Why can’t treasury prove to the electorate the value of an educated society?

Is it right, in a democracy, that the elected government should consider the electorate to be incapable of understanding the worth of people? That is, in Australia, people of any and all ethnicity’s – including indigenous. Why then does the information associated with the real cost of raising kids to adulthood and the value to society of those resulting useful, adults not get used to support government appeals to societal actions?

Importantly ‘useful” status includes being useful to self too!

A simple case in point might be expressed thus:

What is the ‘Cost’ per child nurtured (i.e. properly housed, fed and educated) to ‘useful’ status by early adulthood (18 years, or  completing year 12). Treasury (who doubtless have the exact data) might tell us it’s $400,000 (a conservative guesstimate of mine, in this instance)

The ‘Value’ of said ‘useful’ adult over their typical 42 year working life, based on tax contributions (PAYG, GST, Fuel excise, etc.) alone, say 42 X $20,000 = $840,000 (again, this is a very conservative estimate of mine that doesn’t include the contributions they might make as a parent, citizen in community or volunteer – it is averaged over several million Australian adults). Treasury doubtless have a fully justified ‘precise’ figure, that they use in their forecasts, based on massive, accurate, data sets.

Either way we might see a $440,000 return (or something of that order) on our (society’s) initial investment!

Now, I realise that the above is way too simplistic. What about the missing costs (and contributions) that occur throughout most lives?

Costs, such as: “Policing/Crime” “Health/Accidents” “Culture/Arts and ongoing education” and the like.

Contributions, such as: being law abiding: (thus costs avoided in ‘Corrections’ and related criminal trauma reparations);  undertaking self-care/societal care: (e.g. wearing an N95 mask and getting vaccinated – thus costs avoided in “Health service provision”); culture:  ongoing engagement with arts and community (costs might be avoided in relation to anti-social behaviour). Of course there should also be allowance for the contribution that might be made through community actions, investments by individuals into projects that benefit wider community, etc.

Quality of life has real meaning – and real value (as the Norwegians and Finns regularly demonstrate in various global polls).

Surely, Government ‘investment’ in prisons and the like cannot be seen as anything other than abject failure on their part. Just think of the good that could be done with a few $Million invested in programs for people rather than invested in concrete and steel constructions, to say nothing of the waste of human potential (in the guards as well as the prisoners)

No doubt Treasury have advised the Government’s ministers of the exhaustive list of costs (investments) and contributions (returns) associated with the various forms of Australian that exist in their systems. For me there are really only two types: Male and Female,  and it looks as if Government rarely considers half of them! Even ‘though that half are essential to the production of all Australians .

As you can imagine, there might be many entries on both sides of the ledger. But one can also clearly see that for every cost that eats into the ‘value of an individual to society’ there is a potential investment opportunity that can turn that cost into either a ‘cost avoided’ or a source of revenue (or other kind of value to society).

Please note that I am not advocating the wholesale adoption of some American-style ‘Free-market capitalism’ but rather I’m suggesting that until we, the people, know that money invested in education will yield a return by reduced cost of incarceration, we will forever be subject to being dog whistled by politicians into perpetuating failed ‘strategies’ such as ‘tough on crime’ which may actually be just a waste of money given the dysfunctional members of society it will likely create!

I am minded of Oscar Wilde’s observation in his play, Lady Windermere’s Fan  

“Cecil Graham: What is a cynic?

Lord Darlington: A man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.

Cecil Graham: And a sentimentalist, my dear Darlington, is a man who sees an absurd value in everything and doesn’t know the market price of any single thing.”

We run the risk of being either cynic or sentimentalist until such time as Treasury, and the Politicians, share their knowledge with the public (who, after all, pay Treasury’s and Politician’s wages). 

Let’s avoid cynicism and sentimentalism and work with facts.

Let’s get Treasury (and the Government) on our side!