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The current military pay system in the United States, which attempts to offer military personnel a level of financial compensation comparable to the wages they might reasonably command in the national labor market, is neither the historical norm nor even the most common system in the contemporary world. Although soldiers throughout history have typically received some sort of economic compensation for their service, states seeking military manpower are not bound solely by economic laws of supply and demand in the wages they offer. They enjoy enormous flexibility as the major—and typically the only—employer of military personnel, and they also have the option of bypassing the labor market completely, compelling military service through conscription (the draft). Moreover, individual decisions about whether to join the military are ...

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