The most tin-eared neo-lib proposal yet


Matt Yglesias, the latest sign that you are talking out of your ass ought to be that Glenn Beck agrees with you.

He has a new book out titled One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger, in which he proposes that we set a goal of pumping out more babies to give us an edge in international competition.

From one of our foremost policy writers, One Billion Americans is the provocative yet logical argument that if we aren’t moving forward, we’re losing. Vox founder Yglesias invites us to think bigger, while taking the problems of decline seriously. What really contributes to national prosperity should not be controversial: supporting parents and children, welcoming immigrants and their contributions, and exploring creative policies that support growth—like more housing, better transportation, improved education, revitalized welfare, and climate change mitigation. Drawing on examples and solutions from around the world, Yglesias shows not only that we can do this, but why we must.

The book has a website where you can find out more, but it’s rather unpersuasive. It has a section on praise which includes endorsements from billionaire Mark Cuban, his Vox co-founder Ezra Klein, Catholic creep Ross Douthat, and David Leonhardt (who?). Douthat’s blurb is about as empty as you can get:

“Trump-era bestseller lists are dominated by ‘exposes’ that tell us the same things, and (esp. under pandemic conditions) better books can’t get oxygen. So if you enjoy an excerpt or interview, buy the book!”

Gosh. An author has to be desperate to include that.

I have not read the book, nor do I feel at all compelled to read it. It just sounds dumb.

  • Why is tripling the population of the country even a goal? I mean, the description says some good things: supporting parents and immigrants, better housing, transportation, education, and welfare, and working to reduce the impact of climate change. Those are the goals we ought to aim for. Maybe a population increase would follow, but that would be a side effect of building a better, stronger nation. Why are you making the side effect primary, especially when it can conflict with your path to achieving that better nation?
  • How, Mr Policy Guy, how? Was an alternate title for your book Make More Babies NOW, Women!? Because that’s what it sounds like. A major obstacle to that goal right now is the deep gender inequities in this country — women bear the brunt of child-rearing responsibilities, so you’ve set a goal that falls mainly on the child-bearing hips of half the country. You don’t even mention correcting the unequal distribution of labor in your list of uncontroversial improvements.
  • The biggest economic factor limiting the United States is the immense, and growing, wealth inequality here, driven by raging unchecked capitalism. This is a country where the rich have grown richer during a pandemic that has harmed the well-being of the majority of the population. Spawning more children is not the path to prosperity for individuals, although it sure does swell a hungry workforce that can be exploited to the advantage of the corporate class. Somehow, I suspect that dismantling capitalism isn’t one of your uncontroversial contributions to national prosperity.
  • A colossal increase in population is going to involve equally colossal shifts in the economy. We’re going to require far more appreciation of child care and teaching, positions that are currently undervalued and underpaid. It’s going to lead to a booming number of retirees and the elderly, with a concomitant need for more advanced health care (unless, as an alternative, we’re going to just let them die).

OK, maybe the book is a staggering work of genius that includes eye-opening revelations about how we can accomplish everything all at once and reach a utopia full of happy families facing a bright future, but somehow I think that would inspire more interesting conversation than a couple of vague, bland reviews from a friend, a billionaire, the New York Times, and a terrible conservative op-ed writer whose endorsement ought to be reader-repellent. Reviewers who have read the book describe it as a mish-mash of shallow ideas only loosely connected to its central thesis. But sure, go ahead and collect those endorsements from Glen Beck, Mr Yglesias!

Comments

  1. mamba says

    It’s all smoke and mirrors for the classic BS that religions use. Remember that old racist meme that said something in spoooky scary tones like “The Muslim populations is increasing dramatically and soon we will be overrun by them!”? Same deal, different package.

    He doesn’t really care about the economy, and he’s too short sighted to see that overpopulating the country would be a bad idea, and I’m sure the fact it encourages women to mate more and abort the baby less and presumably be tied up raising said extra babies is just a chauvinistic bonus.

    But it gets more “American” (read: Christian white) numbers up and that will make it easier to spread the “good word” and outnumber those godless Muslims! (deep sigh and huge eye roll). His BS is too transparent…

  2. stroppy says

    Not to mention environmental impacts. Yeah let’s hasten collapse and call it “creative destruction.” /s Fools.

    China may be a threat, but that’s no reason to get caught up in ginning up Trump World’s “yellow peril.” Entirely fucked up.

  3. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Tweet:

    But we both believe that having ONE BILLION AMERICANS is a goal worth striving for and crucial to keeping China from overtaking us as the top global power.

    I see a simplistic fallacy of reducing something to a single aspect.
    IE that the economic success of China is only because of their vast population, and that is all we need to do better than them.
    Completely overlooking the immense poverty most Chinese suffer for survival, and how all the workers are severely exploited with minimal wages near subsistence level.
    PZ is totally correct, this proposal is a big heap of cod swallop (re Col.Potter MAS*H)

  4. hemidactylus says

    Given it rides the coat tails of the misogynistic Schopenhauer, I’m not entirely sold on antinatalism (though childfree myself), but damn it looks preferable to pumping out kids to pwn China.

    That Catholics or converted Mormon Glenn Beck would cotton to the quiverfull madness is no big surprise. Ezra too? WTF.

  5. birgerjohansson says

    In one of the later novels by Kurt Vonnegut, the Chinese solved the problem by shrinking. If you are a quarter of normal size you can fit four times as many people in.
    Mebbe this is what he is thinking of. 😁

  6. raven says

    This has to be the dumbest idea I’ve heard this month, and that is saying a lot.
    There are so many things wrong with the idea that it is hard to know where to start.

