We Should Emulate Israel’s Idea of Military Service

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An opponent of the draft, Greg Mankiw, a former Bush economics brain, now a professor of law at Harvard,  says that both Milton Friedman and John Kenneth Galbraith were against the draft, and approvingly quotes a recent WSJ piece:

is one price control that John Kenneth Galbraith joined Milton Friedman
in opposing in the 1960s: military conscription. He wrote, “The draft
survives principally as a device by which we use compulsion to get
young men to serve at less than the market rate of pay.”

But why are markets so central to our civic life? John O’Keeffe raises the reason I’m for the draft, the moral hazard:

Political decisions are a public
good….Is society so complicated that someone as public-oriented as JKG decided that he could not trust the political process enough so
that his sons would serve in a war that could be justified? He had to
know as the elites escaped the consequences of decisions they would
have even less stake in ensuring a good decision in the 1st place or
that the army would have the right equipment during the war or medical
care when they came home.

Friedman and Galbraith got rid of wage-slavery. They thereby separated statusy public service from the most important and onerous form of service there is. If there had been a draft, we might still be in Afghanistan (a war I supported), but we certainly wouldn’t be in Iraq and we would probably have Osama Bin Laden by now. Great national interests there. The problem with the current system is that hawks and neocons and other war-promoting elites don’t have to see their sons go off to war. That’s the moral hazard. Armchair warriors. I am for elites. A society depends upon them to manage its affairs. (If you don’t think there are elites in the army, then you haven’t seen a good war movie. Al Gore was a paper pusher in Vietnam. So was Donald Graham.) But I like the Israeli culture on this one; if you didn’t serve, you have no right to lead. We should adopt Charles Peters’s idea: a year or two of national service for all.

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Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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