The media is giving Dick Smith a rough trot. I step into the ring for him…
“Has Dick Smith lost his mind? Or is he the only patriot left standing?”
This is called a ‘false binary’. This is where you present two options as the only two possible options and ask people to choose.
The actual truth may be anywhere in between. Dick may be functionally nutty, with mild patriotic tendencies. Or it could be both. He could be totally nutty and patriotic.
Typically people use false binaries to force you to support their position on something or other.
“Do you think Meatloaf is the greatest band of all time, or are you deaf?”
“Do you oppose the Royal Commission into the Banks, or are you a communist?”
It’s a tactic used to shut-down debate – to drive people to the poles and make everything black and white. It’s an idiot’s strategy to bring the debate down to his level.
Now consider this one:
“Do you support immigration, or are you a racist?”
This is the false binary poor old Dick Smith bumps up against every time he tries to start a debate about immigration in Australia.
Like he did last week.
And, on cue, here’s the headline from the Sydney Morning Herald:
Really? Dick did that? He blamed immigrants for high house prices? He must have lost his mind.
But he didn’t ‘blame immigrants’ – a phrasing which makes it sound like he’s angry at people who don’t look and smell like him.
He’s pointing the finger at immigration – and the population growth that goes with it.
And of course the reaction is predictable. The left attack him for being a racist. Even thinking about population inflows and outflows makes you a racist apparently.
And the right attack him for being an economic reactionary. Immigration is a fundamental gear of the economy – like electricity, or transport infrastructure.
“Do you support immigration or are you a racist.”
“Do you support immigration or are you an economic Neanderthal?”
I really admire Dick’s balls here. He’s tried to have this conversation before and has copped the exact same flack. He weathers the insults, but he just keeps pushing. It’s a conversation he wants to have.
Hats off to him.
And the awkward truth is that Dick Smith is exactly right – immigration isn’t a yes/no question. We’re talking about degrees.
What do I mean by that?
Well, let’s look at an example. Let’s say there’s a plan to let 1 million Swedish fitness models immigrate to Bundaberg, Queensland. Next year.
What’s going to happen?
We’ll, we’re talking about a ten fold increase in the population over night, so that’s going to put incredible pressure on Bundaberg’s infrastructure – water, sewage, public transport, schools etc.
And even though the average ‘hotness’ of Bundaberg has gone up, quality of life has gone down – there’s now large queues at the local IGA, the roads are crowded, you can’t get your kids into the schools you want.
And what happens to house prices? Well Bundaberg builds about 150 homes a year, so we’re looking at 2,000 years worth of housing being needed. Prices, obviously, would go through the roof.
And what is the jobs market like for fitness models right now. What happens to unemployment? What happens to the wages of existing fitness models if there’s suddenly an extra million models competing for jobs?
Now I might look at this plan, and say, you know what, as much as I love the idea of having Swedish fitness models around, and as much as I love the contribution Swedish fitness models make to the fabric of social life in Bundaberg, when I look at the congestion, the strain on infrastructure, and the affect on the housing market, I’m not going to support these levels of immigration. 1 million is just too much.
Does that make me ‘anti-immigration’? Does that make me a racist? Does that mean I’m blaming immigrants for high house prices?
Of course not. I can be very pro-immigration and politically enlightened and still think importing a million Swedish fitness models is totally unworkable.
And so this is the truth of it: in the way that a million fitness models would be a disaster for Bundaberg, beyond a certain point, immigration does more harm than good.
But what is that point?
In our case, what is the socially ideal level of fitness models? I might take a look at Bundaberg’s infrastructure, consider how quickly the housing stock is growing, look at what’s happening in the job market and say, given these constraints, I think about 50 fitness models a year is probably ideal.
And I might also say, but I’m just one person. More perspective would probably be useful on this topic. We should open the question up to public debate.
But that debate would never happen. The left would call me a racist, and the right would call me an economic Neanderthal. The press would gang up and slander me just to sell a few more papers.
… which is exactly what happens to poor old Dick every time he talks about it.
The truth is that Australia currently runs a high-immigration program. This is Australia’s population growth compared to Canada, and that difference is all immigration.
And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe a high immigration in-take is just what Australia needs to tackle its unique challenges. Maybe the benefits outweigh the demands it puts on our infrastructure.
But we don’t know. We don’t have a consensus on what kind of growth is ideal. Because any time someone tries to question it, they get taken to the chook house.
And the most ridiculous thing I heard is that Dick Smith is playing with fire talking about immigration.
He’s not. He’s awake to the dangers. As long as idiots keep shutting down debate, anger and disaffection will flow to more radical and more vocal alternatives. That’s where the real fire is.
So stop slandering Dick. He’s not trying to have a conversation about what colour Australia should be. He’s talking about what kind of nation we’re building.
This is a conversation worth having.
Is Dick Smith on the right track? How many fitness modes are ideal?