    Fortunately, it isn’t going to happen.
    “The fertility rate for U.S. in 2019 was 1.778 births per woman.”
    Replacement is 2.2 births per woman.
    Our population is on trend to start declining in a few decades.

    The causes are many but one is simple despair and a future that looks so bleak we don’t want to force it on other people.
    Our fertility rate took a huge drop, thanks to Republican George Bush II and his great recession.
    It never recovered.

    From NPR:
    “It’s a national problem,” says Dowell Myers, a demographer at the University of Southern California.

    “The birthrate is a barometer of despair,” Myers says in response to the CDC data. Explaining that idea, he says young people won’t make plans to have babies unless they’re optimistic about the future.

  7. komarov says

    He even mentions immigration, so getting more Americans should be as trivial as any number exercise of this sort usually is. The population can grow just as fast as you can print the passports and mail them out. I’m not sure how that’s supposed to translate into power or greatness or anything really, however. Otherwise I’d strike a deal with my post office and a few local print shops right now and eclipse both the US and China by the end of the month. Bow before my power! Also, please cede yours peacefully, starting with the nuclear launch codes. If something were to go wrong with those, all three of our nations would lose. In fact, just get rid of the whole thing. I’m not the iron fist type.

  8. garnetstar says

    Does this proposal come with a concomitant reduction of the world’s population elsewhere? Or is Yglesias just proposing that we triple the US population and add that to the current approaching-eight-billion already existing?

    Because, increasing the world’s population a lot is not a good idea. Right now, a third of the world’s population lives on food produced by nitrogen-based fertilizers: without those, they would starve. But, usable nitrogen is rather difficult and expensive to produce, and scientists have long been warning that, with a huge increase in global population, severe famines were likely.

    And, that was back when we thought that there would be a climate that supports growing food.

    Besides, “supporting parents and children, welcoming immigrants and their contributions, more housing, better transportation, improved education, revitalized welfare, and climate change mitigation”? Come on, this is America. That’ll be the day, even if we don’t soon become a fascist dictatorship.

  9. raven says

    Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline …
    http://www.amazon.com › Empty-Planet-Global-Population-Decline

    Empty Planet : The Shock of Global Population Decline (2019) by Darrel Bricker and John Ibbitson is a fascinating book that makes the case the global population is likely to peak sooner than UN population predictions suggest and looks at why populations are declining and the what the impact of declining populations is …

    In Realityland, the future population projections are very different.

    With present trends, the world population will peak in a few decades and then start declining.
    The US, European, Chinese, Japanese, and South Korean fertility rates are already below replacement.
    The rest of the world is catching up.

    There was a recent book on the subject, which makes the case that our future isn’t going to include huge numbers of people putting huge stresses on our life support systems.

  10. says

    I wonder if he hasn’t been reading some Canadian stuff. For years there have been people, such as an academic named Irvin Studin, advocating that Canada try to increase its population to 100 million people by the end of the century. It would supposedly result in all sorts of wonderful things.

  11. doubtthat says

    I have not read the book, nor do I feel at all compelled to read it. It just sounds dumb.

    Why would you write this and then ask a bunch of questions that are probably answered in the book?

    A colossal increase in population is going to involve equally colossal shifts in the economy. We’re going to require far more appreciation of child care and teaching, positions that are currently undervalued and underpaid.

    I mean…this is exactly what he’s arguing for.

  12. raven says

    Why would you write this and then ask a bunch of questions that are probably answered in the book?

    Our time is valuable and finite.
    We are all going to die.

    Why waste part of our lifespans on what is basically, one giant troll comment expanded to book length?

    I will say it does have a some value as comedy.
    They make fools of themselves and we laugh at them.

  13. doubtthat says

    Thomas Piketty, who wrote one of the most compelling, detailed studies on inequality in Europe and the US since the 18th century, says the following – paraphrase:

    when the rate of growth (g) is low, then wealth tends to accumulate more quickly from r (rate of return) than from labor and tends to accumulate more among the top 10% and 1%, increasing inequality. Thus the fundamental force for divergence and greater wealth inequality can be summed up in the inequality r > g.

    So, one way to attack wealth accumulation is to somehow curtail r or redistribute it. I’m all for this, but I think we can agree this project has not been successful over the last 40 years. In fact, it’s going in the wrong direction.

    Some folks, like Yglesias, believe that focusing on growth is the way to break that destructive cycle of increasing inequality. Piketty states that at least half of the economic growth in the US since 1776 was the result of population growth, which is now zero. That lays the groundwork for a even worse situation for equality over the next century.

    When this growth is obtained via increased immigration and social safety net support for families, I’m curious. I still don’t know if I agree, given the obvious environmental ramifications, but again, this is dealt with in the book (whether convincingly or not, I cannot say until I read the book).

    But what are the bold ideas for dealing with inequality at the moment? Slightly higher taxes or a magical revolution that’s always about to come?

  14. doubtthat says

    <

    blockquote>Why waste part of our lifespans on what is basically, one giant troll comment expanded to book length?

    One wonders how far in the book we could all be if we weren’t typing about it not having read it.

  15. fossboxer says

    How the fuck is tripling the population going to “reduce the impact of climate change”? Shit on a stick, we’ve descended into Bizarro World here.

    Meh, a ridiculous and desperate Gedankenexperiment anyway. Ongoing environmental destruction is gonna collapse us long before this insanity is even possible. Lemmings, thinking if they reproduce fast enough that somehow they’ll avoid the cliff.

