Upon learning that Poland is set to end military conscription starting early next year, Microkhan got to wondering about the economic effects of nixing the draft. Is it a net good to have thousands of 18-to-21-year-olds pounding the pavement in search of jobs or educations, as opposed to learning how to march and fire weapons?
This study, which focused on the financial fates of thousands of British men, pretty clearly comes down on the side of ending conscription:
Our results suggest that the effect of military conscription on subsequent earnings is significant and long-lasting. Males who served for two years in the National Service earn on average between 4 and 6 percentage points less than the immediately subsequent cohort exempt from compulsory military service. We find very little evidence that the effect of military service on subsequent earnings is through education. In fact, our estimates show that exempt cohorts accumulate on average only a quarter of a year of additional education.
Granted, however, there is a chicken-or-egg issue here. Nations typically end conscription only after they’ve attained a sufficient amount of both external and internal security, which means the next generation’s prospects are already looking pretty bright.
Then there are random holdouts like Switzerland and Sweden, which keep on drafting despite their prosperity. Although even the Swedes are starting to buckle.