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Kelvin Thomson new political theory of "Population Witches' Hats"

In a brilliant new paper released this morning, Labor MP Kelvin Thomson has proposed his "Witches' Hats" theory of government -- a theory that places central importance on rates of population growth.

Democratic politicians, says Kelvin, are often bluffed by lobbyists who convince them that what is good for business is good for their or their governments' political longevity -- and that since population growth is good for business (or at least for big business, since it provides more customers) it must good for the Parties they belong to.

The reverse is the case, he says. It's not just in unstable states that rapid population growth is bad for political stability. Even in securely democratic countries, population growth destabilises leaders and governments.

One striking example is the amazingly rapid fall of Kevin Rudd, the (once) extremely popular Australian prime minister who pushed Australia's annual population growth in 2009 to 2.1%, nearly six times the average for industrialised countries, told the electorate "I support a big Australia" and had a meteoric fall in the opinion polls -- and from office. But Kelvin Thomson argues in his The Witches’ Hats Theory of Government: How increasing population is making the task of government harder that this connection is far more widespread than politicians and political analysts have yet recognised.

Why? Because staying in power, and keeping the electorate happy is a little like an advanced driving course, one in which a government is required to thread a kind of slalom course between a series of witches' hats -- meaning the orange inverted cones that mark out the course. These hats, which the government, like the driver, needs to avoid knocking over, include such things as keeping electricity and water costs down, reducing hospital queues, keeping housing affordable, preserving the environment, providing full employment, restricting inflation, etc.

And the faster a country’s population is rising, the harder it is to do this, says Kelvin Thomson. It’s like trying to negotiate the course at double speed.

"Countries with stable populations, like the Scandinavian nations, tend to have stable governments. I’m suggesting that the life-expectancy of a democratic party or a particular Prime Minister may be crucially affected by how fast the population is growing. Governments that preside over rapid population growth tend to have short honeymoon periods, and soon find themselves on the nose with the electorate.

"I recently headed a parliamentary delegation to the Solomon Islands and Samoa. At the time of independence, the Solomon Islands had a population of 170,000 – now its population is three times that, over 500,000. It has seen frequent changes of Prime Minister, and the other countries in the region have troops stationed there to keep the peace. Its Parliament has not met this year, and our Delegation was told that this was because the Prime Minister was afraid of a Parliamentary vote of no-confidence.

"Samoa by contrast has had a relatively stable population of around 170,000 to 180,000 for decades. It has had the same Prime Minister for nearly 20 years, and the same governing Party for nearly 30 years."

"So when politicians are puzzled by their ratings and ask “Why don’t they like me?”, the answer might well be that they are driving the car too fast and knocking over those witches’ hats. They should slow the car down and focus on solving people’s real-life problems."

Contact Kelvin at Kelvin.Thomson.MP@aph.gov.au or phone +613 9350 5777

Mark O'Connor's email address is mark@Australianpoet.com His website is at www.australianpoet.com

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Comments

Kelvin Thomson stands out for his integrity, and clear statements and needle-sharp mind. He hasn't descended into the typical mainstream propaganda of the "growth is good" and pursuing population growth under the "economic growth" banner. Few would deny people the ability to buy affordable housing, and even the need for economic growth. There is no stability with our level of ongoing population growth, something that is assumed as inevitable and something that we must address. We have planning ministers giving favours to developers, due to the corruption of political donations. The same is for big businesses and the livestock industries. They have a monopoly on governments due to their economic and political power. We have a form of political patronage that supports the growth agenda.

The Brumby government's excessive population push made him force onto the people of Victoria the irrational and knee-jerk plans for the desalination plant, the growth of the urban boundary, and the stress on housing that displaced many people from home ownership.
There is little difference with the Baillieu government. The carbon tax has tested the Gillard government's accountability and popularity. While the carbon tax policy has credits, while there are so many inconsistencies, mainly to do with population growth, it will be hard to get the public support while costs of living are already climbing, and the carbon tax will add to the cost of power, and manufactured goods.

Kelvin Thomson is an example of what leadership should be about - representing his constituents rather than pander to the interests of big businesses and global market forces. He actually is logical and likeable for his sincerity.

Population from 2000 to 2005 grew by 38.052 million in Latin America.

There are almost three times as many Africans alive today (767 million) as there were in 1960. Asia, by far the most populous region, has more than doubled in size (to over 3.6 billion), as has Latin America and the Caribbean.

This staggering population growth is likely to have serious political, economic, social, strategic, and other implications. Too rapid population growth now is viewed widely as aggravating the problems of development and putting severe strains on services and facilities. Strong opposition from the church and the military has caused a lack of family planning in Latin America. Food production in most of Latin America has not kept pace with population growth. Economic dilemmas facing Latin America include widespread poverty, the world's highest per capita debt, unemployment and massive underemployment.

It is clear that in Latin America most of the generation of university-trained young people are Marxists. A close relationship exists between unchecked population growth, spiraling socioeconomic problems, and the potential for political breakdown, destabilization, and internal unrest in Latin America.

High population density and growth rates can also accentuate the risk of conflict by heightening competition for physical and social resources. Young, unemployed populations can be politically volatile and prone to violence, placing less trust in traditional patterns of authority. We have witnesses this in the Middle East and in the UK riots.

Social disorder is contagious. The more we see it happening elsewhere the more it becomes imaginable where one lives.

The rise in the population from the current 7 billion to 11 billion by the middle of the 21st century, and the limited energy, water, and food resources will be a major source of global socio-political instability.

Nothing in a closed planetary system can sustain perpetual growth. Tensions will inevitably rise when there is unemployment and scarcity of space and high prices for goods and services.

Vote for Stable Population Party so that Australia leads the way into the 21st century, and can continue to export much needed food to the Middle East - rather than consuming it all here because of a 'big Australia' and a sell-off of land to foreign countries.

Kelvin Thomson's "witches hats" imagery illustrates just what happens when governments see their realm through the prism of pleasing self interested lobbyists especially those representing Big Business. As soon as changes are indicated to accommodate more people there is an inconvenience and disadvantage to the public especially if changes are on a large scale. People like change if they see an advantage to themselves but not if the change involves a loss for them. Australians have been told via the main media for a couple of decades that they have to give up the 1/4 acre block. Somehow, whoever is telling them this seems to have got the SPIN right because the public seem to have accepted this loss. People are, however not enjoying increasingly crowded public transport perhaps because they have not been primed for this. Nobody enjoys traffic congestion nor do they enjoy parking restrictions and parking fines- all consequences of increases in population and population density. If they were aware of it they would not be pleased about the steady decline of important aspects of the environment and the loss of agricultural land as it goes under more and more housing. The Victorian Labor government most likely lost the election at the end of last year as a consequence of population growth. The issues which caused friction and discontent were the Wonthaggi Desalination Plant , the North South Pipeline- taking water from the north of the state to the bloated and thirsty city of Melbourne, then there was the clearways issue - where the state government in its efforts to set free traffic gridlock from the constantly increasing number of cars proposed that certain thoroughfares should have extended periods where no parking was allowed on the side of the road in the direction of commuting traffic. This caused huge concern to those with (mainly small) businesses along these road routes. It seemed that the present population was sacrificing in so many ways for an ever growing population which Victoria really did not have to have at all! Unfortunately, the change of government in November 2010 gave the state no relief from the impositions of this process. The present government may avoid one "witches hat" but they will hit another. My guess is that the same number of "witches hats" will fall over no matter which party is in power unless population growth slows. This is of course no consolation to the voters as all they see- saw between powers for whom the best interests of the majority are not a priority