- Elgar original reference
Edited by Christopher J. Coyne and Rachel L. Mathers
9 The political economy of conscription 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...
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