I am about as rabid a free trader as you get, although I suspect Tim W (recently profiled by Norm) is even rabider and has the economics background I don't to make the arguments better (and likewise Mr FM himself). One of the larger problems that we FMers have is with monopolies because, as a general rule monopolies bugger up free trade. Since it is, as a general rule, the government that creates or permits the monopoly it is up to government to police it properly. And, needless to say, frequently they don't do this right.
For example one monopoly is the right for registered licensed pharmacies to sell drugs that others may not and for only registered licensed doctors to proscribe certain medicines. This is a completely artificial monopoly based purely on the idea that licensing ought to prevent incompetants and/or would be poisoners from proscribing/selling drugs to the rest of us. Feministe and other feministbloggers are extremely annoyed at some US doctors and pharmacies who seem to think that they can decide whether or not to sell a particular drug to a particular person. This is, in my opinion, completely outrageous and a total abuse of the monopoly power granted to pharmacies. It is of course less of an issue in large cities where there are many pharmacies but it can be a major problem in more rural areas as the blogger Biting Beaver discovered:
Long story short: an adult woman with several children in a committed relationship was not able to obtain emergency contraception in time (due to some serious backwards actions on the part of several doctors and nurses) and became pregnant against her will. Now she must pay for an abortion she really can’t afford.
[Aside: You may justifiably argue against abortion, indeed I have considerable qualms about late term abortion, but I have no qualms what so ever about the morning after pill because it is highly unlikely that the egg has been fertilized until some hours or days after intercourse so this is not actually about killing a living human (yet). In fact it is failure to produce the pill makes it likely that a human becomes conceived and hence if aborted becomes the death of a human. Only if you are against all forms of contraception does this kind of thing make sense and I don't think there is any human country anywhere where the (vast) majority of its citizens - as opposed to their political or spiritual leaders - oppose contraception.]
It seems to me that, given that the morning after pill is approved by the relevant medical authorities, then its prescription under the ciscumstances described are in fact routine and precisely when the drug is supposed to be used. Hence it would seem to me that nor proscribing (or if a pharmacy selling) a drug like this is actually an abuse of your monopoly rights as licensed by the government. I mean why is this different to a decision to not proscribe statins to a heart patient? do you think a doctor or pharmacy would be allowed to continue if it refused to provide statins or other similar heart medicine to clinically obese people simply because the doctor or pharmacist felt that clinically bese people should go on a diet first?
Yet when it comes to sex it seems the US government will let doctors and pharmacists deny certain medicines. It doesn't seem to matter whether it is the morning after pill, condoms or the HPV vaccine or whatever, doctors and pharmacists are allowed to plead a conscience and not provide what their patients want/need even when it is perfectly legal and normal to provide such a product. This is a flat out abuse of a government licensed monopoly position and as far as I am concerned is one that should result in the doctor or pharmacist concerned having its license taken away and/or being liable for the legal and medical expenses incurred by anyone who fails to obtain said products.
I had assumed that this kind of sexual prudishness was a purely US phenomenon, unfortunately the Torygraph reported on a case last week in the UK:
A Muslim chemist repeatedly refused a mother the "morning after" pill because of his religious beliefs.
Jo-Ann Thomas, a school crossing patrolwoman with two children, was told that even though the item was in stock she should go to her doctor for her supplies.
When she was denied the pill at a Lloyds Pharmacy near her home in Thurcroft, Rotherham, she asked why and says she was told the pharmacist was a "deeply religious Muslim".
She said: "I am a 37-year-old woman, not a daft girl who doesn't know what she's doing, and the chemist has no right to tell me whether I can or can't take the pill.
Pharmacists who choose not to supply EHC on the grounds of religious or moral beliefs should treat the matter sensitively and advise women on an appropriate local source of supply available within the time for EHC to be effective (i.e. within 72 hours of unprotected sex).
The problem here is that there may not be a local source of supply available or at least not easily obtainable so I think this is a weaselly cop out. If Pharmacists are unwilling to stock (or in this case to stock but not dispense) these sorts of perfectly legal drugs that do not (in the UK) even require a perscription then there seems no reason why they should be limited to pharmacists. If they are stocked in Tesco then anyone can buy them and the pharmacists don't need to get their weaselly ethics in a twist.