Many advanced market democracies pursue social justice by bundling together a range of programmes represented as active social policy. Northern European exemplars sanction employment as an economic and social citizen's civic obligation, promote lifelong learning and place welfare payments as a last resort. In the United States, market-based post-school education financed by guaranteed student loans was developed as a policy alternative. Australian politicians have embraced elements of both, resulting in a massive reduction in public delivery of vocational education and training in favour of multimillion dollar, stock exchange-listed private providers. The resultant amalgam of active labour market policy and free market principles positions standard setting as a regulatory mechanism and in support of cross-jurisdictional market operations. This paper explores the interaction between active policy and demands of the market while speaking to wider issues that arise when a government first creates and then intervenes in markets.