160 thoughts on “Weekend reflections

  1. the baby bonus? O rly?

    Anyway, I’m glad you’re so certain of yourself on this topic. Certainty is good, we need more of it on internet debates. Everything really is just black and white, after all.

  2. Wilful, I’m sorry if I’ve made you snarky. We do have a duty to take more refugees and asylum seekers. This government grudgingly takes them but has opened our doors to a flood of other migrants who very often have skills which the country they are leaving really shouldn’t have to lose. Australia should also increase overseas aid.

    Plenty of lefty people believing something doesn’t make it so but plenty of scientists putting forward plenty of evidence that suggests Australia is already overpopulated pretty much makes it so for me. Plenty of lefties would rather listen to the scientists.

  3. @Salient Green

    He is dealing with the domestic overpopulation and who is to blame domestically for the current population growth.

    The world as a whole has been growing in population for a very long time. It’s invetable that as long as that remains true, we here in Australia will continue accepting more.

    Our jurisdiction is not as resource poor per capita as, for example, Afghanistan, which is one reason (though not the only one of course) why they are one of the poorest nations and we are amongst the richest.

    I don’t propose inviting all socially disadvantaged persons to migrate here, but it is clear that Australia ought to be part of an equitable program of resettlement, since (assuming we pay more than lipservice to the claims of disadvantaged people to live in dignity) delivering resources to people in remote places will almost always be more expensive than delivbering them here, where we have the infrastructure.

    I see no reason why Australia could not and should not manage a population of 35-40 million out of 9 billion on the planet. So while I agree that avoiding 9 billion if one could manage that without coercion would be a good thing, if we can’t we ought not to cop out.

    The fact remains that we have as much water as we need right on our doorstep, and the infrastucture to render it potable and to make very effective use of it through recycling and the supply of sub-potable water to industry. We have ample low-carbon energy and so desal isn’t a problem.

  4. I do not think that Daggett is off on a “gish gallop”. We are overpopulated and I would want to see a population decrease.

    However this may not be practicable, but I think a government education campaign for reduced family sizes would be in the best interests of future generations and increased female participation in the full-time workforce.

    It is not clear whether development calls forth population or population begets development. It is a spiral: population – development – population – development.

    If you have population increase you must have more development. If you do not have population increase you need less development and still attain an efficient level of utility.

  5. @Chris Warren

    We are overpopulated and I would want to see a population decrease.

    I rather doubt you or I will live long enough to see it. At most we may live long enough to see world population stabilise and begin to head back down.

    I think a government education campaign for reduced family sizes would be in the best interests of future generations and increased female participation in the full-time workforce

    Increasing scope for female participation and for inclusiveness more generally (along with good social security and welfare) ternds to stabilise population. Currently Australia is at about 1.9 per female, so this is not a huge problem. The bigger problem is in the parts of the world where females have nearly zero rights and where welfare is next to non-existent. The quickest way to break this culture is resettlement in freer social conditions — i.e. in those parts of the world with adequate vehicles for delivery of quality and equitable social infrastructure, which certainly includes places like Australia.

  6. Just a quick reponse to Fran Barlow @ 2 for now:

    If there are currently 100,000 homeless Australians, which is only the very tip of the iceberg of housing impoverishment and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd somehow thinks it acceptable that (assuming his ‘ambitous’ goal of halving homelessness is achieved) that 50,000 remain homeless by 2020 (as if we have a snowflake’s chance in hell of reducing it anyway, if the current trends continue) how can you claim that Australia has “adequate vehicles for delivery of quality and equitable social infrastructure”?

  7. There’s a whole bunch of deep societal reasons why there are homeless people. Whether or not we take an additional x people by y date is going to have SFA difference to the homelessness rate. If we chose to take homelessness on as an issue for society, we could at not very great cost attempt to deal with this issue. It’s an illogical distraction to suggest that we have too many homeless people to fit any more immigrants into australia.

  8. @daggett

    Compared to the places where people are most in need of resettlement, our delivery vehicles are excellent. When was the last time there was a functioning government in Somalia? or Afghanistan? or Haiti? or Sierra Leone? We have plenty of expertise in this area and the back end infrastrucutre to support it.

    For a bunch of reasons that are mostly socio-political, we don’t make anywhere near full use of them, but that is another point entirely.

  9. Wilful, please read more carefully. Daggett said Homelessness is “the very tip of the iceberg of housing impoverishment”. Obviously the very high price of housing and lack of public housing has an effect on the number of homeless but both are the result of the government encouraging huge population growth and failing to provide more housing opportunities at a rate which keeps prices to an affordable level without massive debt.