  16. says

    Actually, if humans allowed our population to die back to a few million or so, and we all moved to France or someplace that has nice infrastructure, kids would be appreciated again, we’d have natural resources forever, could probably still use limited fossil fuels, and the CO2 levels would drop pretty quickly. There would be no need for a great culling – just let age and accidents take care of things. Humans just aren’t rational enough to see it.

    [By the way, whenever that idea comes up, someone inevitably imagines that they’d be part of the elite that would get to reproduce, which demonstrates why humans are not capable of such a thing. If you have a population of a few million, random selection would work fine; you’d get the usual mix of geniuses and jackasses and it’d all work out. The problem with humans is that none of us are special but so many of us want to be.]

  17. markme says

    “For years there have been people, such as an academic named Irvin Studin, advocating that Canada try to increase its population to 100 million people by the end of the century.”

    I understand that this is Canada’s official economic policy, from what I have heard from our central economists.

    Given the fact that global fossil fuel reserves are quickly running out, that the US STILL imports a large proportion of its consumed oil, that modern society is completely dependent on them without any viable alternatives on the horizon, and that the sustainable entire world population without fossil fuels is probably in the hundreds of millions, this plan sounds like what you typically hear from the religiously insane. Sometimes I wonder if these religious quacks are intentionally trying to create societal collapse so they can use it as evidence that their second coming predictions are true.

    My only disagreement is the statement that the gross wealth inequality we see is due to capitalism. Actually, the inequality we see is from the merger of corporations, governments, and central banks. The elites now print up trillions of dollars and give it to themselves. This is hardly capitalistic, more totalitarian if you ask me. I don’t disagree that this is the inevitable end result of free market capitalism though. It is the inevitable end result of both socialism and capitalism.

  18. Pierce R. Butler says

    I gave up on Yglesias soon after his emergence on the Web, when he declared the religious right was a fad of trivial political significance. Occasionally since then, his insights have risen to the level of “conventional wisdom”, but mostly he’s sustained my initial impression.

  19. raven says

    One wonders how far in the book we could all be if we weren’t typing about it not having read it.

    I’d be more impressed if you actually read this thread rather than just trolling.

    If you can’t read a short comment thread, you couldn’t read a book without a thinking brain service dog to help.

  20. doubtthat says

    I’d be more impressed if you actually read this thread rather than just trolling.

    What, do you believe, is the point made in this thread that is very important and that I’m ignoring?

    And all I can do is state that I am not trolling. I genuinely believe it’s an idea worth considering as increasing growth is one of the ways Piketty – a thinker who I find very compelling – identifies as a curative for destructive inequality.

  21. raven says

    My only disagreement is the statement that the gross wealth inequality we see is due to capitalism.

    It isn’t due to capitalism per se.
    Capitalism isn’t a monolithic system that is the same every where.
    There are various forms of capitalism and the outcomes can be very different.

    Our previous form of capitalism was regulated capitalism and it worked OK.
    The current form is the opposite of free market capitalism, it is oligarchic wealth ruled capitalism.

    I don’t disagree that this is the inevitable end result of free market capitalism though.

    FWIW, as Reich et al. have pointed out, free market capitalism doesn’t exist by itself. Free markets are a human creation and only exist if we create and maintain free markets.

    The USA is heading in the direction of monopolistic oligarchic capitalism as fast as the GOP can take us there.
    This is BTW, the economic model of the Third World and why the Third World is…the Third World.

  22. raven says

    troll

    And all I can do is state that I am not trolling.

    That is all you are doing.
    Our time is valuable and you are wasting it.
    Go away and stop stalking me!!!

  23. markme says

    “I genuinely believe it’s an idea worth considering as increasing growth is one of the ways Piketty – a thinker who I find very compelling – identifies as a curative for destructive inequality.”

    You have hit the nail on the head of why economic growth is required to avoid economic and societal collapse in the current system (there are a few other reasons but this is the main one).

    We “need” economic growth to prevent the masses of the middle class from descending into poverty as the wealthy steal more and more wealth. This stolen wealth has to come from somewhere, and the middle class takes this wealth from the natural world, converts it into things that we find useful, and therefore increases the human economic footprint on the planet.

    Anyone with any grasp on reality can understand that this exponential growth in consumption of the natural world in a finite world can only lead to complete societal, economic and environmental collapse. I say, let’s change the system so the elites aren’t continually stealing our wealth!! Then we won’t need growth anymore to keep the middle class out of poverty.

  24. doubtthat says

    Anyone with any grasp on reality can understand that this exponential growth in consumption of the natural world in a finite world can only lead to complete societal, economic and environmental collapse. I say, let’s change the system so the elites aren’t continually stealing our wealth!! Then we won’t need growth anymore to keep the middle class out of poverty.

    I strongly agree with this. I also would state that efforts in this direction have failed miserably over the last 40 years. I’m curious to hear about ideas to move us in a better direction, especially ones that are founded in better immigration policies and vast expansions of the social safety net (which are perfectly consistent with what you say and worth pursuing regardless of how people come out on the population growth end).

    I also agree that the environmental impact is the most obvious challenge that any pro growth thinker needs to confront. Yglesias says he discusses it. I am skeptical that there is an answer beyond “science and technology solve all of our problems”, but I would read it.

  25. markme says

    “The USA is heading in the direction of monopolistic oligarchic capitalism as fast as the GOP can take us there.”

    I don’t disagree with what you are saying, except to say that the previous capitalism only appeared to work OK because of the vast natural resources available in the US to support the economic growth that free market capitalism requires to function. Take away those resources and it fails miserably. And after the US ran out of resources of its own, it had to institute the US dollar as the global reserve petrocurrency which enabled the decades of perpetual trade deficits to allow the economy to continue growing by consuming the rest of the world’s resources instead. Without this, the US would indeed just be another regular country.

