I can not believe that Yudi Latif, in today's Kompas Analisis Politik, doesn't get the social cost-benefit analysis of general election right (and presumably, the Kompas editor, too).
We know the benefit of general election is to have better government and public services provision. But apparently it takes a bit of more time to understand its cost.
Yudi thinks the political ads spending is social cost. It is not. The same goes for the spending of political consultancy, polling, printing banners, free T-shirt, and even money politics. They are all transfers. The money does not go out of the economy --or GNP, as Yudi said. It just has the ownership shift from politicians to advertising company, political consultant, T-shirt maker, and potential voters.
Does it mean general election doesn't have social cost? No. When you involve in and spend resources for general election-related activities, alternatively you can work on something more productive --perhaps by staying in academics. Your time and energy to otherwise produce good lecture is the social cost.
The overall election's social cost can be higher or lower than the benefit, but you'd better be clear on this. Particularly when you relate this to someone's argument that democracy is more suitable to the nation with economic surplus than one with deficit (whatever it may mean).
Maybe, but surely not because of such cost-benefit analysis.