It is hard to watch the current ‘population’ debate in Australia, be overseas and not think about that question. Let me put it more specifically, if I am nationalistic towards Australia, should I consider remaining overseas and not returning? In particular, what is the logical answer to that question if I am to believe the general arguments put forward seemingly by both major political parties — albiet one more starkly stated than the other.
To begin answering this question let me state a few axioms from which to base logical consequences. First, I’ll assume the goal is the welfare — happiness, economic prosperity, etc — of all current resident Australians in some sort of aggregate — the nationalistic assumption. Second, I’ll assume that I am not allowed to base my decision on my own economic circumstance and also on the ‘economic contribution’ I might make to Australia in the future — this is the no-economic discrimination assumption that I see politicians as making. Those two should do it.
Now what are the criteria we should use to consider the value of my absence? For one, let’s start with the ‘burden on public infrastructure’ argument. Well, there I am a clear liability. I consume all manner of public infrastructure but, in particular, I consume education resources — and here I am assuming that if I leave, another adult and three school age children will leave as part of the mix (call it a household family emigration policy). While you might say that as an Australia who pays more than the average in taxes, I should take that into account I need to remind you that that would be an economic factor and so I can’t take that into account. My absence would free up resources.
Second, let’s consider what one might call the ‘Western Sydney’ argument. This is the argument that some localities are suffering more from immigration and over-population than others. Well, I don’t live in Western Sydney nor (I’m pretty sure) whatever someone might define as the Melbourne equivalent. So you might think that I am off the hook there. But not so. If I leave, that will free up one house elsewhere that one of the families from the over-populated regions will — through a chain of movements — eventually claim. So long as we leave the country, we are creating the potential to reduce the congestion issue whereever it might be.
Third, my environmental impact. Well, that is surely a disaster; I’ll not pretend otherwise. So if I were to leave that would be a reduction in any future emissions goal. That said, this argument I should not is a fallacy anyway since it is only an improvement to the world problem if I move somewhere that allows me to emit less. Hard to see how I can guarantee that.
Finally, there is the ‘cultural fit’ issue. Now from what I understand that comes from my willingness to partake in Australian culture in all of its forms. Well, it is hard to judge that obviously but let me give you a few bits of information and let you decide whether on that basis I would be cleared for fit from our mainstream politicians. For one, I don’t drink. Not at all. Nothing. Second, I don’t watch sports. I used to watch cricket but no longer have the time and I have lived in Melbourne for 14 years and have never been to an Aussie Rules match — not even for the children. Lastly, I’m an economist.
Near as I can tell, if I accept these arguments as to why we should have a small population as both major parties seem to be arguing, then the logical consequence is that, for the good of the country, I should leave. And I have to say that hearing the current arguments and their flawed moral logic, that thought becomes easier to contemplate.