military experience, military draft, active duty, military economics, military personal
George Washington's sentiments on the obligations of citizens were clear. He regarded military service as the duty of every male citizen who enjoyed the privileges of democracy. He stressed that an army composed of citizen-soldiers was preferable, from a point of social cohesion and political stability, to one composed of professional soldiers - and cited the Swiss Army as the proper example (Graham, 1971). In spite of these perceived benefits, the United States has historically been of two minds with respect to providing for the national defense. That is, should the military be composed of professional soldiers, induced to enlist by opportunity cost differentials or a taste for military service? Or should the military consist in large part of citizen-soldiers responding to a national obligation - in much the same manner as citizens called for jury duty (Lacey, 1982)? The national response to security threats has reflected this dichotomy. From the Civil War to World War II, the government periodically relied on conscription to augment a small, professional army. In the aftermath of World war II, the draft apparatus was dismantled, only to be quickly reconstructed with the onset of the Cold War. For the next twenty-five years conscription (and draft-induced enlistments) provided a substantial portion of our armed forces; spreading the military experience over a large segment of the young, male population. Given the necessity for maintaining a large military presence over an protracted period, the draft came to be viewed as a reasonable demand of citizenship. It remained for an unpopular war and a unfairly selective draft to dim the values of a broader military experience.
Department of Economics, South Dakota State University
Number of Pages
Sondey, John, "Enhanced Human Capital Stock and the Military Experience: A Modest Policy Proposal" (1994). Economics Staff Paper Series. 108.