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Milton FriedmanContributions to Economics and Public Policy$
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Robert A. Cord and J. Daniel Hammond

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198704324

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198704324.001.0001

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Slaves or Mercenaries? Milton Friedman and the Institution of the All-Volunteer Military

Slaves or Mercenaries? Milton Friedman and the Institution of the All-Volunteer Military

(p.499) Chapter 26 Slaves or Mercenaries? Milton Friedman and the Institution of the All-Volunteer Military
Milton Friedman

John D. Singleton

Oxford University Press

Friedman was the leading public proponent for an all-volunteer military. This chapter traces his influence upon the national debate over conscription, which culminated in Friedman’s service on the Gates Commission. Friedman’s argument relied on economic reasoning and appeal to cost-benefit analysis. Central was his conjecture that the social cost of the military draft, which imposed an “implicit tax” on draftees, exceeded that of the all-volunteer military. This was supported by the work of Walter Oi. Friedman’s position attracted support both within the conservative movement and from across the political landscape, allowing him to build coalitions with individuals otherwise in disagreement with his politics. With the social context ripened by the Vietnam War, Friedman’s argument gained a wide audience and echoed in influential circles, reaching policymakers in Washington and Martin Anderson on the Nixon advising team. The successful institution of the all-volunteer armed force in the USA reflected Friedman’s intellectual entrepreneurship.

Keywords:   all-volunteer armed force, conscription, Gates Commission, implicit tax, Martin Anderson, military draft, Vietnam War, Walter Oi

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