Following on from my thoughts about what a libertarian driving model might look like, I then thought about other kinds of licensing, specifically one of the issues that causes me the most confusion: medical licensing, or the licensing of both medicines and medical practitioners.
Although I am adamantly in favour of a free market in medical practice and in providing nostrums it is on the basis that the medical practitioners, purveyors of medicines and manufacturers of medicines are somehow competent to do so. While I am quite happy for Boateng and Demetriou to open their competition to Marks and Spencer from their spare bedroom, I'm considerably more ambivalent about the idea of going to Boateng and Demetriou Proctology Practitioners or sending my daughter to Paul Gadd, Pediatrician.
While doctors are fairly regularly "struck off" for various shenanigans and pharma companies occasionally display questionable ethics in their research and we have the odd Shipman-alike, by and large, I think most people are reasonably comfortable when they go to a doctor, he or she is not a complete charlatan. They may be fucking useless (and all the doctors I've dealt with in the UK seem to need detailed lessons in telling their anus from their antecubital fossa) and ... OK, so the UK's doctors may not be the best example for this. But I've been in countries where I did trust the doctors pretty much implicitly or did trust that if I tried a couple, I'd eventually find someone that I did trust among the list of regulated doctors.
But if there was no regulation, we'd have to do a lot more research into our doctors. So, gentle reader: does the convenience of medical regulation outweigh the cost of the barrier to entry? Is there a way to square this circle?
Is it possible that a voluntary submission to regulation to reassure the average punter while still allowing anyone who wants to, to practice, dispense or produce medicine with a greater warning of caveat emptor to the consumer?