We investigate the birth and evolution of isolated radio pulsars using a population synthesis method, modeling the birth properties of the pulsars, their time evolution, and their detection in the Parkes and Swinburne Multibeam (MB) surveys. Together, the Parkes and Swinburne MB surveys [1, 2] have detected nearly 2/3 of the known pulsars and provide a remarkably homogeneous sample to compare with simulations. New proper motion measurements [3, 4] and an improved model of the distribution of free electrons in the interstellar medium, NE2001 , also make revisiting these issues particularly worthwhile. We present a simple population model that reproduces the actual observations well, and consider others that fail. We conclude that: pulsars are born in the spiral arms, with the birthrate of 2.8±0.5 pulsars/century peaking at a distance ∼3kpc from the Galactic centre, and with mean initial speed of 380 -60+40kms-1; the birth spin period distribution extends to several hundred milliseconds, with no evidence of multimodality, implying that characteristic ages overestimate the true ages of the pulsars by a median factor >2 for true ages <30,000yr; models in which the radio luminosities of the pulsars are random generically fail to reproduce the observed P-Ṗ diagram, suggesting a relation between intrinsic radio luminosity and (P,Ṗ); radio luminosities L∝Ė provides a good match to the observed P-Ṗ diagram; for this favored radio luminosity model, we find no evidence for significant magnetic field decay over the lifetime of the pulsars as radio sources (∼100Myr).