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Sunday, April 1, 2007
Of schooling, gatekeepers and free markets

Free markets are often touted as the economic mainstay of the civilised world. It is the best arbiter of the utilisation of resources, fosters healthy competition and creates wealth through rewarding hard work.

It does, however, require the right medium: a fish in the wrong tank will die almost instantly. Give people the wrong mechanisms of power and they will quickly abuse them and allow greed and arrogance to influence their decisions.
A little secrecy here, a little monopoly there and you have enough to let rip the lust for power and fortune. Remember, the biggest snouts get the largest share of the trough.
Just consider for a moment. Of the services we use, which ones are over-priced, inefficient, inflexible and impenetrable? I doubt if there is much disagreement on the answer: telecommunications, transport, healthcare and education. What do they have in common? They are monopolistic in nature, and we have no choice. We have to use a telephone or cellphone; we have to buy petrol; we have to provide medical care for our family; and, we have to send our kids to school. Over these services we have no choice. Indeed, it is a criminal offence to offer many of these services without an extremely expensive licence. Nor can you set up a corner store to sell petrol, even if you could get it delivered.
It is also a criminal offence not to send your children to school between the ages of seven and 15 years. And it is this last one, schooling, that is the subject of our cover story this month. By Nigel Benetton

Footnote: as you will read I have recounted mostly anecdotal experience and interviews conducted in the Western Cape, where we are based. It has taken about seven months in all to acquire a sufficient grasp of what’s going on. There is nothing to suggest all the issues raised are not faced on a national level, though there may be different regional emphases. I hope you will find the information useful. The articles will also be represented on our website at www.itinews.co.za, the online news service of Insurance Times & Investments. We will follow up with reports based on feedback and commentary from any of our 21 000 newsletter readers, and the huge numbers of site visitors we host, now representing over 1 million page views a month.

Are enough people really learning, or are we setting ourselves up for the next crime wave?

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:20.3 1st April, 2007
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