August 26th, 2020

Sam Crosby Opinion Piece – Australian Financial Review.


Expensive childcare is an unfair levy on jobs. And early childhood education would improve life chances all round.

To make sense of Australia’s childcare system in 2020, consider the laryngeal nerve of the giraffe.

Like all vertebrates, a giraffe’s voice box is connected to its brain via two nerves. One of them, the superior laryngeal, takes a five-centimetre direct route. The other, the recurrent laryngeal, takes a bizarre five-metre detour, shooting past the voice box all the way down to a main artery near the heart, where it does a U-turn and returns back up the other side of the neck.

Why? Because when these nerves first evolved in our fish ancestors, it made abundant sense to go via the heart given fish have no necks. As the transition to mammals occurred over millions of years the nerve just kept adapting and stretching in convoluted ways. Particularly so for giraffes.

If giraffes had been designed from a clean sheet, they would be wired more logically. But the recurrent laryngeal nerve is what you get when things develop organically by iteration without centralised planning.

Hello, childcare.

Read more by Sam Crosby in the AFR.