Feed on

A former student asked me to re-run this post. You can see why I have few friends now.

  1. It’s likely that the main beneficiaries of “Veterans’ Day” and other ways we celebrate Veterans are not the Veterans at all. It is almost surely the government itself (on many dimensions). The dimension I have in mind is that “being appreciated” is an attractive aspect of serving in the US armed forces. Since it seems to be valued, then this makes a US military job, ceteris paribus, more valuable than other similarly risky jobs. Therefore the US government can pay its military personnel less than it otherwise would because some of the soldiers’ compensation is provided by all of us celebrating their hard work, bravery and heroism each and every year. This may, in fact, make governments more likely to engage in wars.
  2. Remember also that it cannot be easy to make soldiers as a group better off given that any effort we make to raise soldier “compensation” above what it is now will draw soldiers into the profession until the marginal soldier is indifferent between being a soldier and the next best option. Perhaps the best way to improve the well being of soldiers is not to have Veterans’ Day, but rather instead to start offering up Plumbers Appreciation Days.  And while I am on that topic:
  3. Why the military? What makes the military so special as to be deserving of a special day? It can’t be job risk. If so, then we’d have to have Deepwater Oil Rig Welder Appreciation Day, and we’d have Logger Appreciation Day … but call me crazy for not expecting those any time soon. Now, please don’t lecture me here, I am pretty well aware of why we have Veterans’ Day, but it still is useful to ask the question.
  4. But suppose you don’t care much about (1) or (2) or (3) … are the cities and communities around the country today also going to be celebrating Blackwater and Raytheon? Why not?

One Response to “Removal from Polite Company: Veterans’ Day Edition”

  1. Greg W says:

    It’s 3 and 4 that put 1 and 2 into perspective. The feedback between policy and public opinion is much stronger than we realize.

    I once read something about an aggressive rebranding of the armed forces after the draft ended and its effect on public opinion today. I wasn’t alive then and I don’t remember much of the article so I can’t comment on how that actually happened.

    Here’s an interesting idea: compare the causes of the Spanish-American and Iraq Wars.

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