Walter E. Williams

 Last year, Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) introduced bills calling for reinstatement of the military draft. A far more descriptive term for the military draft is government confiscation of labor services, but keeping with the spirit of euphemistic obfuscation, I'll stick to the term draft. Let's first ask why a draft would be needed in the first place.

 Rest assured that if the military offered a compensation package of, say, $50,000 to $100,000 a year, it could get all the soldiers it wanted. Thus, lesson No. 1 is that whenever there's a draft, you know that the wage is too low to get a sufficient number of people to voluntarily supply their labor services.

 Sen. Hollings said, "One way to avoid a lot more wars is to institute the draft." That's a statement that reflects gross economic ignorance. In terms of incentives, it produces the opposite effect. Why? The draft is used because the wage the military offers isn't high enough to get what's deemed as a sufficient number of people to volunteer.

 Here's my no-brainer question: Under which scenario is war cheaper for the Defense Department -- the volunteer army or the draft? Obviously, it's the draft since the Defense Department doesn't have to pay the higher wages to get men to sign up voluntarily. Since the Defense Department has a smaller manpower expense, the draft disguises the true cost of war, and one would expect more, not less, military adventurism.

 Waging war requires much more than soldiers. You need tanks, bombs, bullets and aircraft. Have you heard a call to draft $15 million F-15 fighter jets or $4.3 million M1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks? I haven't. The reason is that the government pays the kind of prices whereby producers voluntarily supply these products. Of course, if the Pentagon were willing to pay McDonnell Douglas only $5 million for an F-15 and General Dynamics only $1 million for a tank, it would have to draft (read: confiscate) jets and tanks.

 Does one have a duty to defend his country? I say yes. In order to field one soldier, I'm guessing you need hundreds of civilian workers to supply him with boots, food, bullets, tanks, jets, medical equipment and thousands of other items needed in war in addition to soldiers. Thus, if you're engaged in producing these items, you are participating in the defense of your country.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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