Wartime Economics of Punishing Men

face of a prisoner

Wartime is associated with a significant increase in the public value of men. Mobilizing a large number of well-motivated men to fight has been highly important to success in war. Many men have considered fighting and dying in war, under the political authority governing one’s community and for a just cause, to be virtuous, responsible, and a worthy sacrifice. Other men have served only under either informal or formal conscription. In either case, the need for men to fight has been well-recognized publicly during wartime.

An increase in the public value of men best explains the reduction in the ratio of men per woman suffering life-disposing punishment during periods of war. Military service is not typically considered a substitute for punishment. However, the wartime increase in the public value of men raises the opportunity cost of disposing of men in punishment. The administration of justice typically involves considerable discretion.^ ^ Hence changes in the public value of men can affect the extent of male criminal punishment without any changes in formal criminal law.

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