Population control by sterilisation is a controversial topic because no one likes to associate with eugenics, for good reason. It’s unethical. But suppose (indulge me) that Australia introduces a voluntary sterilisation bonus? Imagine, instead of incentivising people to reproduce by way of a baby bonus, we give people a reward for taking one for the team and admitting that they don’t want children? Ever. They just don’t. There are a myriad of reasons people may choose not to. In this day and age, the most immediate threat to civilisation is not — blaspheme — climate change, it’s a lack of resources and an exploding population and people squabbling over them.

I’m making assumptions here. That is, modern humans are in my opinion mammals with the scientific genus Homo sapien sapiens — the ‘man who knows he knows’. Humans are thereby in my opinion subject to Darwinian natural selection pressures like any other organism, ‘survival of the fittest’. Climate change is also in my opinion is a very real, very daunting weather event that jeopardises resource availability, exerting a survival pressure on our species. Finally, the human population is in my opinion growing exponentially in a world buckling at the resource demands placed on it. In other words, the biggest threat to human beings in the near future is not the weather, it’s competition for Things: homes, jobs, partners, oil, personal space, opportunities. The most enlightened option for the Man Who Knows He Knows is to accept this selection pressure and adapt — fast.

As a species, we have a few options. Outer Space is a swashbuckling adventure. Reducing climate change by monitoring carbon emissions, living sustainably and switching to renewables is a responsible start and the most promising approach so far. The key to success, however, is that the acceptance of the continuation of our institutions and systems. It’s an improvement but the overall theme of consumption threatens a nugatory outcome.

I prefer to go back to Garret Hardin’s radical 1966 essay and ruefully admit that for the benefit of the species, freedom to breed is intolerable. It’s distasteful, but for Homo sapiens to survive, we need to reduce the number of Homo sapiens. Monitoring population at birth is also the most ethical and frankly, mature choice.

(For the sake of dexterity I’m going to focus on modern Australia. China’s controversial one child policy is certainly worth discussing, as is the education and empowerment of women in developing countries but these are cans of worms I’d prefer to leave for another day).

Previously in Australia, we had a baby bonus of $5 000 lump sum to households with a combined income of less than $75 000. I confess I don’t have a child myself but I doubt $5 000 would go far. Particularly if that child is to be clothed, fed, safe, inoculated, educated, entertained and transported. I wish all the best for new parents because having children is a mammoth responsibility. Which is the crux of my point. It’s a responsibility. Launching a Little Person is not to be taken casually. It’s a financial commitment and should be treated as such. The system now differs after even the Australian government website admitted there were some ‘behavioural issues’ with implementation. The money was streamed elsewhere, with specific benefits and payment by instalments for responsible spending. I’m in full support of benefits for new parents in this regard. I also accept that pregnancies can occur unexpectedly, that carers may choose to keep the child and raise it carefully. What I reject is pregnancies that stem from thoughtless contraception resulting in thoughtless reproduction, thoughtless parenting and a subsequent lack of opportunity for the progeny who then need — need — even more resources from the State.

Instead, I float the idea of a bonus for voluntary sterilisation. Some people don’t want to reproduce, and that’s fine! They stay in the workforce and spend money. Taxes can also pay for people to choose not to have children. If individuals are sitting on the fence about kids, there should be a reward for opting out safely. For people genuinely unable to afford steady, reliable contraception, the sterilisation bonus is a godsend and permits the freedom of choice.

The inevitable reality that crops up at this stage is that of a dwindling economy. The aging population needs a tax surplus to pay for benefits by future generations. It’s a good point and one that’s not going away. But surely Australia can supplement population from migration? Take refugees and rebrand them as migrants. Educate them, teach them English and let them work. Prioritise the children, if you must. I fail to see what is unethical about that.

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