Moving a nation from “Good to Great”

PwC report and associated press release claiming that Australia could “fall from the G20” has triggered a round of media (e.g. here and here) questioning Australia’s role in the world.

There’s nothing new in the report to worry about. Under the PwC model, Australia drops out of the top 20 countries by GDP on PPP terms (down to 29th), but is still in the top 20 at market exchange rates in 2050. If you’re worried about international clout, the latter is more important. Plus, GDP per person stays high – it’s only because of the development of nations with large populations that the relative rankings change. Australia is, after all, not even in the top 50 countries by population.

Then there is the reality of what “dropping out the G20” looks like. South Africa remains a member of the G20 despite ranking around 30th in GDP. And there are actually more than 20 countries involved as the European Union is one of the 20.

And why should we even care about G20 membership? Or who believes these sorts of projections anyhow?

But let’s suppose you want to make your nation great and maintain relative rankings in economic clout. How should you go about doing it?

In my last post, I pointed out that having educated intelligent populations is the key ingredient to a nation being “great”. And the PwC response reflects that to an extent, stating that we need to invest “in highly skilled workers and become the knowledge nation”.

However, I don’t expect any miracles (or possibly even change) from national pushes such as that. I have nothing against desires to increase STEM education or have the education system teach skills that might actually be useful, but the evidence that there is benefit from pushes such as this is scant.

What goes unsaid is the most effective approach to increasing economic clout – increasing population. As other large countries develop and close the gap on a per capita basis, increases in population are the simplest way to maintain the global ranking. If Australia could increase its population to 25 per cent above projected 2050 levels, it could be climbing the rankings.

As I mentioned in my last post, the composition of that population is important, so this is not a pure numbers game. But given the mass of educated and intelligent people from around the world who would like to come to countries like Australia, increasing population while maintaining (or even increasing) the human capital of the population is achievable.

So, that points us to the lever of immigration policy. Where do we start?

For one, Australia has a skilled migration program that forms the majority of its immigration intake, although numbers are controlled through measures such as “occupation ceilings”. Why we don’t allow everyone who meets a certain benchmark to enter astounds me. We could simply set some education and occupation benchmarks, and all who meet them can come.

Further, Australia has a few hundred thousand foreign students in our university system at any point. We could easily introduce a program where those who graduate with certain degrees or levels of achievement gain the right to stay. Another source of highly educated, intelligent people.

But what of those talented people who may not have had the same opportunities as those in developed countries? One option would be to introduce a series of IQ tests or some other similar standard. Everyone who meets that level can migrate and benefit from the Australian education system. This could provide a potential avenue to increase the humanitarian intake.

With that flood of educated, intelligent people, a country would gain the scale necessary to be among the largest global economies, while also maintaining a population base conducive to high levels of development.

This option, however, has time-limited availability. In another 20 to 30 years, many of the sources of potential immigrants will be highly developed themselves, so the queues to enter places like Australia could be much shorter. But for the moment, if you are worried about Australia (or any developed country) sliding into irrelevance, there is an easy, accessible solution waiting to be exploited.


  1. My employer hires a lot of people on 457 visas (don’t worry, we hire every qualified local we can get too). We get good people from countries with underperforming institutions — Spain, Ukraine, Brazil, Venezuela and many more. Australia should give these people permanent residence immediately to give them the certainty which would allow them to build their lives in Australia from day one.

  2. It’s really funny, because I’m from one of those countries with “underperforming” institutions.

    I just read that other post, the one about Tolstoy, and I’m not so sure what old common-sensical Leo Tolstoy would think of that smart plan to turn Australia into a deracinated geographical corporation in exchange for some fractions more of GDP. I’m talking, of course, of that vulgar-libertarian ideological nonsense of replacing Australian anglocelts with whoever high-IQ biped hominid you could possibly find in the World (perhaps I qualify).

    You don’t have to go “full eugenicist”, for God’s sake. Too dangerous, for a score of reasons. Too much power in some hands. Too many unintended consequences. The impossibility of predicting in advance the behavior of complex systems. Too much pleiotropy. Too much teleology involved in deciding which traits are going to be adaptive or good for survival and thriving in the middle and long terms.

    But it looks like a good and sensible idea to set up a web of moral norms, cultural customs, economic incentives and legal and political structures so that the golden fraction of your population (scoring high in the Big Five) gets bigger, over time, as a relative share of the total and is put in charge of society. We could start finishing the genocidal schemes of income re-distribution that incentive the fertility of the not-so-excellent by subtracting resources from the best.

    In any case it will never include replacing your “less bright far cousins” with an unrelated mass of random individuals with whom you share no kinship at all. It clearly won’t include throwing your kin under the bus, making them compete in disadvantage with the whole world.

    “Treason of the elites”, anybody?

    And there’s even more. “Social capital”, anyone? IQ or the Big Five clearly don’t cover every factor that should be taken into account.

    But let’s go back to the main problem, after this small detour. Sometimes IQ-reductionists and libertoids make you wonder if they have really understood the concept of “inclusive fitness”. Seriously. They seem incapable of keeping in mind the sheer size of the populations they’re related with and, as a consequence, the huge “share” they have in them, even if they’re removed several degrees.

    Of course, some decades ago one could have argued in good faith something like “everybody will get benefited at the end… all the ships will float… etc.”. Today, after verifying the effects of these policies in the reproductive collapse, economic well-being and demographic replacement of europoids worldwide is really difficult to keep saying so. Only the force of Ideology (a là marxist) can keep so many people blind and oblivious to this reality. What would Ol’ Tolstoy have thought of Vulgar Ideological Libertarians (the “Reason Mag” type)? “See Leo: we plan to replace the Russian folks with some really intelligent guys from all over the world… ” I have my own hypothesis.

    This plan of turning Australia into a deracinated corporate hodgepodge of highly-productive robots strikes me as familiar, given where I’m writing from. If there’s a place in the world where it has been tried, it’s here. The scenery is really beautiful, but this is not a true life for human beings. I can attest to that.

    It could be summarized “Give me organic community (a better one, if possible) or give me death”.

    But I’m an open person. Do all IQ-reductionists, libertarian operatives or, simply, middle-management smart-asses really want to try their schemes? Go ahead. Settle together somewhere and build a country. Buy some islands. Acquire a couple of ex-soviet republics from Russia. Whatever. And then and there you will be able to try your master plan. Your Big Leap Forward. Your Cultural Revolution. Your Holomodor. And please, do not forget to invite every high-IQ guys out there. I’m pretty sure most smart Japanese dudes, for some reason, won’t change their country for yours, nor most Chinese will. I have this, let’s call it, “intuition”. For some reason they won’t. But I could be wrong, of course.

    Can you imagine why they won’t do so? I can. For the same reason I will never do it, either.

    Thanks for the great blog, Mr. Collins.

  3. Thank you for posting such a discussion in the prevailing egalitarian atmosphere. The IQ argument is sound, so far as I know. Cultural considerations might be important too, and a long-term process to prevent reduction of IQ over time.

    Wonderer: I don’t think IQ is being championed at the expense of other social considerations here. Also, give me the funds to buy some islands and I’d do something much more startling.


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