Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on November 8, 2015

in Other People's Money, War

… is from page 185 of the original edition of Edwin Cannan‘s 1927 collection, An Economist’s Protest; specifically, it’s from Cannan’s letter of September 19th, 1919, to the editor of Common Cause:

For my part I think it no blame to the ordinary contract of service, terminable at a day’s or a week’s notice, that the war would have either ended much sooner or have been conducted on a much smaller scale if the soldiers of all the armies had been engaged on those terms.

Yep.  I’ve never understood why, if police officers, fire-fighters, EMS rescuers, commercial fishermen, and construction workers have employment-at-will contracts which allow them to quit on short notice, soldiers must sign up for years at a time.  What’s unique about the military that demands multi-year commitments from its workers in lieu of employment-at-will?  I can think of no good reason for this difference in employment arrangements.  (Please: No quips about academic tenure and the fact that I have it: I believe that tenure is a poor employment arrangement.  I see nothing about academic jobs that justifies the tenure arrangement.  Tenure probably gives unnecessary amounts of job security to poor teachers and researchers who are lucky enough to win it while, simultaneously. reducing the monetary compensation of good teachers and researchers without effectively increasing their job security.  And in all cases tenure almost surely, at the margin, diminishes the quality of most academics’ performance.  This latter quality-diminishing effect, however, likely affects poor academics disproportionately to good academics because many of the latter, unlike the former, still can get job offers from other employers.  The real possibility of such offers keeps good academics performing at a higher level than they’d perform were such job offers not potentially on the horizon for them.)

Of course, in WWI all of the major belligerents used conscription to enslave young men into the ranks of their militaries – an abominable practice that, even more than the absence of employment-at-will employment, encouraged the belligerents’ ‘leaders’ to keep the slaughter going for a good bad long time.

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