Population… again

UK population map

Bloody population. I know it’s a big deal. I know that kneejerk liberal acceptance of uncontrolled growth is hardly better than kneejerk xenophobic rejection of immigration. I know that Britain’s infrastructure isn’t keeping up with population growth and also that ‘reception communities’ at the sharp-end are suffering (as usual) while the urban elite sips espresso and wonders “immigration? What immigration?” (while purchasing another Romanian au pair off the internet). I know that the rejectionist stance (Migration Watch and UKIP and the rest of the unsavoury crop) is a hopeless, isolationist dead-end. I know all this.

What I wonder, though – what I’d really like to see us discuss – is what we could actually achieve with a population of 80 million. What could an ambitious, productive, well-educated nation achieve with a working-age population of over 50 million? We’re so pessimistic, so resigned to catastrophe and so governed by witless (and irresponsible) lobbyists and their extrapolations that we can’t imagine a positive outcome to any major change.

An 80 million population could and should move Britain up the economic league tables, protect the country’s status in a reordered world economy and create possibilities currently unimaginable. Would a population of 80 million justify greater national ambition: a manned space programme, genuine renewal of the Health Service, fusion power, industrial scale hydrogen, desalination, radical reform of education, fibre-to-the-home, a proper mass transit network: really big, planetary-scale goals that would stretch us as a nation and require every one of those 80 million people.

Should we actually seek a larger population? Or should we assume the worst, give in to the defeatists and misanthropes, shut the gates and wait for the tide of irrelevance and pointlessness to overcome us. Just asking.

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  1. I took a train from Paddington to Oxford the other day and it was so stuffed with people I almost went mad. It was a complete safety hazard. A fire would have roasted us all.

    That being said — I say go for 80 million. Go for the FTTH…

    This is my brilliant idea after just one cup of coffee: Create some sort of visa-free work / travel / retirement zone between Canada, U.S. and the U.K. Maybe you could make it points-based, but I think it would best function just based on holding a passport.

    Then people in all three countries could make a choice between:

    1. High-risk / high reward opportunities like the firm-culture in the U.S. with limited public health care.

    2. The vast open spaces of Canada / Scotland / U.S. West, some portions of which are getting warmer every year.

    3. And that U.K., with all its great culture, banking, diplo-policy establishment … kind of a parent figure to the other two, monitoring everything… Or maybe even building great ships again? I would like to see that.

    It would be interesting to see what kind of mixes of people would go to which of the three places. Some sort of perfect harmony? Everyone just running for Canada or the Pacific NW of the U.S.? People actually working in factories again — building Dreamliners or cars in the South? All the sick heading to the U.K. for NHS treatment … or getting on low costs HMO plans in the U.S.?

    I think I need more coffee…

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