criticized Bush's policies, "You've got stop-loss policies so people can't get out when they were supposed to. You've got a backdoor draft right now.""

"This statement was in reference to the U.S. Department of Defense use of "stop-loss" orders, which have extended the Active Duty periods of some military personnel. All enlistees, upon entering the service, volunteer for a minimum eight-year Military Service Obligation (MSO). This MSO is split between a minimum active duty period, followed by a reserve period where enlistees may be called back to active duty for the remainder of the eight years. Some of these active duty extensions have been for as long as two years. The Pentagon stated that as of August 24, 2004, 20,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines had been affected. As of January 31, 2006 it has been reported that more than 50,000 soldiers and reservists had been affected."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscription_in_the_United_States

Jon Murphy writes:

@Mike W

If your response was to me, I confess I do not understand your point. You're just repeating the point I objected to without addressing my point. Am I missing something?

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