    I do agree that it is a distraction from the real issues of why we should not cram any more people into Australia.

    The real issues, which you and many others must have heard before, are to do with ecological footprint, resource depletion, species extinction, damage to the natural world, carrying capacity, over exploitation of fisheries, pollution, theft from future generations – in a word – sustainability.

    It’s all well and good to say Australia can support X million if we do this and if we do that but these things which would make us sustainable just do not get done and will not get done. What is being done is the ‘rush in where angels fear to tread’. The feds encourage population growth for purely economic reasons and the states lap it all up but there is nowhere near enough money to provide the services needed to keep pace with an extra population the size of Hobart every year. Not only can the states not keep up with services but there is minimal consideration for things like damage to the natural world, future very high oil prices, pollution or quality of life.

    Fran @1, (with great patience) even if all your hopes for nuclear power come true, even if all your hopes for water recycling come true, even if your hopes for all of earth’s communities becoming sustainable come true, and they won’t, why would you want so many people on earth? What is the point? Enough is enough. Everything in moderation. It’s time we gave the natural world a break from the Human plague. You of all people know how we are damaging the biosphere. It’s getting like you will have to take a ticket for a bushwalk and wait in line until others are off the trail, or book a year ahead for a ‘remote’ camping spot.
    Sheesh!! It’s bloody bad enough trying to get anywhere through the traffic let alone the filth, bad manners and wasteland of a seething mass of humanity when you get there.

  10. @Salient Green
    Hear hear Salient – when the natural world (whats left of it) becomes one great big yellowstone park. No stopping, no parking and hideous queues. Look at it out the car window.

    We have not a bad place here except that demand outstripping an engineered lack of supply and lack of infrastructure to match, is threatening to turn our youth into a nation of renters (and create an Aussie grown aristocracy of landords – isnt that what we hated about the UK and Europe?)

    Is it possible to unsubscribe from the global economy or take out insurance against it?

  11. @Salient Green

    why would you want so many people on earth? What is the point? Enough is enough. Everything in moderation.

    Who said anything about wanting 9 billion or more on the planet?

    Not I. I favour stabilisation and a steady decline over the next 150 years to aboutt 5 billion.

    Yet this is bigger than anything an individual human can want — and I doubt many want there to be that many.

    They question is how to get from where we are headed to where we want to be.

  12. I said less than a year ago that our business and political leaders will be dragged kicking and screaming to their senses on population growth by 2020. So much has happened in the last year that I am beginning to think that was dismally pessimistic. Prominent people are speaking out when two years ago they wouldn’t have for fear of being labelled racist.

    I regularly write politicians on the issue and have just received a reply from the PM’s office no less and only 2 months since I wrote. It’s full of spin and other pithy nonsense but at least it shows they are listening.

  13. The next imbicile who trys to suggest that private industry is more “efficient” than public interests, is going to get hit with my Microsoft stick.

  14. This talk by Jeb Brugman is germane, in the conect of debates about urban development.

    Brugman essentially argues for a model similar to what Wilful and I have proposed here on the grounds of sustainability.

  15. BilB,
    I take it you would also hit them with your Apple stick, your Unix stick, your Linux stick, your OS2 stick and just about every other operating system ever developed stick. None of them (with the exception of, IIRC, FORTRAN) was developed by a government.

  16. Not by a government directly Andrew, but Bell Labs and Berkeley University wouldn’t have been able to do much without all that public R&D funding.

  17. Andrew Reynolds :
    I take it you would also hit them with your Apple stick, your Unix stick, your Linux stick, your OS2 stick and just about every other operating system ever developed stick. None of them (with the exception of, IIRC, FORTRAN) was developed by a government.

    I am not sure what point you are trying to make by switching attention to ‘government’.

    I suspect most industry in Australia gains significant efficiency and competitiveness from CSIRO, universities, agricultural research institutes, AUSTRADE marketing and grants, government funded industry development corporations and co-operative research centres, and so on.

  18. Damn right Chris. Horticulture Australia Limited, HAL, distributes government funds for research projects on a dollar for dollar basis. I have seen first hand massive productivity improvements from plant breeding, biological control methods and farm software development which is then contracted out to private companies.

    This is all good of course and I firmly believe Australia is underspending on Government funded research. There are some astonishingly clever people coming out of our universities.

