A Consequence of Conscription

by Don Boudreaux on April 22, 2010

in Crime, Seen and Unseen

The first article of mine ever published is entitled “The Costs of Conscription” (co-authored with my undergrad mentor, William P. Field – actually, Bill wrote 90 percent of the piece).  It appeared in the August 1979 issue of Reason.  (I can’t find it on-line.  All the worse for humanity.)

Military conscription is one of those issue that I have no tolerance for.  It’s wrong — economically and, especially, ethically.  There is never any good justification for forcing anyone to fight and die for any state.

A December 2009 paper by Sebastian Galiani, Martín Rossi, and Ernesto Schargrodsky – entitled “Conscription and Crime” – offers evidence for yet another reason why conscription is utterly without merit.  Here’s the abstract:

We estimate the causal effect of mandatory participation in the military service on the involvement in criminal activities. We exploit the random assignment of young men to military service in Argentina through a draft lottery to identify this causal effect. Using a unique set of administrative data that includes draft eligibility, participation in the military service, and criminal records, we find that participation in the military service increases the likelihood of developing a criminal record in adulthood. The effects are not only significant for the cohorts that performed military service during war times, but also for those that provided service at peace times. We also find that military service has detrimental effects on future performance in the labor market.

(HT my GMU colleague John Nye)

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