Market Education

The Unknown History

by Andrew Coulson

Most fields have seen enormous productive growth during this century. The education industry, however, stands out as a unique symbol of failure. This remarkable book seeks to explain this by tracing the "unknown history" of education: the free markets successes and the government-controlled disasters.

Ancient Greece was the first civilization we know to have systematically educated its young. Yet Athens had no state involvement in education, which was provided entirely by private, for-profit educators The result, Coulson says “was the most literate society in the Western world at that time."

Again and again, Coulson shows that the high points of education came during periods of relative privatization – Athens, early Muslim society, Renaissance France, early America – all experienced phenomenal successes because of free-market schooling. Whereas Sparta, the Roman empire, Reformation Germany – and contemporary America – have all experienced educational catastrophes because of state intervention.

Coulson blames government for the awful curriculum of today's schools. Consider, for example, the turn from phonics t o the look-say method of reading. "Such a widespread disaster," he argues, "would be all but impossible i n a competitive, for-profit environment."

Coulson boldly champions for-profit education. Private, non-profit educators, he says, are unlikely to engage in risky, innovative ventures to improve the methods of education. Today's "reform" proposals-such as tuition vouchers and charter schools-are roundly dismissed by Coulson. He finds that they all fail to undo the cause of the problem, and therefore make matters worse. Only a return to a fully free market, he argues will end the crisis. This book demonstrates the real possibility of laissez-faire in education Most of all, it shows that quality education is possible – something almost forgotten after a century of educational decline and disaster

(451 pages)

This review is courtesy of and copyright © by the Ayn Rand Bookstore.


  • Market Education, The Unknown History by Andrew Coulson. Profit-motivated education has accompanied successful civilizations since Athens while state-ruled education has accompanied failure since Sparta.