Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Political Incentives and the Draft

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) is calling for reinstatement of the military draft. Why? To give better incentives to politicians:
Rangel said if there had been a draft in 2003, the U.S. never would have gone to war because politicians wouldn't want to put their own sons and daughters in harm's way.
I applaud Rangel's insight that politicians lack strong incentives to adopt wise policies; as Don Boudreaux notes, that insight has rather broader implications than Rangel might think. But talk about getting it backwards! The rich and powerful members of Congress can always find ways to help their own progeny dodge the draft; it's the regular folks who can't. The draft makes war less costly for politicians, since it lets them swell the ranks of the armed forces with soldiers paid below-market wages.

It's been less than a week, and Milton Friedman is already rolling in his coffin. (For those who don't know, one of Friedman's many accomplishments was helping to convince our leaders to abandon conscription and switch to an all-volunteer military.)

1 comment:

caveatBettor said...

The below-market wages paid to conscripts has a sinister effect: it makes them cheaper to generals, i.e. their cost of death is reduced to the officers (but not to themselves nor their loved ones).

The best thing about the all-volunteer force is its democratic dynamic--enlistment and reenlistment rates will reflect confidence in leadership. Rangel and his supporters should ponder that one.