    Any system, be it any form of socialism or capitalism, which allows for the rich to have disproportionate ownership of wealth and political power, will inevitably fail. So, basically, every country.

  26. consciousness razor says

    They wouldn’t let him go with “One Billion Slaves: The Fourth Reich For Dummies” although it might have sold more copies.

    According to Worldometer, here are the largest seven countries in 2020. All of them remain in the top seven in 2050 (lots more information at the link if you like):
    China – 1,439,323,776
    India – 1,380,004,385
    USA – 331,002,651
    Indonesia – 273,523,615
    Pakistan – 220,892,340
    Brazil – 212,559,417
    Nigeria – 206,139,589

    That constitutes roughly 4 billion, which is about 52% of the world population of 7.8 billion. Now the projections for 2050:
    India – 1,639,176,033
    China – 1,402,405,170
    Nigeria – 401,315,000
    USA – 379,419,102
    Indonesia – 330,904,664
    Pakistan – 338,013,196
    Brazil – 228,980,400

    So they will have around 4.7 billion people in 2050, which would be 48% of the estimated world population of 9.7 billion. All of them combined will gain about 657 million people in that time, which is less than the amount the US would need (an extra 669 million) in order reach one billion by itself.

  27. markme says

    “I’m curious to hear about ideas to move us in a better direction, especially ones that are founded in better immigration policies and vast expansions of the social safety net”

    In a nutshell, force the rich to pay for it! Delete income tax and instead institute a wealth tax. I am not naive though, since any “wealth tax” instituted while the elites are in control will be a “wealth tax” in name only, and will have loopholes built into it to allow the rich to continue to get richer, while targeting the middle class as more of a poverty tax.

  28. doubtthat says

    In a nutshell, force the rich to pay for it! Delete income tax and instead institute a wealth tax. I am not naive though, since any “wealth tax” instituted while the elites are in control will be a “wealth tax” in name only, and will have loopholes built into it to allow the rich to continue to get richer, while targeting the middle class as more of a poverty tax.

    100% with you on substance. The question is can this be done.

    The argument in Piketty that reframed a lot of my thinking on this issue was essentially the description that inequality is the natural result of capitalism when things are stable. The comparison between the US and Europe between 1800 and the mid 20th century demonstrates that massive population growth creates the sort of instability and chaos in the economy that provides a certain amount of opportunity – the aristocracy couldn’t calcify in the US, compared to Europe (though, rich people obviously did fine).

    Inequality in both the US and especially Europe was reversed between 1930 and 1975. The chaos agent in this scenario was the Depression and WWII.

    So, there’s an argument to be made that some massive level of disruption is required to combat the natural tendency of capitalism to generate destructive inequality. If this is true (and it’s not an iron clad law of nature), I would gladly choose population growth over what happened across the globe between 1930 and 1975.

    In other words, when things are stable and inequality has calcified, the top just has too much power to ever allow wealth taxes and other distribution mechanisms to occur. I hope this is not the case, but it is a little unsettling to look over the last couple of hundred years and watch that pattern play out.

  29. raven says

    The problems with the US and its economy are simple and well known.

    As Robert Reich pointed out, our current system of capitalism has a drop dead feature built in.
    It’s rising economic inequality.
    What happens when the 1% oligarchies have all the money and the 99% are barely surviving?
    The system stops.
    Because no one has any money to buy stuff any more.

    It would be a lot easier and more intelligent to fix our economy than to raise our population to 1 billion.
    The latter is using an atomic bomb to fix a broken watch.

  30. doubtthat says

    And I should add that Piketty, like markme, believes wealth and inheritance taxes are the solution. I do agree, but I continue to be depressed and not particularly hopeful about getting any of that done.

  31. monad says

    Hey, look, a lot of the problems with overpopulation will happen no matter where the people are. So if these people would like the US to welcome 700 million immigrants, and Canada to welcome 70 million, I say we at least start letting whoever it might help in and see where it goes. I mean, unless we’re going to give Native Americans back some say in what happens, which would be better.

    And, honestly, there are some things to encourage people to have babies…providing the necessary health care, maternity leave, education and so on to everyone…I don’t think I’d mind that much either, so long as there’s no discrimination against people who don’t. It’s at least better than the “welfare queen” narrative from before.

    Ha, yes, I know these people probably don’t mean any of that.

  32. mikeschmitz says

    Y’all may be missing the point, here. He asked for 1 billion “Americans”, not 1 billian USAians. According to Wikipedia™ (depending on where you read on this page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Americas) there over a billion Americans, or 965 million, or who knows what other numbers can be found on this page…

  33. raven says

    Michael Farr: The problem with the U.S. economy is there are too many poor people
    CNBC PUBLISHED FRI, SEP 18 202012:29 PM EDT Michael K. Farr

    KEY POINTS
    It’s easy to hate the rich for all that they have and all that you don’t, but the rich aren’t the problem, says Michael Farr.

    The problem is that the poor and middle class don’t have enough money.

    Until employment and wages increase, the U.S. economy will remain at best bogged down and at worst digging a deeper hole for all of us.

    More on what rising economic inequality has done for us, from an article 5 days ago.

    What will increasing the US population by 700 million do for us?
    All it would do is create a population of 1 billion, the vast majority which live in desperate poverty at the bare survival level.

  34. says

    You aren’t taking good care of the population that you have, why would you think it was a good idea to triple it?
    The only logical course would be to deal with that before you even think about increasing the number.

  35. says

    How about we create economies based on caring for the children and people we have? I hate token hoarding. This looks like breeding for the purpose of making more tokens.

