Monday, January 08, 2007

Doctors, nurses, economists, and fools

An old story (dating back to 2004) has been picked up and updated in the major US news services (example). It's about the medical exam topnotcher, Elmer Jacinto, who is now working as a nurse in New York.

The article draws attention to a major Filipino daily, who called Elmer a "sellout," and a columnist who condemns his "deplorable ambition". (Parallel Universes excerpt from these reactions.)

Such condemnation is foolish, ignorant, and stupid. Elmer is simply exercising his right to make a living, wherever and however he sees fit, without exercising fraud or violence. To say that he is "depriving" the Philippines of his medical skills, presumes that Filipinos have the right to demand Elmer to supply his services to them. There is no such pre-determined right. The right to demand Elmer his services belongs solely to his buyers, because of his standing promise to exchange services for fees.

It does however appear odd that a very bright medical doctor is spending his time dressing wounds and sticking needles into buttocks. Elmer is very likely to be more capable than many of the doctors ordering him about. Are markets stupid? No - government intervention is. The modern professional licensing system, firmly entrenched everywhere (including the United States), is preventing Elmer from being deployed in the job where the value of his service is highest. That's all there is to it. Contrary to popular belief, the United States is not an apostle of free markets, but rather a major heretic.

I am very thankful I belong to a profession that does not have licensing requirements. On the downside, a lot of fake "economists" though are getting away with pretty idiotic public pronouncements. Still, we seem to be doing pretty well even without the market distorting props of professional licensure.

We economists like to practice what we preach.

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