  19. Chris,
    There are two spheres – private and government, now with some fairly big overlap between them. BilB was trying (I supposed and his subsequent comment seems to confirm) to talk about the supposed deficiencies of the “private” part of that area. I was just pointing out that the “government” end of that spectrum has not done much in this area, while the “private” end has once you look a little more broadly that just Microsoft.
    As for the rest of your comment, I am sure that (for example) the CSIRO has done some good and even great work. I am just not so sure that, had the CSIRO not existed, the same or maybe better work would not have been done. That said, judging by some of your railing against “capitalism”, you would seem to have a problem when they do work with private industry, so I am not sure that the argument you made makes any sense at all.
    If we are allowed to use only the biggest and wonkiest stick to make our point then I choose the North Korean government (or, under many circumstances, the US government) to prove that all governments are inherently evil and should be done away with.
    (pace the rest of you, though – I do not think this is the case)
    So I do not feel that using the “…biggest and wonkiest stick to make [a] point” is always the best way to go. A more general case should be made.
    The linux community has done some excellent work without (IIRC) much, if any, government funding – yet they have managed to take what was a fairly user unfriendly (even if it was one I came to know well) System V Unix (developed by a private company, albeit one operating under a government-enforced monopoly) and make it work well. Apple took the same base and made it into OSX, again (IIRC) without government funding.
    Additionally – Bell Labs and Berkeley (despite their government funding) also did not take those OSs very far. Bell developed it and gave it away (although another company may dispute that). Berkeley then developed it largely on a volunteer basis. There was not much government funding used in either case.

  20. @Andrew Reynolds

    Not that I particularly want to butt into this little rumble, but Andrew, for 10 points … outline the relative contributions of the public and private sectors to the development of aircraft design and manufacture in Europe and the US …

  21. Fair points Andrew, my only point is that much of the earliest work was done in institutions supported by government money. But all closed-source software relies on the government in the form of patent protection. Including the worst of the worst (vista)

  22. Andrew,

    You highlight an interesting special case. Any organisation which is hijacked by one individual personality can rise to great heights or sink to abysal depths. North Korea does not represent government by the people in the average sense. Kim Jong Il is more akin to Bernie Madoff. Both exist but are not sustainable business or government.

  23. Andrew

    But the problem is capitalism, and we need more railing against it (backed up with evidence of course).

    Identifying the problems of, and getting rid of capitalism, is the real issue.

  24. Well just to be contrarian, I think Microsoft make some fine software. I greatly prefer WMP to iTunes, and have no complaints about Win7.

    But back on to the central topic. Neither Fran nor I are growth fetishists, we would both wish for a sustainable and stable world population at a level probably well below the current level. But if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. By nature I self-identify as a pragmatist and I’m sure Fran does as well (dunno, never met her). Given that the world population will likely exceed 9 billion, and given that we as Australians both are and should be part of it, Fran and I both think that it’s not only fanciful but wrong to try and achieve population reductions in Australia at this time. If and when the external environment changes, then it would good to aim for a more idealistic target.

    In the meantime, for those concerned, I suggest you take up the final offer.

  25. ceasing to breed is a bit severe Wilful….there are a lot of degrees between one child and a lot of chlldren…why anyone would move to “ceasing to breed” as a solution to resource depletion just goes to show that we often get things wrong – not by taking small steps but by going to extremes (as this blog well and truly demonstrates). No points at all in extremes. Equilibrium is a question of balance is it not?

  26. Fran – one way to bolster womens rights in other nations such as Afghanistan is to make women more scarce and hence more valued. The west could do this for example by opening it’s borders to Afghan women (but not men). With more spaces in the west going to women more would be done to lower female fertility. And with an exudos of women from Afghanistan the government there would have an incentive to improve conditions for women.

    Whilst I’m quite sure that this strategy would push things in the direction indicated I’m also sure that some people would find it offensive for us to have an immigration policy that discriminates on the basis of gender.

  27. I’m not sure what to make of this …

    Lottery Winner Dies penniless

    As this and other sources I’ve noted in the past attest, it turns out that large wads of money don’t necessarily make you any happier. Imagine that.

    Clearly, if you’re destitute or very poorly off, having enough not to be poorly off is very handy. Even if you are working hard and have that bit extra to free you up to do things you really want to do, again, very good. But beyond a certain point, the margin of utility drops like a rock, and of course, if you are unhappy for reasons that are aggravated by impecunity but not the result of it, then having a lot of money may do you no good at all — or even aggravate your problems.

