Last week I delivered a lecture at Cal State East Bay in Hayward about the power of the all-volunteer military.
It was really a blast. Well attended, according to the organizers, it was part of a series of lectures on free-market ideas.
Naturally, I set out to ground my thesis—that the All Volunteer Force (AVF) is better than its conscript alternative—in economic arguments. I think I was successful to the extent that I was trying to make economic sense of something that really has more aspects.
In fact, I concluded that the AVF is more powerful and more appropriate than its alternative for five reasons:
- It is the natural byproduct of our national history.
- It is constitutional.
- It is more economical.
- It is more effective.
- It better represents our culture, tradition, and values.
During the course of my research, however, I was surprised to learn how many intelligent and well-meaning men prefer conscription. Yes! There are prominent folks who would like to see a draft reinstated! Charlie Rangel is in the latter category, but not the former.
They contend that theirs would be the more economic force, that it would be more equitable, and that it would act as a check on the government’s war making ability.
I won’t argue the economics, but neither do I concede. The equity is demonstrable, and in study after study, the military is about as representative of the U.S. population in key areas as any institution. The last point, that a conscript force would cause Congress to think harder about engaging in war, or to regain some of its authority over the executive branch, is hollow.
If anything, as I have argued before, a military composed of volunteers is a natural check on government abuse, simply from a free market labor standpoint. This deserves more treatment later, but in essence, if the public doesn’t like what the government is doing with the military, instead of burning draft cards in grandiose exhibitions of dissent, people simply won’t enlist.
My comments and answers to questions at the lecture reflected as much, but I wanted to make the point again here.