    Valuing things more than people is my enemy.

    @markme 19
    “Sometimes I wonder if these religious quacks are intentionally trying to create societal collapse so they can use it as evidence that their second coming predictions are true.”
    I think the general behavior is real but not limited to the religious. While there is an overlap claiming the government shouldn’t be doing X seems among non-religious conservatives too. Some of it is rationalizing incompetence after the fact, but I’ve also thought there might be an element of creating dependence on the non-government group religious or private.

  36. unclefrogy says

    This was talked about on a weekly radio program I listen to just last friday. I thought then “why is this even a subject?”
    The author sounded just like your average creationist or libertarian or flat earther. There was so much data that they were not even considering that I had a real hard time listening.
    The focus was entirely on population size and prosperity just 2 things nothing more everything was hung on those 2 aspects. There is no way to discus anything about the real world if you deliberately remove from the discussion 90% of the real world as if it does not exist.
    it is just start with a spherical cow. what is the point of going any further.
    uncle frogy

  37. nomdeplume says

    I thought surely there must come an end to the madness erupting from America, but the proposal for 1 billion Americans (goodbye planet) proves I was wrong.

  38. says

    @doubtthat:

    Tell ya what: I for one am entirely okay with letting people like you make the experiment, on one condition: the wealth taxes, socialized programs, and universal basic income get set up first, before you even start on the program, and protected from ever being repealed or tinkered with. You don’t get to push for a higher birth rate until we have no more billionaires, and in fact not until there aren’t even any people worth $100 million.

  39. dianne says

    The US wants 1 billion people? No problem. Step 1: Remove all restrictions on immigration. The US’s brand is considerably down due to Trump, but it’s probably still attractive enough to get a reasonable number of people that way. At the same time, start setting up a social safety net that makes life in the US livable, i.e. universal basic income, environmental protection, universal health care, etc. That’ll attract even more people and also encourage those already there to have more children. If it’s still not enough, start actively recruiting. Provide transportation and start up costs for anyone who is willing to move. Should be able to get a billion with minimal problems.

  40. doubtthat says

    @The Vicar (via Freethoughtblogs)

    This is why I think it would be good for folks to read the book before diving in. From what I’ve read of hithe thesis, the goal is not population growth for the sake of population growth. The argument is that you increase the population by radically increasing immigration and massively expanding the social safety net to make it easier for people to have families. Better immigration laws and improved social services create the conditions for increased population growth.

    The rate of growth Yglesias shoots for over the next century is the current population growth of Canada, which I don’t think is particularly radical.

    The policy preconditions should be done regardless of whether this leads to massive population increases. Yglesias believes it will result in many more Americans, which will have a set of other positive effects (according to him).

    There is no experiment. This isn’t some project to create a billion people then see what can be done with it.

  41. John Morales says

    [I almost always see people use ‘folks’ when they mean ‘folk’.
    It’s a collective noun, like ‘people’, for example.
    Sheesh!]

  42. doubtthat says

    But while British speakers favor “folk” as the plural, Americans usually say “folks,” and this is considered standard English in the U.S.

  43. John Morales says

    doubtthat, it’s not a plural, it’s a collective noun.

    But yes, that’s standard now for the peoples. ;)

  44. says

    @#46, doubtthat:

    And this alters my proposition how, exactly? I am saying: the social changes first, then you can experiment. If your argument is that the changes can’t be made first, then you are lying, because we’ve already changed away from those ideals within my lifetime, and so it is necessarily the case that society can exist closer to them.

    It’s like people who want to cut the social safety net and replace it with charity. Sure, I’m down with that — but you have to construct that charity first. No cuts until you demonstrate that nobody will lose any services at all, and that your charity is sustainable after the cuts happen. Until then, such people are just lying shitweasels who think they can get their taxes cut.

  45. John Morales says

    Vicar, Definite Article:

    I am saying: the social changes first, then you can experiment.

    Um, are not said social changes in effect an experiment? ;)

    It’s like people who want to cut the social safety net and replace it with charity. Sure, I’m down with that — but you have to construct that charity first.

    Um, there’s a difference between ‘charity’ (generic) and ‘that charity’ (definite).

    (Not all Vicars are “The Vicar”, are they?)

    You might think I’m just being pedantic, but really, the devil is in the details.

  46. nomdeplume says

    Holy shit – there are people in this thread who not only think “1 billion Americans” is a good idea, but that it will help the environment?

  47. PaulBC says

    I usually like Matt Yglesias, though I do keep in mind his youthful support for the Iraq war. In this case, I’m alarmed. As a thought experiment, it’s probably true that the US can support a much greater density, and I know he has advocated for relaxing zoning laws and encouraging more housing near economic hubs. That is probably a sensible policy in the SF Bay Area, though it may have been mooted by the pandemic-inspired move to remote work.

    Seriously (though it’s a human rights abuse) I am more inclined to see China’s one child policy as a step in the right direction of restoring symmetry than a “more babies” policy in the US. It’s a triumph of the green revolution and other productivity improvements that we can support something like 7 billion people on the planet, but I think the optimum is probably less (even if I buy the argument that sheer number of minds can lead to greater innovation, we’d do better educating the ones we have). Increasing the US population, extrapolating on American consumption habits, is a death sentence for the environment as we know it. Is that really what Yglesias advocates? (Haven’t read carefully.) Nope, terrible idea.

  48. says

    @#51, John Morales:

    Um, are not said social changes in effect an experiment? ;)

    There are already lots of pilot programs, and all of them seem to have major significant positive results and no major drawbacks, so that’s no longer “experimental”. We know it works; it’s just the usual fight against greed, stupidity, and conservatism (which are usually interchangeable)… including that of centrists and neoliberals.

