June 26, 2003

Bring Back the Guild System?

Thomas Woods has an excellent article on guild systems and guild mentality.

His discussion of the American Medical Association licensing monopoly is particularly enlightening:

Government regulations on the chiropractic profession, lay midwifery, and on the freedom of nurse practitioners to offer services within their competence, all of which make perfect sense from the point of view of the medical guild that lobbied for them, make no sense at all from the point of view of consumer wishes (as repeatedly expressed in polling data) or from economic considerations. In many cases, such people can provide health services far more cheaply than can licensed physicians (or, in the case of chiropractors, can provide services that licensed physicians do not provide at all), but consumers are prevented from making their own decisions regarding their medical care. Given the logic of the guild structure, no one has the right to be surprised to find that the AMA has put so much effort into undermining its professional opposition.

Private certification boards, providing certification to physicians who meet certain standards, would of course be welcome and extremely likely in a society without state-imposed licensing requirements. Lacking a coercive element, such boards would be limited to providing information to consumers of health care services and would be unable to use their position to transform the entire profession into a guild or cartel able to crush all competition.