There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

By Milton Friedman | Go to book overview

Chapter Eight
A Volunteer Army

It would be nice to record that this chapter has only historical interest, that the move from conscription to an all-volunteer armed force, completed on June 30, 1973, can be regarded as a fait accompli. Unfortunately, that would be premature. The draft did end on June 30, 1973, both because President Nixon and Secretary Laird had committed themselves to that outcome and also because Congress was unwilling to enact a further continuation of conscription. But sad experience has taught me that there is many a slip between initial acceptance of a policy and its full implementation and retention. The final column in this chapter documents the divided views in the armed services about the volunteer army and the difficulty of inducing the armed forces to implement it vigorously and effectively.

Despite these doubts, the record does give real ground for optimism. We have come a long way from the period when the draft was routinely and with hardly a murmur of opposition renewed for four years at a clip (always in odd-numbered years when there were neither congressional nor presidential elections). There is widespread, informed, and vigorous opposition to the draft, and despite all their hesitancy, the leaders of the armed forces are making a determined and intelligent effort to implement a volunteer force. After my column, "Volunteer Armed Force: Failure or Victim?" ( February 11, 1974) appeared, I received a number of letters from high officials in the armed forces assuring me that they were determined to make the volunteer army a success and that the problems I had referred to in my column had been resolved.

Though this issue is outside my major field of professional interest, it happens to be one in which I have been passionately involved for many

-187-

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