Here’s a letter to a correspondent:
Mr. Craig Clayton
Dear Mr. Clayton:
Criticizing my unconditional opposition to conscription , you ask what I would do if “our fighting forces were undermanned and needing substantial infusions of manpower to protect our freedoms.” That’s easy: raise soldiers’ pay until the supply of such workers is sufficient to meet the Pentagon’s ‘needs.’
This market method of recruiting workers works for every other sort of business. When convenience stores (which are very dangerous places to work) need more workers, no one frets about the nation being “underserved” because of a shortage of convenience-store clerks – and no one proposes that the government, to protect against this possibility, conscript people to work in convenience stores. Instead, the pay of such store clerks rises. Problem solved. Ditto for fishing boats (also very dangerous places to work). And ditto for local police, fire-fighting, and EMS forces. Ditto for every other job you can name.
If every job other than those in a national-government’s military is routinely filled without problem or concern by market forces, I see zero reason to worry that jobs in the U.S. military cannot continue to be filled in the same way. And I see every reason to worry that, should politicians and Pentagon brass once again grab the power to enslave young people, that power will be used with even less humanity than was the power of antebellum plantation owners in the American south to enslave blacks. Plantation owners, for all of their vileness, at least were not in the business of waging war.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030
It occurred to me only after I sent the above reply to Mr. Clayton to point out also that humanity sadly has never experienced any shortage of young men who are eager to tote around or to man lethal weapons and then to charge into combat wielding those weapons. Any government that finds itself unable to persuade lots of young men to experience – and with pay, to boot – the alleged thrills and stupid ‘glory’ of battle would be historically incompetent and, hence, especially not to be trusted to enslave young people.