Harford on the Poor Going Private

Tim Harford has a great little piece in FT on the poor in undeveloped countries turning to the market to provide services even when there is free government provision:

Imagine that your daily earnings were less than the price of this newspaper. Would you consider buying private education and private healthcare?

Before you make up your mind, here are a few considerations: government healthcare and primary education are free; the private-sector doctors are ignorant quacks and the teachers are poorly qualified; the private schools are cramped and often illegal. It doesn’t sound like a tough decision. Yet millions of very poor people around the world are taking the private-sector option. And, when you look a little closer at the choice, it’s not so hard to see why.

Read the whole thing. It’s a nice antidote to the common assumption that poor people are incapable of dealing with their situation and require government assistance.

One Response

  1. Not an exact parallel, but I recently had the opportunity to speak to a young man from the middle east, who recently qualified as a physician and is going on to study a specialty in the UK.

    I suggested that alongside he studies he might very well find gainful employment in the black market, especially in the immigrant communities there. It took a bit of convincing to let him see this was even possible, but a seed was planted, I reckon.

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