£365, here: I looked at the cost of having it done privately, and I’m having it done at the same clinic that would have done it if it were private, so I know what the cost is (it could actually be less than that: the NHS have negotiating power that I probably don’t).
As far as the economic argument is concerned in general:
I won’t need a bed nor a mint, because I’m being treated as an outpatient: whole procedure should take less time than it’d take for me to go to the dentist for a filling, and it (almost entirely) removes the risk, however slight, that I will create a child. A child would cost more in child support alone than the cost of the operation, and that’s before we look at the cost of schools, subsidised transport, reduced tax income while the mother took maternity leave, vaccinations, pregnancy care, etc. etc. The return-on-investment of a child comes very late on: they’re well into their career before they start to pay back enough tax to economically justify their existence. Therefore, it is a wise investment for a government facing many years of economic hardship to offer free sterilisation.
Compare and contrast the cost of IVF, which is also available on the NHS: a round of IVF for an otherwise-infertile mother costs the state about £5,000, and has a success rate of under 30% (depending on the age of the woman)! Suddenly £365 for an operation with a success rate of 99.95% doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
“What if there’s a plague and we required breeders?” Maybe. Or what if alien Hitler invades the Earth with his fleet of baking-soda-powered robot penguins? There’s a comic in my blog post (http://www.scatmania.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/vastastrophe.jpg) which answers that quite well. I think that the odds of such a disaster that requires me to breed “for the good of the species” is actually less-likely than the risk (if I didn’t have the operation) of me accidentally fathering a child. And even if that were the case, there are workarounds: there’s been successful surgery to extract viable sperm directly from the testicles (ouch!) of vasectomied men, and I’m sure that if I really were the “last man alive”, we’d probably been looking at that as a real option, wouldn’t we!
Game theory can be applied equally well to environmental vegetarianism as it can to voting in a general election. In both cases, an individual will not make a difference by themselves: but it can still be the correct thing for them to do, and – as part of a larger movement – they can be part of a difference.
Voting is guaranteed to produce a result on a national scale in the same way as the Lottery is guaranteed to produce a winner: it’s almost certain that there’ll be a winner, but that doesn’t mean that it makes a difference whether or not you buy a ticket, because – let’s face it – it’s not going to be you.