How choice and competition improve society

Image via today for City AM, Paul Ormerod argues “It’s time to fight the claim that consumer choice doesn’t improve public services”. Quite right.

Ormerod indicates one of the trends of our time:

The new Labour shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh said last week that she was “open” to the idea of returning all train services to state control. Damaging reports into the Al-Madinah free school in Derby have led to sustained attacks on the idea of freeing schools from local authority control. Certainly, a substantial part of the electorate appears to be opposed to profit-oriented companies providing services in sectors such as education and health, as a Policy Exchange report showed last year. And just this week, a poll by YouGov for the Centre for Labour and Social Studies found that 68 per cent think energy companies should be nationalised. There is a general unease about markets, especially in the light of the financial crisis.

One underlying misconception among people whose sentiment is against choice and competition appears to be that nothing should ever go wrong, that the existence of a problem indicates the failure of a system. That’s just not how society works.

The point about choice and competition is that people can exit unsatisfactory arrangements for better ones. Society is a process of co-operation which will never stop while people live. We must accept that people and their efforts will sometimes fall short. The thing to do is not entrench that failure by backing it with state power but to enable people to find some better solution.

That’s what choice, competition and markets are about: driving up quality and service while driving down prices. It’s the best mechanism there is for improving our lives.

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Comments & Responses

2 Responses so far.

  1. waramess says:

    Maybe it is time for politicians who believe in the benefits of choice and competition to start educating the great unwashed by having regular columns and articles in newspapers.

    Maybe then the resistance to proper privatisation of state “dervices” will recede

    • Gary says:

      Nice idea……..but invariably the politicians who advocate ” free choice ” would be publishing columns in the likes of the Telegraph and Guardian etc, the great unwashed are more likely to be reading the Sun or Mirror. And as for the idea of Mary Creagh returning rail to state control, as far as I m concerned, it is well and truly still in state control…..I simply dont see private enterprise contributing significant investment in infrastructure or indeed testing the market with fares and seeing what the true level of demand is…