The Handbook on the Political Economy of War
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The Handbook on the Political Economy of War

Edited by Christopher J. Coyne and Rachel L. Mathers

By defining political economy and war in the broadest sense, this unique Handbook brings together a wide range of interdisciplinary scholars from economics, political science, sociology, and policy studies to address a multitude of important topics. These include an analysis of why wars begin, how wars are waged, what happens after war has ceased, and the various alternatives to war. Other sections explore civil war and revolution, the arms trade, economic and political systems, and post-conflict reconstruction and nation building. Policymakers as well as academics and students of political science, economics, public policy and sociology will find this volume to be an engaging and enlightening read.
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Chapter 9: The Political Economy of Conscription

Panu Poutvaara and Andreas Wagener


Panu Poutvaara and Andreas Wagener 9.1 INTRODUCTION Forced labor is no longer exacted by today’s non-totalitarian states – except in the forms of compulsory military service and its unarmed corollaries such as civil, alternative or social service. Conscription (military draft) is the legal obligation for persons from a certain demographic subgroup to perform military service; in practice this obligation is usually imposed on young men.1 Non-compliance with the draft is typically considered a felony, punishable by imprisonment or, in case of war, even death. After their active duty, conscripts often remain in military reserve for some additional period. Historically, conscription is quite novel (see Keegan 1993, for a thorough account). While rulers at all times pressed their subjects into military service whenever they wished so,2 such draft schemes (militias) were occasional, selective and non-systematic. In fourteenth-century Italy, hired professionals started to replace citizen militias; mercenaries and commercialized warfare dominated the European battlefields until the late eighteenth century. The birth of general military conscription is usually dated back to 1793 when the French National Convention called a levée en masse. However, in 1800 the generality of the French conscription scheme was abandoned when citizens were allowed to buy themselves out of military service. Basically, it was Prussia under its king Friedrich Wilhelm III that in 1814 first installed a universal scheme of conscription without exceptions (apart for those found unable to deliver military service). The military successes of the Prussian and Napoleonic conscripted armies inspired many countries to adopt universal...

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