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A proposal for a sensible population policy

In the article the writer questions the whole idea of governments making top-down decisions about the size of a country's population.

A question that often comes up when discussion population related matter is, "What should the population be?" or "What level of immigration/growth do you think is suitable?". I don't have an answer to that question, and I don't intend to provide one.

At issue: Is population size really a matter for the state?

In "What a Population Policy means to a People" we discussed the dangers of having a population policy. A government which imposes a population policy is doing more than simply deciding how many people exist within the geographic areas that it governs, its also making a determination on the composition of the population, which becomes unavoidable when any other population target than that which would have been arrived at naturally must involve. As we are subject to population policies which seek to increase the population, this means that the immigration program must unavoidably act to the detriment of the original populations, diminishing their representation and power in order to achieve an abstract target. The issue isn't whether a government decides to increase the population, decrease it, or keep it constant, the issue is the belief that the government has a right to decide this matter in the first place. The issue is the belief that population size is a matter for the state, and like interest rates, tax rates, tariffs and the number of taxi licences issues, is a matter for a bureaucracy to decide.

Also flawed is the idea that a government can set population targets democratically, if it puts forward its policies before the electorate and allows the population to vote for one which they prefer. This assumes that there are sufficient options put before the public, that the parties are given equal treatment in the media, and that the population vote according to their own interests and reason, instead of how the establishment pushes them with scaremongering and propaganda. This isn't what we observe, so if our democracy is anything less than perfect in offering a full spectrum of choices, each of which stand a change, we can't rely on a vote. But even if we were to vote, we still have a population policy in the first place. We still legitimise the right of the state to set a policy, which can very quickly and easily turn pathological. Even a sensible population policy doesn't solve this problem, as we are still ceding to the state the right to manipulate us, to displace and diminish us, or otherwise make judgements on the suitability of us as the population of the nation.

People vote democratically with their wombs

The alternative is to allow the population size to be set by the people by the most democratic means available, the individual reproductive choices that we all make. With cheap and readily available birth control, we more or less are capable of choosing or ourselves how many children we have. The birthrate of the nation is therefore nothing more than the accumulative decision making of all people manifesting itself. If people think the population is too low, they will choose to have more children, and the population will increase. If they think the population is large enough, and we don't need growth, they'll have fewer children and the population will stabilise or even reduce. Below replacement birth rates in the Western world are an indication that the people have voted with their ova and sperm, and don't perceive the need for a 'populate or perish' mindset. [This idea of below replacement is abused a lot by our masters. I suggest removing the 'The' which makes it sound like a widely established phenomenon, and just having 'Below replacement' which doesn't suggest such statistical dominance.]

So what should be the role of the state?

So where does the state fit in? It is the role of political and economic leaders not to force a population outcome that they desire or which suits their own objectives, but adapt that that chosen by the people. The low birthrate is only an issue because our political and economic ruling class cannot handle or adapt to this new reality. We have growth forced upon us because the dominant political class refuses to adapt, refuses to implement new solutions, refuses to reform and instead asks us to adapt and even to destroy ourselves, for their own security and posterity. In short, if a stable or falling population is a problem for the political and economic ruling class, then it is the ruling class which is deficient, which has the problem, not the people.

Immigration rate should be in line with birth rate

Immigration therefore has to fit in with this. As population policy is largely implemented through the immigration floodgates, and immigration is used to override the peoples' wishes, immigration policy therefore has to be synchronised with birthrate. Therefore, a sensible immigration policy would be in-line with the birthrate, and not seek to counteract it. Ideally, it the net population intake through immigration would be a function of the total birthrate. If the birthrate rises, then the immigration rate increases and conversely, if the birthrate lowers, then the immigration rate lowers. Immigration could be set at a fixed percentage of total births, where it represents at most, a small percentage. In Australia at the moment, immigration account for more than half of all additions, which is way to high. A better figure would be about 10%, allowing some people to enter Australia if they need to, but not being significant enough to override Australias chosen birthrate.

For those concerned about future population growth, such a stance should be acceptable, because birthrates being just below replacement in Australia (1.93 births per woman as of July 2016),[1] this should act as a limiting factor for future growth. Further measures can be taken to lower the birthrate by removing government incentives.

