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Solution Framework of Market Forces

How would a libertarian society regulate the medical profession?

Dr. Mary Ruwart is a leading expert in libertarian communication. In this column she offers short answers to real questions about libertarianism. 

QUESTION: How would a libertarian society regulate medical professionals? Would there be a private means of licensing?  

MY SHORT ANSWER: Yes. Professional associations would set standards and confer certification upon members who met their standards. Discriminating consumers could choose to patronize only practitioners with such credentials. Insurers might require a certain level of certification for reimbursements.

The UL symbol on electrical equipment today is an example of private certification.   Certification has several advantages over licensing. Licensing provisions often include requirements that are meant to exclude the disadvantaged. For example, when physician licensing was introduced, training by night school or apprenticeship no longer counted as formal training; only full time schooling did.

Those who needed to work their way through medical school because they didn't have wealthy parents or the ability to borrow money could no longer become doctors.  

Practitioners with novel ideas of treatment are also excluded by licensing, which dictates what constitutes the practice of medicine.

In a libertarian society, patients could choose to go to uncertified practitioners for treatment and take a chance if their situation warrants.

Under a system of licensing, practitioners who pioneer new treatments are considered criminals until the licensing boards accepts their modality, an acceptance which is greatly delayed since no one is permitted to try it!  

LEARN MORE: All around us there are numerous examples of successful market certification programs - programs that work better than heavy-handed government regulation. Explore some real-world examples in this short series by Advocates President Sharon Harris:

Underwriters Laboratory (UL)   Kosher Certification   Seals of Approval    Brands