A model of military conscription with costly deferments is developed. Deferments may enable the induction of only those with the lowest reservation wages, avoiding the usual misallocation of resources with conscription versus a volunteer military. With costly deferments, the tradeoff between conscription and a volunteer military involves the cost of deferments with the former and the higher deadweight cost of taxation with the latter. Among the results are: 1) conscription is socially preferable to a volunteer military only if a large percentage of eligible individuals is demanded by the military; 2) if conscription is used when it is socially cheaper than a volunteer military, welfare is improved if deferments have lower social benefits; and 3) ignoring other costs of conscription (e.g., higher turnover and reduced investment in human capital), the U.S. in World War II may have been near the point at which conscription and a volunteer military were of equal social cost.
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