Solutions often evolve into monopolies, and work well enough that there is not much desire to change them. The phone company monopolies of the last century are an example. However, technology can change the underlying logic so much that the old monopolies make no sense. Communications today is far better than what the best science fiction writers imagined just a few decades ago, and is showing no signs of slowing. Elon Musk’s company will launch 7,518 satellites to create their Starlink program, which aims to provide satellite-based broadband internet everywhere on earth. This is the free market at work, and Starlink is just one of the projects in this market.
I am old enough to remember the forecasts of doom and disaster if competition was allowed in telephone service. The doomsayers were wrong. The free market provides solutions that are impossible to forecast. Competition and the profit motive bring out the best that humans can create. Communications solutions today are employing far more people than the old phone monopolies, and delivering services never dreamed of. The forecasts of disastrous unemployment and system collapse if the phone monopolies were opened to competition were totally and completely wrong.
Monopolies exclude the free market. Allowing it to function everywhere would greatly improve our world. Three big monopolies are K-12, Higher Education, and Drug Addiction. How can they be de-monopolized?
What if, instead of pouring funding in at the top, we created educational endowments for each K-12 student. Student endowment funds would pay out for students who achieved grade level knowledge. Instead of endless fights over charter schools, home schooling, etc. etc., all students would become customers for educational services and be treated accordingly. Providers for students who did poorly would not be paid, leaving twice the annual amount available next year to educators who could catch them up.
Instead of leaving dropouts to fend for themselves, the funds would remain on deposit indefinitely, allowing those who got their act together to get an education.
Free market provision of K-12 educational services would see dramatic cost reduction. Expanded offerings would make full use of technology. Gamification would create educated kids and make learning fun. At some point tax funding of education could end. Educational services would become as inexpensive as other services provided by the free market, just as communication services have. The era of government monopoly factory schools would end.
For Higher Education what if we forced state colleges and universities to grant equal credit via examinations, with the education provided by the free market. Credits earned via examination could be mixed with those from sitting through the classes and would lead to the same degrees. This would create an explosion of free market providers of educational services and end the current abused monopoly status of academia.
The tests should not be pass/fail, but actually indicate the test score. The credentialing exams should also allow retaking, with higher grade points reflecting life experience and added study. To stop indoctrination, an appeals procedure staffed by volunteer alumni could allow review where other than multiple choice questions are part of the grade. Total transparency at the student’s option would be required.
Instead of creating generations so in debt that they have trouble starting families and buying their first houses, we could be creating generations who can train quickly for job opportunities in the high tech world of the future. It is time to open the provision of educational services to the free market in a truly meaningful way.
Our world has a big addiction problem, and the government has a monopoly on dealing with it. Elsewhere in this blog I describe an almost no cost harm reduction approach. Let’s let an addict go to any physician and get a prescription for his drug.
I was approached by a construction supervisor on a project I was associated with. He told me of a co-worker supervisor who became addicted to opioids prescribed for pain relief after a construction accident. When he couldn’t get a reliable supply he turned to heroin, which was readily available thanks to the Taliban. Small doses of heroin allowed him to avoid withdrawal symptoms. He was back to work and functioning normally when he got caught up with law enforcement, destroying his life. A thirty something engineering professional doing important work is now a criminal, his family financially destroyed.
The obvious better solution is to let him remain on opioids legally until he decides to get off. Is that any worse than staying on Prozac or Xanax?
The reason he couldn’t is because the worst kind of monopoly, a government monopoly, does not allow it. It is time to end that monopoly. Get the free market involved and let the addicted themselves choose the best way to deal with it. Take the illicit profit out of it, end the armies of pushers, and the problem would disappear. This monopoly is not just costing billions, it is destroying lives, creating and supporting a huge international criminal culture, and making the worst people in our society rich.
Monopolies in our world are forcing all of us to pay far more than we should for inferior outcomes. It is time to de-monopolize.