Would Conscription Reduce Support For War?
Henderson, David R.
Seagren, Chad W.
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An increasingly popular justification for conscription is that by changing the identities of those who bear the burden of fighting a nation’s wars, it limits, more than an all-volunteer force would, support for war. Under a draft, goes the argument, there is a higher probability that the “children” of more-affluent and politically powerful people could serve in the military, thus giving them an incentive to lobby against war. However, this argument neglects the fact that successfully avoiding war for a nation is a public good and is, therefore, subject to the classic free-rider problem. We develop a simple model to demonstrate that the under-provision of anti-war agitation from those seeking to avoid the draft is exacerbated by the fact that seeking a deferment provides an alternative with a superior private payoff. Resources that an affluent or politically powerful person devotes to preventing or stopping a war will not likely have a noticeable effect on the overall outcome. In contrast, resources spent to secure a deferment or non-combat assignment for a loved one have a tangible effect on a private good. We show that the effectiveness of using conscription as a means of diminishing political support for war relative to an all-volunteer force is limited. Empirical findings from the Vietnam War era and more recent history are consistent with our thesis.
The article of record as published may be located at http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2093559
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