One Billion Americans?
In his recently-published book, One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger, Vox co-founder Matthew Yglesias makes a multi-pronged argument – combining pro-mass-immigration advocacy, liberal superpower “nationalism,” pro-natalism, technocratic social engineering, and expanding the welfare state – in favor of literally tripling the population of the United States. The essence of Yglesias’ argument is that America needs significantly more people to remain the richest and most powerful country on earth, and to successfully compete with communist China’s growing power (economic, military, and otherwise) in the future.
Why one billion Americans, as opposed to, say, 500million or 700 million? Well, as Yglesias explains, both communist China andIndia have over 1 billion people, and both are building up their economic powerand getting wealthier. Thus, even if the statistical Chinese (or Indian)citizen is not as rich as the statistical American on a per capita basis, sheerpopulation will still mean that their economies will be bigger than that of theU.S.
Yglesias recognizes that tripling America’s population would entail numerous environmental, logistical, economic, and socio-political challenges. He argues, however, that much of the U.S. is underpopulated and can therefore supposedly accommodate many more people (including the suburbs, where Yglesias would like to place more apartment buildings). And he believes that technocratic innovation and creativity – in addition to sufficient effort, imagination, and spending – can help overcome the environmental impact of rapidly adding almost 700 million people to the country’s population.
To reach the magic one-billion mark, the authoradvocates combining pro-natalist policies with increasing mass immigration.Given that many Americans wish to have children (or have more) but feel theycannot afford it, Yglesias calls for more pro-family welfare spending and otherpolicies to help make raising kids more affordable. That, however, works “witha built-in time lag,” argues the author, whereas mass migration is apparently aquick fix because “immigrants, by contrast, arrive at our shores good to gofrom day one.”
That, of course, is quite an oversimplification. Quitea few new immigrants are not proficient in English, and therefore have to firstlearn the language to a sufficient degree to function successfully in the U.S. Adapting,i.e. learning how “things work” in America, also takes time. But that is justone example of Yglesias’ generally naïve and out-of-touch view of massimmigration.
For Yglesias, immigration is largely a great boon –both in terms of economic growth and our national power – and we can hardlyhave too much of it. He thus supports increasing overall immigration levels,although he does acknowledge that making the immigration flow more merit-basedwould be a good thing. His “solution” to the illegal migration problem issimply more legal immigration while simultaneously granting blanket amnesty anda “pathway to citizenship” to millions of illegal aliens. If need be, Yglesiasis willing to make some concessions – such as “more aggressive measures tomandate the use of the E-Verify system,” or higher payroll taxes forimmigrants.
Writing for National Review Online, Razib Khan concluded that the section of One Billion Americans devoted to immigration “could have been drafted by a Cato Institute intern,” and that “the standard economic literature that immigration increases aggregate wealth, and has minimal impact on low-wage workers, is presented as uncontroversial and unchallenged.”
And, like the libertarian cheerleaders of open borders and “free” immigration, Yglesias completely ignores such issues as culture or national cohesion. As Khan noted, the book “does not accept the challenge of the cultural and social assimilability of so many new Americans, glossing over objections with a few asides and benign neglect.” In fact, culture is a giant gaping hole in Yglesias’ vision, leaving the reader to wonder how the author expects us to rapidly and smoothly integrate and assimilate tens or even hundreds of millions of new immigrants arriving from all over the globe within the next few decades. Both common sense and historical experience would suggest that such a scenario could easily lead to ethno-cultural tension and balkanization. That, in turn, would obviously weaken us vis-à-vis China or other rivals.