Monday, February 8, 2016

What Prisons and Military Draft Rationale Have In Common

Both have served over time as ways to "contain" individuals, who may otherwise lack economic access. However, a draft free military nonetheless relies on volunteers from rural regions in particular, given the (present) lack of economic complexity in these areas. Many among the marginalized - wherever they are - have few economic means to prove themselves trustworthy, "useful" or possibly both.

While these are generalizations, I believe they still apply in part because of labor force participation rate circumstance such as this. Might today's greater numbers of unemployed youth, mean a return of the draft? Even though a NYT article looked at the possibility of a draft for women in the near future, the danger of a renewed draft exists for all involved, especially now that there is growing pressure to reduce prison populations.

Consider the timing of U.S. prison growth, which experienced broad expansion for nearly four decades. Prison growth gained momentum after the loss of the draft in the seventies. Prison containment was also a factor which reduced unemployment statistics for the U.S., in relation to other developed nations. Even though recent trends toward prison reform are surfacing, as Tyler Cowen notes from a recent Huffington Post article, the War on Drugs needs to be replaced with stronger and more locally driven economic engagement. Plus, the present rate of prison population decline is slow. At 1.8% per year, it would take 88 years for prison populations to return to their 1980 level.

Prisons also became a local response, for areas which found themselves too far removed from economic activities which were becoming centralized in the cities. In a sense, exclusionary tactics on the part of non tradable sectors have contributed to prison populations and the potential for the restoration of the draft in the U.S. Hence the ball is now in the court of today's non tradable sectors, to provide a counterbalance for a growing lack of freedom and economic uncertainty.

There's another consideration as well. How would governments propose to continue providing basic services for prisoners, the military, and others who are becoming marginalized, as limits to growth in non tradable sectors become more prevalent? When I looked on Google to find recent articles about lack of healthcare - for instance - multiple articles surfaced from the early days of the Great Recession. Hence I couldn't be certain, whether there has been overall improvement in services access since that time.

However, I did find several links which indicate ongoing problems - here, here and notably, here as well. It may be that Washington would like to see cutbacks in the prison system because of the lack of healthcare access that prisoners already experience, especially when healthcare for veterans has been on short supply as well. All of this, when healthcare provider limits are still emerging for the payers in today's system (Obamacare) who can bear the most financial responsibility.

Forgive me for one rant in this post, because it needs to be said. Where on earth is all that bountiful physician supply that people seem to imagine? And then there's this. What might these circumstance imply, regarding other marginalized groups whose access is in question? In the U.S. there are strong incentives, for rational individuals to avoid what has become the overwhelming burdens of physician responsibilities. Knowledge use systems would need to generate new means for supply and demand in healthcare, as one of their first priorities.

Hopefully, Washington will resist any urge that some policy makers have to reinstate the draft. Instead of viewing today's marginalized as an inevitable burden on society, it is time to ask for their help in rebuilding society and a stronger economy as well. It is time to find ways to bring the marginalized back into the fold, to generate new wealth and assist in the services they will need in the future.

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