Plotting the Great Canadian Novel
A story in Canada’s National Post struck me as so bizarre that I felt as though I were reading satire, not reportage. And yet, there it was, dated June 1, not April 1; there was not one overt sign of japery. It seems that a study indicates that more than half of Canadians would like a two-tiered health-care system, allowing some choice. You see, Canada’s socialized system is often so slow that people die waiting for treatment. Many go to the much-maligned Evil Uncaring America for timely, life-saving service. So enter (for Canadian purposes of
health care economist at the University of Alberta:
Prof. Smythe said there may be some argument to be made in favour of private medicine from a libertarian point of view, but he said there is no economic case to be made for it.
No economic case for it! How droll. Such a weird, counterfactual statement seems to come not from a professional but from a fictional character — say, from a character in a Tom Sharpe novel titled, perhaps, Bend Over the River:
Dr. James Smythe’s name gets switched, in a database glitch, with Mr. James Smythe, garbageman. When he goes for a check-up and is diagnosed with cancer, he is made to wait for treatment to begin. After many months’ delay, he starts to complain, and then someone notices that they have the wrong info in the computer on him, and a contract-worker tech guy finds the snafu. Within minutes a doctor cheerily speeds Smythe on to chemo, apologizing:if we had known you were a major health care economist, of course, we would have given you treatment right away. But take heart: ‘There are no inefficiencies in government-provided health care.’
Not long after, Smythe dies of congestive heart failure, a complication of chemotherapy.
Meanwhile, Jim Smythe, the garbageman, quickly got an X-Ray for a sore wrist by paying a veterinarian some cash under the table. The X-Ray was clear, but while leaving the vet’s, the Mounties arrest everyone involved, and impound the animals in cages, too. One escapes, bites a Mountie in the ass, and — because the embittered vet said the dog was under observation for rabies — the Mountie must endure a painful series of rabies shots. Alas, the final series of injections was noticeably painless, and the Mountie mysteriously develops breasts. At trial, Smythe falls in love with the Mountie, and they all live happily ever after.
Well, that’s somewhat like a Sharpe plot. Get the point?