    Expanded social services are already normal in every “rich” country except here, so those aren’t “an experiment” either.

    Getting rid of the rich might be regarded as an experiment — on the other hand, having the rich is, therefore, also an experiment, and it is a disaster to such an extent as to justify eliminating them.

  49. unclefrogy says

    everything is wrong with the 1 billion people proposal.
    If we were in any danger from a serious lack of people maybe but no we are not. We do have a shortage of educated and intelligent people so we encourage immigration of those with the qualifications we need to some degree all the while neglecting the education of a very sizable percentage of the children that already live here. take any other of the things it is supposed to fix the myopia is glaring
    it is probably to some extent racist to boot I am not interested enough to look to close either. The problems are real and are mostly caused by us, which is about the only thing about it that is demonstrably true the solution is ignorant 19th century thinking just too simplistic to do any good and is not about to be implemented by anyone any where except for some demented dictatorship in some third world country. Any one that did adopt such a plan would rapidly become a third world level country.
    uncle frogy

  50. doubtthat says

    @The Vicar (via Freethoughtblogs)

    And this alters my proposition how, exactly? I am saying: the social changes first, then you can experiment.

    I am saying that you are agreeing with Matt Yglesias. His position is that FIRST we need to radically liberalize immigration policy and expand the social safety net to make life easier for families. He believes the result of this will be an increase in population growth. He has mentioned family specific incentives, such as something like a universal basic income for people with children, but most of the proposals I’ve seen referenced are pretty basic social welfare policies that I doubt anyone here would find objectionable.

    What do you think the alternatives are for increasing population growth? What, based on your understanding of the premise, is Ygelsias suggesting be done to increase population growth such that there is a concern these billion people will appear before the social welfare programs?

    If your argument is that the changes can’t be made first, then you are lying, because we’ve already changed away from those ideals within my lifetime, and so it is necessarily the case that society can exist closer to them.

    I suppose this is a reference to me bringing up Piketty. The premise in Piketty is that capitalism naturally leads to destructive inequality. I don’t think anyone here disagrees with that. His historical survey of Europe and the US since the 18th century suggests that this dynamic is espeically dangerous in times of stagnation (r>g) – more wealth and power accumulates among the top wealth percentiles. We are in one such time (perhaps COVID is disruptive enough to change things, we will see). The events that reversed or slowed that trend include the massive population growth in the US, and the world wars and depression. This is not a statement about what is possible, it’s a disturbing observation about what has happened with the implication that such upheaval may be necessary to limit the inherent inequality dynamic in capitalism.

    I think it’s pretty clear that this dynamic describes the last 40 years or so of American history. There is a danger that, like Europe in the 19th century, the current ruling class calcifies and becomes a permanent fixture absent some large upheaval. Notice we are about to get a SCOTUS jugde who will spend the next 30 years helping to declare wealth taxes, universal health care, expanded family support…unconstitutional.

    So, what are the paths forward? Again, I don’t necessarily agree with Yglesias, I haven’t read the book. I am responding to the arguments, beginning with the opening post, that this idea is so dumb, dumb, dumb, that it can be dismissed without reading it (all while posting objections that are discussed in the book).

  51. PaulBC says

    doubtthat@56

    Though I already know Yglesias’s views on housing, I haven’t tried to get up to speed on this thread.

    If the point is that certain social changes are necessary even if an unintended consequence could be a US population of 1 billion, I agree with that. In fact, I strongly agree that anyone who says we can’t make some move towards social equity because (they believe) the current system keeps down the birth rate is really making a “pull up the ladder” argument and is morally reprehensible.

    An affirmative argument for increasing the US population is just wackaloon batshit somebody ought to check what they put in Matt’s drink crazy. Is that really what he’s saying?

    Increasing the population won’t help at all if we’re educating people as poorly as we do now, if overall health (nutrition and exercise) is as bad as it is now, if serious problems like the opioid epidemic are still raging, and if acute health treatment causes people to go bankrupt. That is not an exhaustive list, but just a sampling of why you won’t, say, amplify the number of [fill in your favorite necessary occupation] by the same amount as the population.

    Also, even if by some miracle you did get “equity” and “prosperity” in proportion to the increased size, just creating that many new people who consume as many resources as a middle-class America will rapidly exhaust the already strained resources.

    So I can see the downside and fail to see the upside at all. Usually, increased prosperity and equity results in a lower birth rate as people find they have other means to self-actualization than proliferating offspring. We’re probably above a reasonable limit of global population already. China’s one child policy certainly didn’t harm their nation’s economy and seems to have helped. Never mind that it is clearly a human rights violation. Does anyone question the efficacy?

    I do not believe that living in a dense population is itself a lower quality of life and I’d much rather live in a metropolitan area than not. But an increased densification of existing metropolitan areas in the US seems to have more advantages than trying to expand the population as a whole. As the proponents of the “Buffalo Commons” have pointed out, the settling of places like the Dakotas never really succeeded.

  52. doubtthat says

    @57 PaulBC

    I would say my priors are very similar to yours. I think the environmental/resource problems are incredible, and I genuinely don’t see how they can be resolved beyond hypothesizing some science/tech deus ex machina. But I don’t know what Yglesias says. I haven’t read the book. I read an interview where he said (paraprase), “I carefully weighed the costs and benefits and ultimately came out on the side of increasing the population.”

    Again, my point is not that he is right or I even agree. I’m just answering a good number of the questions posed in this thread based on the one interview I’ve read and a few tweets that crossed my path. With just that little background, it’s honestly incredible how confident people are that this is a silly, pointless idea all while largely agreeing with Yglesias and feeling very comfortable that their arguments are more than adequate despite Yglesias clearly engaging with them in the book.

