Thought Prompt #1: Economics

I posed the question: What are some of the potential economic ramifications of the U.S. Government passing a bill that does not pay U.S. military active duty retirement benefits after twenty years of service until the veteran reaches 65 years of age? To which, I received several comments about possible ramifications, including “Mandatory military service instead of the current system of voluntary service….”, “a military full of people who don’t give a shit because ‘what’s in it for me after all I’ve sacrificed?'”, and “as for economics sounds like a horrible downward spiral.”

The reason I asked this questions is to get writerly brains like mine thinking about world-building. You might ask what economics has to do with writing, especially something as sensitive as the pay of soldiers who volunteer their lives and their freedom in order to protect their country. Here are my thoughts on that.

Every writer, no matter the genre or the timeframe, must create entire societies. Even if you write romance, urban fantasy, horror, or stories that are based in the real world which we all live in, you still have to build a society for your characters to live in. Think about it – your lead female character in your romance novel has to have the ability to get food and fancy clothes from somewhere. Even if she’s the typical trapped damsel in distress, perhaps it’s her family that has the money, or she’s a prostitute and that’s how she earns her keep. Regardless of whether you can see it or not, money plays a part in her world. Either the abundance or the absence creates her world.

So now that you’ve got an idea of how money can affect small aspects of a character’s world, think about what kind of society you would start to build if you stopped paying or providing for the soldiers in your created world. I’m going to use the current U.S. economics situation as an example of how we, as writers, can use the world around us to improve our written worlds.

Towns and cities near military installations tend to be very financially stable, with a lot of room for growth. You’re more likely to find a plethora of different restaurants, electronics stores, car shops, and other places that cater to people who have a dedicated paycheck and want to spend their money on entertainment purposes. By creating stable sources of revenue for the local stores, the employees at the local stores can feel free to use their money to invest, provide for their families, and also invest in entertainment and a higher standard of living. This also increases construction and development throughout the area, as people will want to live there because there are jobs nearby.

So what happens if you take that away? All the construction goes away, the jobs fizzle, and go away. And I’ll leave you to ponder what that can do to the society and the character’s lives.

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About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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One Response to Thought Prompt #1: Economics

  1. AnonymousEconomist says:

    First, I would suggest reframing your question. Perhaps a better question would be, “what would happen if the government reallocated those funds from immediate military pension to ______?”

    The reason I suggest you reframe your question, is because you are misinterpreting exactly what Economics is. Economics is not about money. Economics is decision theory. So, if you actually wanted to apply Economics to your question, and then discover a conclusion, then perhaps you need to approach the problem differently.

    So, assuming that we rephrase what you are attempting to ask, then the correct hypothesis would look more like this:

    If Congress enacted a bill that would restrict retired veterans benefits from becoming accessible until the federal retirement age, would that have a negative impact on military recruiting?

    Now, the emotional response to this, that being how the question makes us feel, would be “yes, this bill would negatively impact military recruiting.” However, at what percent would we say that recruiting is negatively impacted? Is it -2%? -5%? -10%? In what areas of recruiting would this bill effect? Would it be NCO enlistments? OC training? All of these questions, and many more, must be taken into account before an answer can be concluded.

    While I have a “gut” economists feeling about where and how military service would be impacted, no formal conclusion could be reached without extensive research and data. My feeling is that normal enlistement would be impacted <5%. Officer enlistment would be impacted <10%. MOS that require more academic schooling and training would be more severly impacted. However, we are assuming that the bill is static, with no amendments attached, either from committee or on the floor. Therefore, by asking the question differently, and by posing it as a hypothesis, your question now has a more substantial basis to it, and hopefully, becomes somewhat easier to understand.

    Just some food for thought.

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