A few days ago Australian
millionaire and former Australian of the Year Dick Smith was quoted in the
Australian media as calling for a “China-like quota on the number of kids” that
Australians should have.

Do not worry; Dick Smith is not
calling for this quota to be prescriptive:

“I don’t see it by force. I see it by saying to parents, ‘It’s best to
have two kids’.”

But again we must ask, what
happens if pressure doesn’t work? What happens if not doing it by force is not
enough to solve the population problem? Will force then be required to solve
such a dreadful problem? Because we can rest assured that Dick Smith thinks
that a rising population is a massive problem.

Although he is adamant that there
is a problem, Mr Smith is torn as to what animal he should use to describe the
terrible consequences of this problem. 
According to Dick Smith, human beings are either like a “plague of
locusts”, or we are like chickens in that our apartment buildings are like
chicken coops, or if we all live in apartments it is like we are descended from
termites.  Perhaps there is some sort of
terrible hybrid creature that Mr Smith has in mind – part swarming locust, part
burrowing termite, part delicious chicken.

Beyond that quibble though, it is
clear that something terribly wrong is going to happen unless Australia
stabilises at a population of 24-25 million people with an immigration intake
of 70,000 a year.  According to Dick
Smith, this population will allow housing to become affordable again and will
stop Australians “stealing resources” from future generations. It will also
allow Australians to kill the false god that is population and economic growth.
It will also mean that we will continue to “live in balance” and that children
will not live in apartments. While “bloody chooks” are free-range, children are
not free-range apparently in Australia because they live in apartments. (I
don’t know what happens across the ditch, but I can leave my apartment any time
that I wish – I did so just this morning.)

What Dick Smith seems to be
worried about (apart from the future generations) is that if humans live in
cramped conditions, they will be nothing better than animals.  It is better if there are less of us so that
those who do exist can have a good quality of life. After all, according to
Dick Smith, it is better for children not to exist rather than to grow up in
chicken coop-like apartments. 

What Mr Smith fails to realise is
that it is not our quality of life that separates us from animals. We are not
like termites or locusts or chickens even if we live cheek by jowl. We are
something very, very different no matter our quality of life. We have
intellect, we have a will. We are not bound by our instincts. In short, we are
not like other animals no matter how tall our high rise is.

Human beings are exceptional. We
are exceptional if we live in the slums of Calcutta.  We are even exceptional if we live in a
millionaire’s palace in Australia. I think that we need to keep that in mind
when we are discussing population growth and how we go about “curbing” it.

Marcus Roberts was two years out of law school when he decided that practising law was no longer for him. He therefore went back to university and did his LLM while tutoring. He now teaches contract and...