How Money Became the Measure of Everything
By the progressive era (1890s to the 1920s), a child was valued as a potential wealth-producer. "If he lived out the normal term of years, he can produce $2900 more wealth than it costs to rear and maintain him," The New York Times stated in 1910. The annual social cost of everything was measured: The common cold ($21 a month per employee), housewife labor ($7.5 billion), the yearly social benefit of Niagara Falls ($122.5 million), government health insurance ($3 billion).
This way of thinking is still used in reports from the government, research organizations, and the media: The annual cost of excessive alcohol consumption ($223.5 billion) and mental disorders ($467 billion).