Presenting the cost of social programs / by Simmon Li

I was reading John Ralston Saul, and he made a point near the end of his book that I thought was curious. It's something I never really thought about before, but he was talking about the cost of social programs. It's a bit of a semantic matter, but a lot of the costs associated with social programs are presented as that: costs. And of course, that makes sense, they cost money to run. Education isn't cheap, but the distinction that he draws is interesting. Why do we present them as costs when we could present them as investments? I mean, it makes so much sense to me. To spend for a social program like health care or education is to invest in the health, or future of your citizens. Those citizens will be more productive, and thus repay the costs in taxes (ideally, there are some problems, such as brain drain, or economic stagnation leading to unemployment, etc).

People invest their money all the time, they don't see it as a cost, it's a portfolio. There's a return on investment. The same is completely true of what I think we should call social investments. When you give your citizens health care, an education, and job mobility through social security, you are investing in them. The return on investment is the ability to tax their income and spending.

I guess pitching an investment in others is tougher than I make it out to be, because I certainly don't hear a lot of social programs pitched in this light.