Why is the military draft common? conscription and increasing returns

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It is well-known that if the required number of military personnel is large, paying the soldiers their hire may involve very high taxes. While conscription involves the inefficiency and unfairness of violating free choice, it may save significant distortionary costs of taxation. It is not well-known that, even in the absence of these distortionary costs, conscription may reduce the inequity of having very low marginal utilities for soldiers if they are paid enough to attract their voluntary services and very high marginal utilities for civilians if they have to pay very high taxes. Having all citizens serving an equal fraction of time may be inefficient as there are high degrees of increasing returns in military services due to both training costs and learning by doing. Conscription may then increase the expected utilities of all individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-384
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of Economics and Finance
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2008


  • Conscription
  • Draft
  • Efficiency
  • Equity
  • Fairness
  • Increasing returns

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