    It would seem to me that anyone wishing to engage with the book should probably know what’s in it. Call me a neoliberal shill, if you will.

    I get the impression that a good bit of his project is to frame immigration reform and a drastic expansion of the social safety net as policies that “make America great.” I am again somewhat surprised that people are angry at Yglesias that he got Glenn Beck to happily agree to a plan that increases immigration and expands social welfare programs.

    Will this result in a significant political realignment? I strongly doubt it, but it costs absolutely nothing to support his effort. If 0.5% of registered Republicans are swayed, given their geographical location in this dumb fucking country, it could change the outcome of a presidential election or flip the Senate.

  53. says

    Just some tiny bit of realism here:
    If you increase your population by 300%, where are you housing them? What schools do they go to, what grocery stores will they shop at, how will they get from A to B?
    When about a million refugees arrived in Germany in 2015, one of the real issues (as opposed to the bullshit “great replacement” stuff) with having an increase of just above 1% of the population was and is housing. Sure, that’s the result of 30 years of privatisation and lack of public housing, but the situation on the housing market is still very bad, five years later.

    supporting parents and children

    Whenever I hear that phrase from people who want this not as a support for already existing kids, but an incentive to make more kids, all I hear is “take us back to the single earner housewife family of the 1950s”

  54. PaulBC says

    doubtthat@58 Yglesias is a better thinker than most intentional contrarians, but he definitely has that part going. He’ll at least admit that he was wrong to support the Iraq War. I am sure he “carefully weighed the costs and benefits” in that case as well.

    The discussion seems moot, because I am fairly certain that most of the improvements he would like to see would make us look more like Western Europe, and they have a lower birth rate. Most people do want to have kids. Very few people really want to be the Duggars. I am the youngest of 8, which was more common during the aptly named baby boom (I am technically GenX). And yes it’s an Irish Catholic stereotype, but there were two other families in the same exurban neighborhood with 10 and 12 kids, respectively. I do not think we will ever be back to that. I am extremely happy with my just under replacement rate two children. I can’t imagine having more. The real pressure comes not from money or housing, but from time and attention. They have all I got.

    If Yglesias wants to increase immigration and increase density in specific places (or reverse flight from decaying areas in the rust belt) I’m all for it. I do not think any policies that is not aimed directly at increasing population will really increase it.

    I think there is a significant chunk of people who actually don’t want to have children at all, and they ought to be respected. I think the emphasis on the rest of us should be quality of development and education, not quantity of warm bodies.

  55. PaulBC says

    @59

    Whenever I hear that phrase from people who want this not as a support for already existing kids, but an incentive to make more kids, all I hear is “take us back to the single earner housewife family of the 1950s”

    I don’t think this is what Matt Yglesias means. In general I agree though.

  56. doubtthat says

    @58 Giliell

    I do not mean this as snarky and shitty as it will sound, but the whole point of the book is to discuss those things. Maybe Ygelisas generates completely unsatisfying answers, but I continue to find it odd that the discussion is moving forward about the contents of a book that no one has read.

    The reason it’s a book and not a tweet that says, “Billion Americans = Good,” is so it can be engaged in detail.

    @60 PaulBC

    I genuinely don’t know his calculus. I’m certain that increasing immigration will increase the population, and I think it’s likely that pro-family policies and the expansion of the social safety net would lead to a higher birthrate. I am skeptical that this gets to a billion people by 2100, but (1) again, I don’t know the specifics of his argument and (2) if it doesn’t work the way Yglesias claims, we’ve supported better immigration policies and an expansion of social welfare programs.

    This is why I’m somewhat baffled at the strong reaction.

  57. says

    I don’t think this is what Matt Yglesias means.

    See, that’s the problem here: He may not mean it, but that’s the effect. Because I know how hard working full time with two generally low maintenance middle school kids is. Now, apart from money and shit, more kids would make it impossible to work full time. And unless you completely overhaul the patriarchal division of labour inside the house, more kids will simply push women out of public life again.

  58. stroppy says

    Yeah…no. I’m not reading a book from some guy who sounds like he came from the Thomas Friedman school of punditry. Life is too short and I’m too old not to filter that stuff out.

  59. iiandyiiii says

    Currently reading the book, and enjoying it. So far it seems like “1 billion Americans” is more a nice byproduct than the specific goal — the book really seems more about the positive good of increasing immigration, and the positive good of increasing the housing supply, and the positive good of more/better social spending/focus on childcare, pregnancy/post pregnancy care, etc.

  60. PaulBC says

    @62

    2100? Shouldn’t y’all be debating the singularity (aka Nerdpocalypse) in the case? I will be OK with a population of a billion or a trillion or whatever if we are all confined to diamond crystal somewhere in a former Nebraska corn field.

  61. PaulBC says

    @62

    I think it’s likely that pro-family policies and the expansion of the social safety net would lead to a higher birthrate.

    I think it is likely that expansion of the social safety net will lead to a lower birthrate, particularly if it is expanded to widely available access to contraception and educational programs promoting its use for those who don’t actually want children at the moment, such as teenagers (I could make a shoehorning argument that this is “social safety net” but it is surely social policy).

    Now, pro-family policies? Not sure what that means. Pro-baby-making incentives, perhaps. Did I read somewhere that France was unique among European nations in having policies that increase birthrate? (I don’t feel like googling just now) Policies that help families with kids get them a good start in life with access to education and health care will not necessarily convince people that they want to have more babies than they wanted to in the first place (and again, 2 is slightly under replacement rate, yet a very popular choice). That is what I mean by “pro-family policies.”

