Incentivizing Military Service

I asked my Turkish teaching assistant, a first-year Ph.D. student, what he’s doing about compulsory military service. To simplify, he is only liable for six months of service as a university graduate, instead of the usual one year; and if he stays here for three years or more, he can further delay service. When he, or anyone else who lived abroad for three years or more, returns to Turkey, he only has to serve one month as long as he pays the government $7000! Even ignoring the possible disutility of serving the five extra months, all he needs to do is earn $1400/month when he returns to make paying this indemnity worthwhile.

Is this system equitable? Probably not. Does it give the right incentives-steer people into the best uses of their time? Probably. It also avoids discouraging Turks from returning home. But it does create some strange incentives; the lower requirement for university grads has created a tremendous demand for online university degrees. The Turkish equivalents of the University of Phoenix are thriving!

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  1. ipek says:


    New: When he, or anyone else who WORKED (not just “stayed”) abroad for three years or more, returns to Turkey, he only has to serve THREE WEEKS (not a month) as long as he pays the government $7000.

    You can pay the fee, 7000 euros, in upto 4 payments stretched over a time period as you choose. You just want to make sure that you pay the total 7000 euros before making a permanent move back to Turkey.

    This is a good option for people working abroad, because obviously most people would lose their jobs if they wanted to take off for 6 months for military service. So this way you keep your job, but pay money to the government in return for just being able to hold on to your job. Basically it’s as if you are doing a military service while working on your job for 5 months after you finish the 3 week military service. You are giving the money you earn at your job to the Turkish military.

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  2. GLK says:

    This subject is a pet peeve of mine. First of all, ask any old person like my 90 year old mom about what public High School was like in her era. You’ll find that the studious disciplines of yore were far, far more arduous that the ridiculously lax dumbed down system of today. And, how, pray tell did this happen? A little thing called the Vietnam war and the draft deferment our government offered to the kids that went to college. As a result college enrollment burgeoned and with it a new industry was born. Time was that corporate positions even at the executive level were filled by employees that came up through the ranks, but with each successive legion of college graduates (basically draft dodgers) the idea was formed that people without college degrees were somehow defective. Not surprisingly as a college education became mandatory for achieving any semblance of a decent job our High Schools declined precipitously until what we have now is a four year degree that equals what a High School education provided 30 years ago. And, also not surprisingly, since the majority of kids go to college nowadays the value of the four year degree has degenerated to that of the former High School diploma. Except, of course, in the old days a quality education was adequately paid for via tax dollars and now parent’s second mortgage their homes. Add to that the unique perception that somehow colleges make kids smarter, yet if you are my age, 53, and you have the opportunity to speak to and/or work with these allegedly enlightened souls it becomes quite obvious that stupid is as stupid does no matter the level of education. But the false perceptions and the industry that spawned them is here to stay so we must all play the game or be ostracized. But rest assured it’s all a game, as Ben Bernanke proved when he stated in his recent commencement speech to the graduating class at the University of South Carolina that “money isn’t everything.”

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  3. Nick says:

    “I have long wondered why the United States doesn’t permit “civilians” to serve in the “back offices” of the Army. I mean, why do you have to with certain weight, height, and age guidelines in order to cook dinner for the troops, or run a computer database?”

    Aaron, I would say that on any given Air Force base (and maybe the other branches too, I’ll just go with what I’m familiar with), about 25% of the base are civilians, including both much of the dining staff and the systems administrator positions. They’ll always have some military cooks because they can be forced to deploy somewhere awful, but for the most part the chow halls are staffed by civilians.

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  4. Eva says:

    Actually, many young people of Turkish decent living in Germany used to be reluctant to apply for Germany citizenship because that used to mean they would have to give up their Turkish citizenship (Germany now allows dual citizenship), thus making them ineligible for Turkish military service. From what I’ve read in the media, there is a huge sense of pride attached to serving in the military, especially for young people living abroad. Surely that is a factor.

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  5. Jack says:

    Haha, I literally just got back in from and ROTC field training exercise to read this. Very interesting.

    Also interesting how our own volunteer military incentivizes. Not only the recruiting incentives, but also social incentives to do well; airborne, ranger, aviation, special forces, all these things are hyped up so much that thousands go through rigorous training, a great cost of discomfort just to be one of the best and little explicit incentive.

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  6. J says:

    “I have long wondered why the United States doesn’t permit “civilians” to serve in the “back offices” of the Army”

    Wonder no more; they do. Please do not take this as some sort of snarky insult – it isn’t – but I’m curious where you live and what industry you make your living in.

    “Does it give the right incentives-steer people into the best uses of their time? Probably”

    I’m not so sure. It replicates the problem we have in this country, in which the majority of graduate degrees are masters degrees in education, diploma mill MBAs, or other fluff, obtained because the school system/government agency you work for will pay you more money or require it for advancement, no matter how useless or irrelevant the degree is. A lot of higher education is a collosal waste of time, either not imparting any useful knowledge, or jamming a six week training program into two years of school. The winds of change seem to be blowing though…

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  7. Ezel Kara says:

    Correction for the second time: It is NOT 7000 Euros, instead it is $7500 provided that you are below 38.

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  8. Sergey Shelukhin says:

    As a similar example you can look at Russia. People avoid compulsory service at all costs (personally I am “lucky” tohave bad eyesight); as one of the ways to delay or avoid it is going to university (service delayed while you study, and many universities have much easier and less demanding “military class” that makes you an officer and more or less exempts you from service at peace time) , probably more than half of the males in free public education are there mostly to avoid army. Heck, some people start working on PhD to avoid service, without any hope of completing it, and just languish there (doing enough to not get thrown out) until the end of draft age (27)

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