Spending Money to Save Money

In this age of financial crisis it’s easy to look at any kind of government spending as a problem. However, a BYU professor recently discovered that in at least one area, spending money actually saves money.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, a BYU economist recently discovered each dollar spent cleaning the air saves roughly $10. It also points out that the savings are spread across multiple industries:

C. Arden Pope, a Brigham Young University economist, said that for every dollar spent on cutting air pollution there are around $10 in savings — because health care costs go down, premature deaths decrease and other measurable savings are realized.

These findings are good news for quality of life and health advocates because they should help people understand the very real benefits of cutting pollution.

Provo, Utah. Spending money to clean the air actually ends up saving money.

These findings also demonstrate that sometimes the most fiscally responsible approach is the one that requires up front spending, rather than inaction or “smaller government.” Indeed this issue illustrates the way government investment is supposed to work: money is spent and then causes savings in the overall system, even if the exact dollar amount spent doesn’t end up right back in the same bank account it was drawn from.

The point is that when evaluating a government decision it’s important to take a broad view. And in this case, that means spending a little on air quality to save a lot.

Winter inversions create terrible air quality in Provo. However, spending money to clean that air is just one example in which the fiscally responsible approach is to spend money, rather than do nothing.

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Filed under BYU, economics

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