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The Application of Adam Smith’s ‘Saline Solution’ to Canada’s Health-Care System


Canada’s health-care system is on life support, but many of its patients are still waiting to be as they languish on waiting lists, getting slowly sicker and in many cases simply dying, untreated. Sick patients are frequently subjected to poor care—if they get care at all—while front-line health-care workers are subjected to overwork.
In 2023, the average waiting time from referral to treatment was 27.7 weeks. In some parts of Canada, like Nova Scotia—where the average wait time was 56.7 weeks or over one full year—it takes significantly less time to create a human than to treat one.
As shown in a poll by Angus Reid, three-in-five Canadians consider our health-care system poor, with one-in-three agreeing that increased privatization would improve health care delivery.

And that brings us to Adam Smith, the famed 18th century Scottish economist and moral philosopher. By shaking Smith’s “invisible hand,” the Canadian health-care system could finally tap into the power of market forces to drive efficiency. The antediluvians who still believe health care and competition are an incompatible combination should consider boarding the Smith ship, and fast, because Canada’s current health-care system is about to go under. To call our health care universal is to satirize it.

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Smith’s 1776 magnum opus, “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations,” has undoubtedly passed the test of time. But can it still last long enough to get a kidney transplant in the Canadian health-care system? Let us find out.
In “The Essential Adam Smith,” Professor James Otteson of the University of Notre-Dame describes the three major themes of Adam Smith’s political economy.

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