    There are people who don’t really want kids. They don’t “come around” though it is also true that we can all change our minds. (I had an idea that probably crystallized in my 30s that it would be nice to have kids and I am the happy father of two wonderful teenagers.) I personally believe that “pro-family” policies will result in better families and a lower birth rate. I also think that has been shown in other wealthy nations.

  62. doubtthat says

    @68 PaulBC

    I think it is likely that expansion of the social safety net will lead to a lower birthrate…

    Maybe. In most non-coastal states in the country, there is an incredible donut hole in their populations. I’m aware of this through my work in the university where (even before the destruction from COVID) people across the country are anticipating a massive drop in enrollment around 2024. The reason? This is when the generation born during the 2008 financial crisis would be entering college. Nationwide, there is a big population gap as the birthrate dropped. It hasn’t really recovered since:
    https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/sKIQpbCXsA0kCz33ZaM1EXa2XQ0=/0x0:1080×1741/1200×0/filters:focal(0x0:1080×1741):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/16277818/live_births_fertility_rates.jpg

    It’s as low as it’s been since the 70’s, another notably poor economic period. I will also say that the rate changes are not evenly distributed through the country, and a lot of midwest states are about to have big crashes in the size of their graduating high school classes.

    I think that it isn’t the case that people suddenly decided to stop having kids in 2008, and there is at least some general evidence that poor economic conditions are correlated with low birthrates (within a developed nation – however described). I think it’s plausible that better general social welfare programs, health care, and family specific items – like universal pre-K and family credits/direct payments would create a world where people holding off on having kids start building families.

    Also possible it changes nothing regarding the birthrate and we just have better policies in place.

  63. PaulBC says

    @iiandyiii @doubtthat

    Well, that certainly fits everything I know about Yglesias, though I am unlikely to read this book. If you made him into “housing czar” for the SF Bay Area, my little slice of heaven (a post-WWII ranch home on a postage stamp lot) would probably get a reasonable valuation compared to all the new condos and I’d be out a million or more.

    But I don’t hold it against him. He’s a nice Harvard kid. And he’s probably right more than he’s wrong about housing.

    I sort of doubt increased population would even be a by-product though. It ties into much more than housing and social policy.

  64. consciousness razor says

    So far it seems like “1 billion Americans” is more a nice byproduct than the specific goal

    But the additional environmental devastation would not be a nice byproduct. It would be devastating.

    The worldometer projections I cited in #29 estimate an increase of 48.4 million people by 2050. If that same growth rate (over 30 years) continued for a full 80 years to 2100, that would be another 129 million, for a total of 460 million people. That is of course only 46% of 1 billion. How do you more than double that figure? Yglesias can say it in a book all he likes, but I doubt it’s going to happen.

    In any case, this is all assuming very little real progress over an 80 year period. A little piece about housing here, a bit about transportation there, some immigration reform to distinguish itself somewhat from the MAGA brand of nationalistic fuckwittery….

    None of that will be nearly enough, while more and more people are expected to live with our country’s shit politics. How do you think that will that go? If we were serious about making Congress do its job, a decade sounds like it would be a generous timeframe for a bunch of weak-tea policies. Then why would we let them sit on their hands for the remaining 70 years or so, while our population is supposed to balloon and while we’re still not doing nearly enough about inequality or the environment?

  65. PaulBC says

    Another possibility is that Matt Yglesias, though probably living rather comfortably already, would enjoy making a lot of money from this book that he put all the hours into writing.

    After he “carefully weighed the costs and benefits” he (in conference with his publisher) concluded that this title was more likely to further that goal than A case for tweaking residential land use policies in America. (Though he has written some Vox articles with titles more like that.)

  66. brucej says

    Is Matt Yglesias one of Tom Friedmans new pseudonyms? Because this sounds like a flat taxi driver kind of idea to me….

  67. unclefrogy says

    So far it seems like “1 billion Americans” is more a nice byproduct than the specific goal

    But the additional environmental devastation would not be a nice byproduct. It would be devastating.

    from the interview I heard last week it did seem to me that the goal was prosperity which would be achieved by population growth that would be encouraged and facilitated by the implementation of his pro-family policies.
    at the rate we are going today just what will be the state of the environment be in 2100 or 2150.
    what would it likely be if we decrease the available land size and reduce and shift the capacity of what we have to produce reliable crop yields?
    yeh we need to encourage people to have more kids that will fix it.
    anything to avoid actually looking at where we are right now and acknowledging how we got here.
    In looking at America and its growth and prosperity what I have seldom heard is any reference to what happened at the beginning and all through the rapid growth period. No serious mention of the ethnic cleansing that went ahead of the settling of the continent, no serious discussion of the deforestation and ecosystem destruction that were the result of settlement. One of the most surprising things I have learned was besides the land grant right of ways from the government (land only recently acquired from the former inhabitants) to the railroad companies the investment capital for the railroad came to a large part from the vast profits derived from whaling another case of wanton destruction in pursuit of money.
    haven’t we tried this path of endless growth long enough to see that it leads no where except more of the same when more of the same is what we are trying not to get?
    uncle frogy

  68. PaulBC says

    brucej@74 He’s a former blogger famous for having supported the Iraq War (which he now renounces) and generally having pretty standard liberal views. He has been at Vox for years https://www.vox.com/authors/matthew-yglesias He is younger and smarter than Thomas Friedman. Indeed, there is some overlap of views, but Yglesias can make some astute observations. I thought this was spot on https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/10/13576488/democratic-party-smoking-pile-rubble

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