- noun the act of allowing only a certain amount of something to be sold
- noun government action to allocate a product which is in short supply, rather than to allow market forces, such as price, to affect the distribution
(written as Rationing)A general definition is: allocating resources according to a rule or administrative arrangement. One rule might, for example, be 'resources shall go to whoever is willing to pay the highest price'. Such a rule does not much commend itself in health care however, since those most in need of health care are usually those least able to pay for it. The most common general usage of 'rationing' is in connection with (usually war-time) arrangements under which, in exchange for a voucher, individuals (or families) are entitled to purchase fixed quotas of goods at administered prices. A lot of tendentious hot air is generated in public debates about whether health care in any jurisdiction is or ought to be 'rationed'. Those with political responsibility are understandably unwilling to concede that health care is rationed in either of the two ways just described but sometimes less understandably unwilling to concede that some form of rationing mechanism does indeed have to be used; the critical question relating not to 'whether?' but to 'which?'. There is also debate about the desirability of being explicit about the criteria to be used in determining the 'rules'.
- noun the policy of restricting supplies, especially during wartime