    I heard the other day that some struggling couple in Ashfield won $30 million dollars. I hope they use it wisely, rather than being the source for another story along the lines of the above.

  28. @TerjeP (say tay-a)

    I’d just depopulate the country of pretty much everyone who wasn’t guilty of a serious crime, resettling them (with financial support for the whole communities into which they were going) everywhere else. The creation of this diaspora would break the cycle of mediaevalism in a generation or two and leave the place with something like a sustainable population.

  29. Fran – for a fixed number of spaces at our end I think the female only option gives a bigger impact.

  30. Fran – perhaps married woman with kids would be excluded. Maybe just single unmarried women under 30 would get free entry to the west.

    It is more of a thought experiment than a proposal I would seriously advocate. However it is interesting to contemplate the incentives it would create.

  31. @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    What is happening here? The long easter weekend must be causing chocolate induced intellectual wanderings. Terje and Fran appear to have developed a plan for forced resettlements LOL. That didnt work well for Pol Pot did it?

  32. @Alice

    Who said anything about using force Alice? There’s no shortage of people who would like to leave Afghanistan — and Pakistan for that matter. And if there ever were a shortage, one suspects at that point the problem would largely be solved.

  33. Alice – once again you are demonstrating poor comprehension. Try this when you encounter a new idea. Read slowly, ask many questions, then make cautious judgements.

  34. This is an interesting idea and if it were to work the way it has been suggested I would probably support it quite strongly.

    If my understanding of the idea is correct I am left with some reservations. With large numbers of women packing up and leaving I think it would be possible that the remainder would get less, rather than more political clout due to their diminished numbers. Sure women would be more ‘valuable’ in the sense of a marriage market however as a group they could be more easily bullied, ignored etc. Definitely worth a thought though…

  35. Nick – the other possible negative responce may be a closing of borders and the persecution of those found to be considering leaving.

    Maybe rather than frame it around gender it ought to be framed in terms of voting rights. So for instance we might say that childless Saudis between 18 and 30 get free passage to the west if their government denies them the vote. This would entail more specific signalling about how to remedy the exodus and a change of policy on the part of the Saudi government would automatically alter the position of the west and stop the exodus immediately. It also gets around the need to frame the policy in terms of gender.

    However this would also be open to criticism by those that don’t want a flood of Saudis into the west. It is probably easier to use such policies against opressor nations with relatively small populations.

  36. p.s. I wasn’t a fan of McCain for President but one good idea he had was to create a new international body which only allowed democratic nations to join. The hope being that this would in time replace the UN. In my view such a body ought to allow non democratic nations to attend as observers but they would have no platform for speaking and no right to vote. Obviously there would need to be some reasonably broad definition of what constitutes a democracy but that’s a detail that could be figured out by technocrats.

  37. So the “United” Nations becomes the “only if you agree with our fundamentally flawed version of democracy” club of nations?

    How would that be helpful in addressing global issues such as climate change?

    On second thoughts, climate change wouldn’t be on Terje’s club of nations agenda – or if it was – he would then want to form another new club.

    Pluralism is dead. Long live pluralism.

  38. @TerjeP (say tay-a)

    And which countries would be sufficiently democratic that they would be allowed membership? Clearly, McCain was happy with the idea of his country being a member, that is, a country that had its President elected by the Supreme Court and otherwise ignored wide-spread ‘irregularities’ in voting, disenfranchisement of voters, and vote counting.
    I think its better to deal with countries as they are, no matter how bad they are, than to ignore them and not deal with them at all. Talking is never a great concession.

  39. Iain – your cynicism is what makes you such a beautiful person.

    Fran – I would regard Russia as democratic enough for admission. I don’t think the views of China would be ignored by such a body even if it lacked a formal vote. Even democratic institutions are consious of geopolitical realities.

  40. @TerjeP (say taya)

    Russia? Democratic? Good grief … that has even less credibility than making the claim for the US.

    And how exactly would China’s views be taken into account? Do you think the “democratic” bits of the world could act without China being explicitly engaged? What happened at Copenghagen that sheds any light on this?

  41. Fran – The aim isn’t democratic perfection. And the norms can be tightened over time.

    Copenhagen failed in spite of China being explicitly engaged. So I don’t understand your choice of example.

  42. @TerjeP

    Terje – either you can coherently explain how your proposal could address global issues, or you can’t. Either way, it may be better to take a shot, rarther than ignore the large holes in your thought process.

    Copenhagen was better than any proposal on climate change you are capable of putting forward.

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