For Australia's pattern up to 2013

Image icon Over-Population.jpg7.98 KB


I think the point is well made , that (given reasonable inputs and no major societal upset ) the people choose their own population level and that it is not government’s business to impose a different level. How people actually choose the size of their population may be a little more related to accumulated individual circumstances, however, affected by the population growth rate.

By this I mean that people are more likely to choose the number of children in their family according to the number they feel they can afford to raise. This will encompass the interrelated factors of , time, energy, money, resources such as geographically close family for additional support as well as the all- important perception of the future- whether the economy and general wealth of their society are getting better or worse. See Virginia Abernethy or Sheila Newman's book about the importance of local biofeedback and settled communities

This seems more likely than individual families evaluating their positions on the basis of perceptions of broad population growth/ and levels. One could say though that the perception of population growth in a region is a sort of short hand for what is actually impacting on the individual couple/family.

Further to the mention of the people determining immigration rate through a “democratic process” , an additional negative to this is that ( in my experience) few people seem to have much idea of population and immigration numbers. They are, however definitely aware of the effects that (government engineered) very high population growth have on their own quality of life e.g. overcrowded schools, raods, trains, unaffordable housing and unwanted subdivisions. Even if it were considered reasonable to give people a few population choices, these would need to be accompanied by what the results would be e.g if we have an immigration intake of 200,000 in any one year this will mean 2 extra apartment tower blocks and 20,000 extra cars in your immediate area. This would be the only honest way to give people a choice. They must understand the concrete effects. The abstract needs to be illustrated in graphic detail! How popular would high population growth be then?

The central point of the article isn't necessarily to solve population problems, but to offer another frame of reference which could be used to take power away from the growth lobby. That is, a potentially stronger argumentative position.

One of the weaknesses in people calling for a sustainable or zero-growth population policy, is that it still leaves the decision in the hands of the state and the ruling elite. If we are to argue for a sustainable population policy, we are also inadvertently arguing that this is a decision for the state to make. As the state and the ruling elite have a vested interest in growth, the argument then comes down to who has the better economic argument. Us or them. People see the merits in our argument, but we are judging two different policies.

I am proposing arguing the difference between having a policy or not. I think it more prudent to argue NOT to have a policy.

In short, I think it is a losing proposition because we are arguing that it is a decision for a government to make, we are just arguing that the parameters to judge success by should be considered differently. This is an argument that we would find it difficult to win, because we are accepting the premise that population should be managed according to criteria in the first place.

This idea totally wipes out the idea that government should have any role AT ALL in the manner. It isn't a matter of what numbers, but whether they have the right, at all to intervent. I argue that since children are (mostly) a matter of choice, the state is not only overriding our choice, but acting against our choice, to the point of degrading the nation. Consider EU leaders who want to import millions to fill in for the children Europeans chose not to have. You chose not to have that many children, the state chooses to replace you. Criminal.

Given that the birthrate in the West is just at, or just below replacement, and that it would be lower if not for immigration, I think we can get away with this argument. We can trust people to make the right fertility choices, because for the last few decades, that is exactly what they have been doing. I wouldn't recommend this strategy for countries with have high birthrates. I wouldn't recommend that Niger, with its birthrate of over 6.5 adopt this idea, but I think we can.

I will follow this up with another article soon which goes into a little more detail about the argumentative implications.

Note, that I'm not arguing against education to people, to put forward knowledge of what the effects of population growth/stasis/reduction would be. Absolutely this is right. I'm arguing for a mentality where people reclaim the right to plan and shape the next generation, and not have this done by bureaucrats and big business.

Not much time to comment, but, just picking up on one point: high fertility in places like Africa highlight other ways for states to influence population growth upward without actually calling this population policy.

Notably, governments can have economic policies that push people out of villages and tribes where endogamy and exogamy traditions together with cooperative breeding keep fertility to within environmental comfort. They then create a situation where seeking unskilled work in cities without effective child labour laws is the only legal means of survival. In the cities the rules of endogamy and exogamy break down and nuclear families replace cooperative breeding. This socio-economic policy then encourages people to survive by having lots of children who can be sent to work in child labour niches, which include mines, factories etc.

