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Jay Currie

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7/17/2005

A duty and a pleasure

Australia's government said that having babies is a patriotic duty and promised to pay accordingly — and its citizens appear to have answered the call.

The 133,400 babies born in the six months ending in September were the most in a half-year period in 14 years, according to recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The government — responding to a falling birth rate, looming labor market shortage and shrinking tax base — had offered to give mothers $2,319 for each baby born after July 1 last year.

In announcing the payments in May 2004, Treasurer Peter Costello told the country: "You go home and do your patriotic duty tonight."

The father of three suggested that two children per couple was not enough to combat the effects of an aging population: "You should have ... one for your husband, one for your wife, and one for your country."
ap
An anonymous commenter here pointed me to this. A similar program has been in effect for years in Quebec.

Now, I fully expect Sean and other hard libertarian friends to land on me for suggesting government payouts for babies. However, the alternative seems to be 300,000 immigrants a year with the costs which that entails both economically and culturally. It makes more economic sense to encourage people already in the country to have families of three or more than to raid talent from developing nations - and the current approach to immigration is, largely, a talent raid where we want the best educated. The very people developing nations can least afford to lose.

As well, given what the feds are willing to piss money away on, taking a few hundred million and investing it in the future makes some sense. The fact is that a nation's only capital is its people and if those people, for whatever reason, cease to replace themselves the nation has only two choices - wither and die or borrow from abroad. Neither are terrifically attractive.