Monday, February 04, 2008

Let the Market Decide

Responding to Clive Shepherd.

The problem with 'let the market decide' - especially in education - is that the market is rigged.

We are used to thinking of the 'market' as students. But students - especially young students - are not in a position to make market decisions, and so people make these decisions for them. These people are the true 'market'.

For young children, the 'market' consists of the school boards. For older students the 'market' is curriculum committees and/or professors. For corporate learners the 'market' is the training department.

These markets are easily 'fixed'. For example, a common tactic is to convince members of the 'market' that the materials need some sort of 'certification'. Well, of course, free or 'amateur' content can never get this certification. The market is thus effectively closed to them.

The market is influenced in myriad ways - making sure people are elected to these boards, spreading FUD, creating legal ambiguity (or outright legal chaos, as in the case of SCO), and more.

So you can't just 'let the market decide'. That is tantamount to letting the biggest bully win.


  1. Letting the market decide is as bad as letting the government decide. Both extremes are evil.

    As you point out, markets are typically inefficient. That is, in theory, a good market would offer the customers (students) the best product at the best price. Alas, this requires a perfect market, and these things are very rare, indeed.

    Meanwhile, letting the government decide puts the power in the hands of a few, sometimes a single, civil servant. Oh! Not directly! Sometimes there are elected people who appear to run the show, but they often got elected because they knew how to delegate... These civil servants cannot be fired, or have very good job security. They also tend to think that they know better. They know what is good for you. It just so happen that whatever preconceive ideas they have are the truth.

    What we need is neither of these two options.

  2. As you point out, markets are typically inefficient.

    Yes, but less inefficient than everything else and that's all that really matters.

    Education is broken because it hasn't functioned in a free market for decades. All the incentives are screwed up today.


Your comments will be moderated. Sorry, but it's not a nice world out there.