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Population Growth Advocacy: Mislead Immigration Support or Greed & Tribalism?

Rohingya refugees (CNS photo/Antara Foto, Rahmad via Reuters)

In Australia, as in many countries, there appears to be almost universal acceptance of perpetual population growth. Population growth is seen as:

  1. Desirable because it is the path to economic prosperity.
  2. Inevitable.

Neither reflects reality. So why is it, that so few contemplate a finite population target, given we live on a finite planet?

  • The Main Reasons People Advocating For Growth:
    • Mislead Immigration Support: The Problematic Link To Population Growth. ing of Growth To The Economy.
    • Greed: The Economics Of Farming Humanity and Pursuit Of Power.
    • Tribalism.
  • The Real Economics of population growth.
  • Conclusion

Mislead Immigration Support: The Economic Immigration Trap.

The Economic Argument Trap, And Its Appeal.

Consider:

  • There is a valid and well promoted argument, that population growth can help increase the value of stock market indices.
  • Increased population can be achieved through immigration.

From these point, it follows that immigration will help increase the value of stock market indices.

This leads to proponents of immigration, adopting and promoting the position that immigration has economic benefits, even if this requires accepting the ‘trickle down economics’ proposition, that increases to the value of stock market flow through as prosperity for all.

Of course that entire argument, rests on the assumption that population growth not only increases the stock market indices, but also results in prosperity for all.

Most people are more honest and more well meaning than we expect, and more people are in truth motivated by “what is right”, than by greed.

I suggest this leads to a large number people who are not motivated by greed, but motivated simply by doing what they feel is right in terms of immigration and refugees, and support and promote the belief that population increase is economically beneficial, because this belief fits with their belief that accepting and welcoming immigrants, and in particularly refugees, is inherently beneficial.

The premise that population growth is economically beneficial, becomes essential to the core argument for accepting refugees and other immigrants for this group of people. It ceases to be about logic, but a core belief that they want to believe.

The Trap And The Santa Claus Problem.

Why be good? Because the consequences of doing good are more favorable than those of not being good.

philosophy.org: Why Should I Be Good?

The linking of accepting refugees and other immigrants, to economic benefits has two of the same problems as promising children that if they are good Santa will bring them presents:

  1. It is providing an ulterior motive for “being good”, when “being good” should be inherently rewarding.
  2. It is not necessarily the truth.

With children, the “ulterior motive for being” good is provided because children may be too young to grasp why being good is its own reward. The problems with adopting this same idea of providing an ulterior motive in the form of economic benefits from immigration are many, and include the morally problematic immigration practices, and overlooking that other people people are in fact often more honest and caring than we assume.

The Problem With The Economic Argument Trap: It is For Most People, Not True.

The problem with the economic arguments not necessarily being the truth, is that like children, others eventually discover that, at least for them, this is not the truth. Population growth does not being for the average person deliver economic benefits. This can lead to disaffected people who feel they have been lied to voting for Trump and Brexit.

I have a separate full exploration on how while population growth can help the billionaires and the largest X companies of a stock market index grow their wealth, it does not help wealth per capita.

If population growth did help with per capita wealth, then why do people in countries with the fastest growing populations, have so much less wealth than those in countries with the lowest population growth?

In fact the average GDP per capita for the 10 countries with the lowest birth-rates, at $965 per annum, does not compare well with the 40x higher average for the 10 countries with the lowest birth-rates, at $38,580 per annum.

Nor does a large population correlate well with per capita wealth. Of the worlds most populous countries, the USA is a standout being the 3rd most populous, and just missing the top 10 richest per capita at 11th, but next from the top 10 most populous is Russia, at 79th in that list.

Trickle down economics is not a reliable way to a wealthy population.

Greed: The Economics Of Farming Humans & Pursuit Of Power.

The larger the population, the greater the wealth of the wealthiest. This is why China has more billionaires than the USA, despite having less total wealth. Why the richest people in history were those who led the greatest empires.

If you lead an empire, or even a business empire, the more subjects or customers to contribute to your wealth, the greater your wealth can become. Clearly the leaders of these large empires, and in the case of business empires, their largest shareholders, all benefit from a large population. As discussed here, if the world had only half the population, Jeff Bezos would only be half as wealthy.

It is not just Jeff Bezos who benefits from a large population, but anyone with a large enough shareholding in companies where a larger population would expand their market. Of course, the larger the population, the more competition for resources, so to benefit, a person needs to have sufficient wealth to compensate for the share of land and other resources per person shrining as the population grows, but all a person needs wealth needs is to believe they can become sufficiently wealthy to be one of those who benefit as population grows.

Or, of course, believe in the “trickle down economics” fairy tale, where if the ultra rich get richer, so will you.

Tribalism.

The final reason I can see for supporting population growth is tribalism. “Our tribe needs to become the mightiest”. With this philosophy, every country would seek to out populate every other country.

Consider, in a world where every developed country has overflowing queues of both immigrants and refugees, is a government initiative offering a financial incentive for parenthood in an attempt to increase birth-rates, just months after vilifying arrivals with young children claiming refugee status. Xenophobia?

The baby bonus scheme was reintroduced by the Federal Government of Australia in the 2002 budget was aimed at offsetting the expenses associated with bearing a child. The scheme was also introduced as a means of increasing Australia’s fertility rate and to mitigate the effects of Australia’s ageing population.

Baby bonus

It is not that Australia is the only country, as others, such as Hungary, have government programs aimed at increasing the birth-rates, in parallel with punitive measures to discourage arrivals. incentives aimed at have just one country either. It seems hard to believe providing couples a loan of 8x the average annual salary, which becomes a non-repayable gift provided they have 3 or more children, is a sound way to build a society, when if you want more people, ready made ones are knocking at the door.

These are example of policies to increase population, in a world where there is clear evidence at the border that there are already more people than can find a home.

The Real Economics of population growth.

I have largely covered this already covered this above in the section on how “The Problem With The Economic Argument Trap“. I also have other content, which I will review and link, but in summary, once a population is sufficient to allow access to all natural resources, more people just results in a smaller share each. This means as the USA grew with new land being opened up, population growth economically benefits all. But once there is no new land to allocate to new people, the equation changes.

Conclusion.

There is one well meaning but misguided motivation for supporting population growth, and two more selfish reasons. I do suspect most people are in the first group of those with good intentions, but population growth is actually counter productive to solving the problem of every person having a place to live.

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Our Journey To A Finite Planet.

Hasn’t The Planet Always Been Finite? The Finite Planet Of The 21st Century Pre-1650 and “Sustainability”, A Seemingly Infinite Planet. The Economics of Finite Planet.

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