Jon Platt should sue the state for kidnapping

The Daily Mail’s campaign to ‘end rip-off holiday charges’ is another example of the lunacy you get into when you allow government to do things that it has no business doing. 

The fuss stems from the Supreme Court’s finding against a parent, Jon Platt, who took his daughter on a family holiday to Disney World during term time. The Platt family argued that holiday packages became unaffordably expensive to them during school holiday periods. The state argued that removing a child during term time damaged their education, and that the law required children to be in school. The Supreme Court, which rules on points of law, agreed and found against Mr Platt.

School leaders hailed this as a victory, arguing that 20,000 parents do much the same each year, which is disrupting children’s education.

The point remains, however, that holidays taken in the Easter, Christmas and Summer breaks are very much more expensive than those taken in term time. And of course, transport links and tourist centres are much more crowded at these times. The populist Daily Mail criticises this as ‘ripping off’ parents who (now) have no choice about when to take their children on holiday, and are calling for stern regulations on ‘exploitation’ by travel agencies.

They can’t really believe this nonsense, though, can they? Holiday are much more expensive during school breaks because the demand then is much higher. As Adam Smith pointed out as long ago as 1776 (and he wasn’t the first). By now it should be, well, kind of obvious.

Interestingly, private schools help their parents get round the problem by having different holiday periods—typically starting a week before the state schools. So all those rich parents that Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn wants to slap a 20% tax on can jet off to the Canaries a little cheaper than the rest of us. So what is it about the state system?

Ah, that’s just it. The words ‘state system’ speak silent volumes. State systems are notoriously uniform (which is why the nation’s school holidays all start and finish within days of each other). And they are notoriously run in the interests of the producers rather than their customers (which is why those education leaders are so delighted that parents have now been put in their place).

Educators in a wholly private school system would be taking parents’ wishes into consideration, rather than taking parents to court. Exactly how is a matter for the market rather than me. They might stagger their holidays at different times, or arrange for catch-up teaching for children who’ve been off for a week or two, or provide videos or an app to allow children (and parents) to keep up with what they’re missing, or any of 101 other methods. But then in a wholly private system, the way schools teach would probably have been revolutionised anyway. (Today’s private schools just have to be a bit better than the state’s. Faced with real competition, they’d have to be a lot better.)

So there you have it. The Establishment feeds the very populism that it decries. Populists want the state to intervene in the holiday market because parents are forced by law to commit their children to penal servitude in monolithic school system dictated by the opinions of ‘experts’, not the needs of customers.

If I were Jon Platt (assuming he has any money left after going through the other state monopoly that is the legal system), frankly I’d now be suing the government for kidnapping. It’s time to set our children, and their parents, free.