Ejército voluntario.

According to this objection, the volunteer army may not be as voluntary as it seems. In fact, it may involve an element of coercion. If some in the society have no other good options, those who choose to enlist may be conscripted, in effect, by economic necessity. In that case, the difference between conscription and the volunteer army is not that one is compulsory while the other is free-the force of law in the first case and the pressure of economic necessity in the second- Only if people have a reasonable range of decent job options can it be said that the choice to serve for pay reflects their preferences rather than their limited alternatives.

The class composition of today’s volunteer army bears out this objection, at least to some extent. Young people from low-to middle-income neighbourhoods(median household income of $30,850 to $57,836) are disproportionately represented in the ranks of active-duty army recruits. Least represented are the poorest 10 per cent of the population (many of whom may lack the requisite education and skills) and the most affluent 20 per cent (those from neighborhoods with median household incomes of $66,329 and above). In recent years, over 25 per cent of army recruits have lacked a regular high school diploma. And while 46 per cent of the civilian population has had some college education, only 6.5 per cent of the 18-to-24-year-olds in the military’s enlisted ranks have ever been to college.

In recent years, the most privileged young people in America society have not opted for military service. The title of a recent book about class composition of the armed forces captures this well: AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America’s Upper Classes Military Service. Of the 750 members of Princeton’s class of 1956, the majority-450 students-joined the military after graduation. Of the 1,108 members of Princeton’s class of 2006, only 9 students enlisted. A similar pattern is found at other elite universities-and in the nation’s capital. only 2 per cent of members of Congress have a son or daughter serving in the military.

Congressman Charler Rangel, a Democrat from Harlem who is a decorated Korean War veteran, considers this unfair, and has called for reinstatement of the draft. “As long as Americans are being shipped off the war”, he wrote, “then everybody should be vulnarable, not just those who, because of economic circumstances, are attracted by lucrative enlistment bonuses and educational incentives.” He points out that, in New York City, “the disproportionate burden of service is dramatic. In 2004, 70% of the volunteers in the city were black or Hispanic, recruited from lower income communities.”

Rangel opposed the Iraq War, and believes it never would have been launched if the children of policy-makers had had to share the burden of fighting it. He also arguees that, given the unequal opportunities in American society, allocating military service by the marked is unfair to those with fewer alternatives (…)

Of course, no society is perfectly equal. So the risk of coercion always hovers over the choices people make in the labour market. How much equality is needed to ensure that market choices are free rather than coerced? At what point do inequalities in the background conditions of society undermine the fairness of social institutions(such ad the volunteer army) based on individual choice? Under what conditions is the free market really free?(…)

Kennedy observes that, “proportionate to the population, today’s active-duty military establishment is about 4 per cent of the size of the force that won World War II.” This makes it relatively easy for policy-makers to commit the country to war without having to secure the broad and deep consent of the society as a whole. “History’s most powerful military force can now be sent into battle in the name of a society that scarcely breaks a sweat when it does so.” The volunteer army absolves most Americans of the responsibility to fight and die fir their country (…)

“A hugely preponderant majority of Americans with no risk whatsoever of exposure to military service have, in effect, hired some of least advantaged of their fellow countrymen to do some of their most dangerous business while the majority goes with their own affairs unbloodied and undistracted”.

Justice, Michael J. Sandel.