(You then get overt population policies wanting to limit fertility, but they don't even consider what is 'rewarding' the high fertility.)

I must compliment Dennis and quark for their efforts in elucidating their thoughts on population and immigration. One thread that appealed to me was that of accepted social norms in any given society. Living in a small community as I do, it is most noticeable when you mingle with people from a larger populace eg Melbourne, what is accepted in one community may not be in the other and vice versa.

This is most evident in the population debate with governments and big business influencing the outcomes whether it be immigration or natural replacement. As Dennis rightly points out this is a top down approach (coming straight from the neoliberal text book) and benefits those who promote the concept. By allowing society to dictate what is the norm, a bottom up ideology, allows the community to reach its optimal level of population thus benefitting society.

Having said that, I've found that population to be the one of most taboo subjects within society as the amount of social engineering by governments, big business and especially the mainstream media. Nobody wants to talk about it as we well know! Similar the the federal election the dialogue was highjacked and the real topics discarded into the too hard basket.

Thats the exact difference. Putting a 'bottom up' approach instead of a 'top down' solution.

Population is taboo, whether you want to increase it, keep it level or reduce it. Any plan to shape population is met with skepticism. For good reason! After all, isn't genocide just another population policy? I'm always shocked with how close our current population ideologies are to those we demonise which resulted in displacement, genocide and ethnic cleansing. I'm even more shocked at how few people see the similarities!

I can understand why any top-down policy on population is met with scepticism and fear. That is true whether the policy is well intentioned or not. Perhaps with no policy, but a call for the ruling elite to respect OUR wishes, a less controversial argument could be made.

The difficult part is simplifying it for mass consumption.

Great post here!

Editor: We have just had three posts similar to this from similar emails. They do not appear to be pushing a website or selling something, so we are going to publish one of the - this one. However, we generally expect more constructive input.

As I surfaced this morning I heard this snippet from Jon Faine to Red Symons “well we’re not densely populated like Europe but I’m thinking of the future, the FUTURE - you know that time that you won’t see.” Don’t ask me what this referred to but it is clear, he just thinks we keep growing at least until we are as densely populated as Europe. Why they assume this would happen is beyond me. What model are they using?

I then heard something that really upset me- JF said in a totally unemotional way “oh a horse and a tram had an argument (or words to this effect) yesterday and the horse came off second best."
Red Symons after discussion about horses in the middle of the city mixed with cars and tramsn- "oh well, one thing's for sure , they can’t feed the grey hounds to the horses." (referring no doubt to the expected "wastage" of thousands of healthy greyhounds following the ceasing of greyhound racing in NSW.)
To their credit they did then say that the horses should be in a better place then in the middle of the city.

It’s a pity these 2 are the best 774 can a manage in the mornings.

By the way, despairing commuter has sent a message to say that the horse is OK. It banged its head on a window in the tram and has superficial cuts -probably shocked as well. When one thinks that horses used to pull trams in Melbourne streets. Now they pull tourist carts and have to contend with electric trams. Horses probably outnumbered property speculators for a while in the early days. It is all very horse before cart these days in so many ways.

The States are quietly compliant on our population growth, despite the fact that it's where the rubber hits the road of high growth. Sydney's towers are set to have higher limits, and trains are overcrowded in Melbourne, but where are the politicians questioning the massive over-growth being experienced in major cities? Other Federal polices are highly debatable, but when it comes to immigration levels, it's silently accepted as *inevitable* and outside discussion? It's pure collusion, and short-term cash flow benefits above long term social, economic and environmental impacts. Political parties only concern themselves over short-term issues, due to their limited terms in office. Governments never consider the long term, and if they do, it's only The Economy - as if the people, communities, families are their futures are all a sub-set of The Economy! Relying on a flow of new consumers is lazy economics, and avoids the challenges of productivity, sustainability, innovation, and the moral custodial responsibilities towards future generations - who will inherit the impacts of poor governance today!