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Cambridge University Press




Locke et al. argue elsewhere in this issue that medical licensure should be abolished. Their reasoning is direct and seductive - but their free market cure is worse than the disease they describe. Their major premise, for example, is simply wrong: "Any governmental action that violates individual rights is improper." For this notion they cite the ultraconservative novelist Ayn Rand who talks about things that are "right" for humans to do. But there are two confusions: (I) rights do not exist in a vacuum; in an interdependent society the rights of individuals must sometimes be balanced against the rights of the group (e.g., airport security screening or neighborhood police patrols); and (2) to say one has a right to do something is not the same as saying it is "right" for someone to do something (e.g., I may have a right to treat an accident victim in an emergency, but if I know I will do more harm than good, it would be wrong for me to treat the victim). In Ayn Rand's society everyone has the "right" to do what he thinks is "right" without governmental interference. This is fine for the strong and wealthy; it is destructive to the middle-class majority and the poor. The world can only support a handful of Howard Rouarks and Dagney Taggarts.

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