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I Still Oppose the Temporary Enslavement of Young Men and Women

Here’s a letter to Cafe Hayek reader Earl Gross:

Thanks for your e-mail.

Referencing my recent blog-post on conscription, you write – in apparent disagreement with my opposition to conscription – “Nothing is free.  Freedom comes with a price the protected will never know.”

I agree that the provision of military services is not free – which is one reason why I oppose conscription.  Conscription imposes a disproportionate share of the costs of military preparedness and operation on conscripts, thereby allowing citizens as taxpayers to free ride on whatever services conscripts are forced to render.  This arrangement is unfair to conscripts.  Worse, because conscription helps to shield taxpayers from the full costs of the uses of their military, it encourages the careless and excessive use of the military – carelessness and excess that increases the prospects of all men and women in uniform being injured or killed in battle.

And I do not doubt for a moment that the experience of being in battle is a high and horrible price that, as you say, “the protected will never know.”  But nor do I doubt that justice is offended and mocked by forcing young men and women to pay that price with a policy – conscription – that relieves “the protected” of the responsibility of paying to the men and women in the military salaries sufficient to entice them to join and serve voluntarily.

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