April 2021

IZA DP No. 14284: Dodging a Draft: Gary Becker's Lost Paper on Conscription

forthcoming in: In The All-Volunteer Force: Fifty Years of History, ed. William Taylor, University of Kansas Press.

Gary Becker wrote what may be the first economic analysis of conscription. Less than a decade later, economists played a key role in an important public policy debate during the Vietnam War, which eventually led to abolishment of the military draft. Becker had connections to many of those economists who studied the economics of conscription, and his paper foreshadowed many of the ideas in that literature. Despite this, none cited his paper on conscription. We discuss this history and speculate on this puzzle.