Friday, March 03, 2006

Trust Busting


America experienced a lot of economic growth at the end of the 19th century. It was called the “Gilded Age” and it saw a lot of companies develop into monopolies.

Some companies were growing so big, and accumulating so much wealth and power that the federal government began to feel threatened. This prompted John Sherman, a United States Senator from Ohio, to author a bill (the Sherman Anti-Trust Act), which became law in 1890.

Later, President Theodore Roosevelt would use the law to bust up, among others, J.P. Morgan’s railroad trust and John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil trust. Apparently, the federal government’s opinion was that too much control of certain markets in the hands of a single entity was a bad thing. The president became a trust-busting machine.

Of course where the federal government was concerned it was only a bad thing if too much control of markets was in someone else’s hands. Government control is just Jim-Dandy. Education is a prime example.

John Stossel has written a wonderful essay entitled, "Competition Works," on how the application of free market principles to “public” education is the answer to improving the system. Right now “public” education is in the hands of a government monopoly and the consumers of education have little recourse for improving their situation.

In a free market education system educators would have to compete for students and, therefore, would have to concern themselves with the desires of students and parents. In the current “public” education system the vast majority of parents have no alternative to the “public” schools in their area and the educators know it. "Public" schools have a guaranteed clientele and do not need to concern themselves with customer service. They are completely at liberty to teach and indoctrinate in any manner they see fit and the parents are nearly powerless to do anything about it.

Stossel argues that the introduction of competition would take care of this problem and I whole-heartedly agree. Of course, the beneficiaries of monopolies rarely give up their position of power without a fight and that is why there is so much resistance to the concept of school choice. The "public" education system is a monopoly that is in desperate need of busting but little can be expected from the traditional trust busters of years past.

Oh, the federal government is still in the business of busting trusts. Only this time the trust they’ve busted is the one they are supposed to have with the American people.

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