Comments on economics, mystery fiction, drama, and art.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

The Draft

Bush has said that he does not intend to ask Congress to reinstitution a military draft. For any of a number of reasons, such a promise cannot be take seriously. If nothing else, the economics of the situation are likely to work against him--assuming he gets re-elected.

First, the current set of foreign policies seem to presume a greater use of military power than did the policies of previous administrations. So the demand for military personnel has increased.

Second, if the labor market recovers, with stronger (private-sector) job growth, then the opportunities available to potential volunteers will probably improve, causing the supply of volunteers to decrease. Additional factors causing a reduction in the supply of volunteers for military service include the rising risks of being in the military and the recent record of the administration in using stop-loss orders to extend terms of service of existing military personnel.

Third, Congress is unlikely to increase the compensation for military service, because of the large and growing federal government budget deficits.

Without a draft, what appears likely is a growing shortfall in recruiting efforts. So something will have to give. Either a re-elected Bush administration will be forced to scale back its foreign policy objectives. Or it will have to draft.

So tying your hands with a promise not to do something you might be forced to consider is at best imprudent, and at worst deceitful.


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