Monopoly is wrong, right?

If a government were to take full control of a country's media - nationalising all newspapers, magazines, book publishers and broadcasters - everyone would condemn this, right? Almost everyone, except the most extreme apologists for totalitarianism, agrees that state monopoly ownership of the media is wrong.

True, the BBC gets a bit of a pass on its dominant position in the UK media, even though Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation is accused of monopolistic tendencies for controlling around one quarter of the BBC's market share, but almost no-one advocates state monopoly in the media.

Most people agree that for some commercial organisations to target children with their advertising - think of tobacco manufacturers here - is also wrong. Advertising to adults may be one thing, but targetting children is wrong. Children are more vulnerable to manipulation.

So how come people accept with equanimity government monopoly on schooling? If the government cannot be trusted to control the channels of communication with adults, and if children are more vulnerable to propaganda, and not somehow immune, then government monopoly in education is surely worse than wrong, and truly evil.

More mind-boggling still, the British government is bringing action for monopoly practices against the thousands of independent schools in the UK. Thousands of schools between them have just 7% of the market. The largest has a tiny fraction of 1%. And this is monopoly? Not only that, but the action against these thousands of 'monopolists' accused of anti-competitive practice is being brought by the state, the single organisation which controls 93% of the market. Lewis Carrol would be lost for words.

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