The government’s Free Schools policy is widely regarded as a significant innovation; a radical shake-up of state education. The next logical step – permitting for-profit providers to deliver state-funded education – is still hotly contested and is unlikely to emerge in this parliament.
Yet even if profit-making providers were able to deliver state-funded schooling, this would hardly represent a free market in education. For one thing, almost all discussion of voucher schemes and for-profit provision assumes that prices will be capped.
This misses one of the most crucial benefits of allowing markets to operate.