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On choice

The next mistake was to embrace 'choice'. The belief in choice followed naturally from a belief in the efficacy of the market, which was taken for granted by the people Labour ministers listened to. This had very damaging consequences both in education and in health. In education it predicated parental choice as the foundation of policy. It gave parents unique rights. But why should parents have such rights? In the jargon, education is a 'social good' not a 'private good'. How and where our children are taught must be a collective not an individual decision; and that is the view of most parents. They want their children to get a good education, but they are prepared to let the professionals do it, as surveys have repeatedly confirmed. Despite this, the right to choose was thought paramount by New Labour and was to be encouraged by creating an array of different kinds of school where efficient parents could find what they wanted. Except, of course, that they couldn't. Only some got their choice, and they were often the best connected, best informed. Attempts to correct this via lotteries only outraged the losers even more. Far from encouraging social harmony, choice encouraged a war of all against all. Far from solidifying the Labour vote, choice undermined it. And it left the way open for the Conservative Party's silly proposals for 'free schools': parent-run, state-financed independent schools spuriously claimed to empower the poor. (Excerpted from an article by Ross McKibbin.)

This has always baffled me, the political assertion that people want choice in schools and hospitals. No-one in the media seems to make the obvious counter-argument, why in the world would we want to choose hospitals, we just want to get fixed.

Anyway, when I last posted about "choice" Jack mentioned this fantastic radio programme about the psychology of choice - it's an amazing programme, I highly recommend you listen.

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