Here’s a link to a brilliant piece by the Aussie economist John Quiggin – occasionally of this parish – about the failures of the market when it comes to the delivery of social programmes.
I particularly liked this introductory contrast between Thomas Edison and Tony Blair :
Thomas Edison is supposed to have said, “I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” This quote comes irresistibly to mind when thinking about Tony Blair’s famous commitment to “what works”, as opposed to ideology, in public policy.
In retrospect, it seems that Blair, and like-minded reformers throughout the English-speaking world, have delivered an Edison in reverse. Edison experimented with many things that didn’t work, but ended up with a light bulb. Market-oriented reforms, particularly in the provision of human services like health, education and public safety, have begun with a working system and replaced it with a string of failed experiments.
Quiggin proceeds to give some examples of those dismal market experiments from all around the world, with even Serco’s private prison experiments in New Zealand rating a mention. Links are also provided to US data on the school privatisation industry, aka charter schools.
The argument that Quiggin is making seems especially relevant to this country at a time when several major experiments on New Zealand children are getting under way. Read the rest of this entry »