I estimate, roughly, that if an individual lived solely on social assistance from ages 18 to 65, he would receive about $330000.00 . Of course, that's not an absolute cost to the system as a good chunk would come back in taxes, but let's just use it as a hallmark.
So, when the government hands out vast sums of money to private enterprises in the guise of "economic development" we can develop a rough standard by which to judge the efficacy of that use of public money.
For example: The Harper Government (formerly "The Government of Canada") announced a $400 million investment in the venture capital sector (not in manufacturing, research, service or any other direct employer, mind you) to somehow stimulate the economy and create jobs. The announcement offers no indications of how, if ever, success will be judged.
Let's try this. If a life time on welfare is worth $330K then this $400M investment should, at the very least, provide a lifetime of employment for more than 1200 Canadians. Any less would be an abject failure. As the government never seems to put any mechanism in place to report to us on such success vs failure - it's evil to put such a burden on the free market - we'll never know where our money went.
Don't like my numbers? Over simplified? Fair enough. Compared to no number at all, my back-of-an-envelop musings are infinitely superior, because that's basic math.