01 August 2010

Sustainability, the new weasel word

The economic historian Niall Ferguson has described Australia's current "population debate" as asinine.

Ferguson is far from being a radical. The fact that he was invited to talk in Australia by the Centre for Independent Studies, a conservative think-tank, confirms this.

Everyone politician in the country seems to think that the only word they need to use to describe their views on population, immigration, climate change and the environment is "sustainable". A word that is used to mean just about anything ends up being totally meaningless, and that is precisely what is happening here.

When it comes to population issues, what they are really saying is their program is to convince anti-immigration voters that they are against opening the floodgates, and at the same time convince business interests that they don't want to cut back on the supply of cheap skilled labour that immigration has been bringing in. In fact, they have no policy at all.

To tell the truth, I rather prefer them to have no policy. Like most things, they usually work out better when the politicians don't interfere.

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