The Social Cost of Maintaining a Military Labor Force

by Richard N. Cooper

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A reassessment of the social costs associated with draft and no-draft military forces. Although public attention tends to center on budget costs, the more relevant variable from the standpoint of public policy is social cost, since this is the price that society as a whole pays for maintaining a military labor force. This analysis shows that social welfare losses are possible both with and without the draft. Those associated with the draft are several times larger than those associated with a volunteer military, but recent significant force reductions raise the possibility that the military labor force will be reduced to a level below what is socially optimal. More generally, the analysis suggests the importance of social cost as a measure useful to public policy.

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