Secondary Sources in the History of Canadian Medicine: A Bibliography, Vol. 2: A Study in Restricted Entry
Alexander Craig is a freelance journalist in Lennoxville, Quebec.
“This study... does not pretend to be an even-handed examination.... Rather, it is an attempt to provide a counterbalance to the almost blind acceptance of the orthodox theory.” So says Walter Block, Director of the Centre for the Study of Economics and Religion of the Fraser Institute in Vancouver in his introduction to Hamowy’s book. This is typical Fraser Institute style — no-nonsense, come out of your corner fighting, for free, unfettered enterprise. And not just to get government off our backs. Any special interest group that interferes with the purity of the free market as a pricing mechanism leaves itself open to attack. This time it’s the doctors’ turn.
Professor Hamowy, of the History Department of the University of Alberta, is a specialist in intellectual history. He did his doctorate in the history of social and legal theory at the University of Chicago, working under F.A. Hayek, the Austrian political economist who wrote The Road to Serfdom and won the Nobel Prize in 1974.
Hamowy’s book is an exhaustive, painstakingly detailed study of the history of medical licensing in Canada. His history ends in 1912, but his politics continues to the present day. The long, statistical appendix and the many tables cover much more recent periods, and each seeks to prove Hamowy’s assertion that the medical profession is a medieval guild, in the archaic way it puts protecting its own corporate interests way before any more general contribution to society.
There are 93 pages of notes. Like much of the book itself these are often fascinating, and again like the book the author wastes no time in disguised politeness about many other scholars’ work.
Shaw said that every profession is a conspiracy against the laity. Medicine and law are particularly notorious in this respect (one of the main reasons so many parents are keen to get their offspring into one or the other of these professions). The debate on just how unjustly privileged these professions make conditions for themselves will continue for a long time. Professor Hamowy’s book is an unusual but nonetheless worthwhile and in many ways positive contribution to the debate.