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July 05, 2006

300 Million

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

2006 is the year the U.S.'s population will reach 300 million -- with population growth due almost entirely to Hispanic immigration.

A couple of amazing/sad (by my lights, anyway) facts:

  • "In 1967, there were fewer than 10 million people in the U.S. who were born in other countries; that was not even one in 20. Today, there are 36 million immigrants, about one in eight."

  • Since the original Earth Day, our population has increased by nearly 50%.

I marveled here about the way most major environmental groups are dodging the immigration question, as well as avoiding the sheer-numbers issue.

Hey, say hello to the new racial politics. I won't be surprised if we see a lot more of this kind of thing too.



posted by Michael at July 5, 2006


It is not surprising that the number of foreign-born U.S. residents was so low in 1967. Many of the European immigrants who arrived in the great wave of immigration from the 1880's to the 1920's had died off, while the big influx of Hispanics and Asians following the liberalization of immigration laws in the mid-1960's was just beginning.

Posted by: Peter on July 5, 2006 1:30 PM

Michael – Are you saying that a population of 300 million is bad, or that it is bad only if it is fueled by Latinos? It’s also interesting that neither you (nor anyone else that I have seen) factors in the amount of increase due to legal Latino immigration from the increase due to illegal immigration, unnecessarily tainting the argument.

I’m also not sure why you waste time spanking environmentalists, who are mostly quacks, for not being on the “right side” of the immigration debate, which is much like criticizing UFO believers for not talking about immigration.

Overpopulation doomsayers have never answered the fundamental challenge of people like Julian Simon, who argues in The Ultimate Resource that a larger population is a benefit, not a cost. He also famously spanked overpopulation “expert” Paul Erlich, who had bet that by the end of the 1980s the price of 5 key metals would rise exorbitantly, that by the end of the 1990s we would all be starving to death, etc. Every prediction was wrong because people who focus on population always erroneously assume that the world that they knew as children (in size, demographics, etc) is always the best possible world and should always be maintained. This is much like the magical thinking of those with artistic temperaments, but not very rational.

Meanwhile Japan has the opposite problem than that faced by the US: Preliminary figures from last year's Japanese census show that the number of people aged 65 and over reached 21%, overtaking Italy for the first time. The ratio of children under 15 is also lower than anywhere else in the world. … And Japan now has a greater proportion of older people than anywhere else on the planet - almost 27 million of them. See:

Of course, Japan could solve some of their problems by importing or inter-marrying with Koreans (not only the most genetically similar to the Japanese, but also likely among the aboriginal founders of Japan), but their xenophobia won’t permit it. Added to the problems in Japan is a slowdown in the economy and a change in the view of marriage:

So what should the population of the US be? What should the population of your city be? If you pick a number based on what the population was during your lifetime, why is that number better than, say, the population of the US around 1850? Can you come up with any proposal for reducing population which would not also cause a dramatic rise in the population over age 60? China’s attempts to control its population (limitations on family size, selective abortion of females) has only resulted in a bulge of young men who can’t find mates. It’s almost too ironic that Japan’s deficit neatly matches China’s surfeit, and Chinese females could easily be adopted by Japanese couples, if only there was a different view of outsiders.

Here’s another, complementary piece to the Highland Park story you linked:

A horrible situation that defies any easy solution (Latino-Armenian relations in Glendale and Burbank, for example, have been difficult for years, with hostility coming from both sides).

By the way, if we want to put a brake on Latino immigration, shouldn’t we also give immediate honorable discharges to every Latino in the military and pull them out of any war zone? It seems a bit inconsistent to blame all our problems on Latinos, but still expect them to possibly die for us.

Posted by: Alec on July 5, 2006 4:05 PM

Alec -- You'll never catch me talking about "overpopulation"! I remember Ehrlich and Simon all too well. What I try to promote is people talking about what they want. Do they want US whose population will be 100 million higher than it would have been otherwise? Do they want a US whose ethnic balance has been dramatically monkeyed with? Or would they prefer something else? All the polls suggest strongly that most Americans would prefer something else, and I can't see any reason why the preferences of most Americans shouldn't be taken strongly into account.

As for the supposed (and supposedly terrifying) necessity of filling the country up with lots of immigrants because otherwise we're going to be a nation of unproductive nursing-home residents, I think that's a crock. I think it's a whopper that's being retailed by the people behind our current immigration policies (namely Dems hungry for voters, Repubs hungry for cheap labor), and I don't think we should fall for it. Here's a Dean Baker look at the way the math works.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 5, 2006 4:41 PM

Why am I disappointed but not surprised to read yet another article about our schizophrenic policies toward immigrants? Maybe Americans know what they want but our representatives are only listening to the lobbyists.

Also, since 70% of Americans consider themselves sympathetic to environmental concerns, the idea that they're mostly quacks doesn't seem like a very rational one.

Posted by: Walker on July 5, 2006 5:27 PM

The chickenhawks who identify themselves as environmentalists buckle at the knees at the thought offending any of the left's cherished minority groups, even the paranoid stark staring loonies who think population stabilization is a genocidal plot.

So instead of confronting the real problem and being willing to absorb a few hits from the ignorant, environmentalists take the path of least resistance by pretending that bike riding, people living all jammed together, consuming less, etc. can substitute for a sane population policy.

Posted by: Rick Darby on July 5, 2006 5:29 PM

Let me get this straight--we are supposed to figure out our immigration policy based on how many people could theoretically live in America? This is some kind of joke, right? We have to choke on hundreds more millons before we finally close the door? Why do I get the image in my head of a red, white, and blue Volkswagen Beetle being stuffed to the gills by third world frat boys? Should we scrum up a federal Fire Commissioner to come up with limits and an escape route? Are people insane?

Here are some quantitative measures to figure out who we let in:

1) Is the population we are supposed to let in as well educated or educatable as our native population (Answer, No, half of Latinos drop out of high school)

2) Is the population we are supposed to let in as law abiding as our native population (Answer, No--they are several times more likely to rape, rob, murder, and commit mayhem).

3) Is the population we are supposed to let in more likely to become welfare dependent and non-self reliant, draining resources and demanding special treatment for no reason whatsoever? (Answer, yes, far more likely).

4) Is the population we are supposed to let in assimilatable, or do they have and cling to a separate culture, idea of law, and identity than the native population, which will make them largely unassimilatable? (Answer, yes, the hordes are largely unassimilatable in significant numbers).

Jesus Christ, get a clue! To say that the strongest military the world has ever seen cannot defend its own border or internally round up the illegals is preposterous, and tantamount to saying our government is so impotent and broke that it cannot even deliver the most basic function of providing public security. I don't believe that for one second. These illegal alien jobbers don't deserve our pity; what they deserve is a piece of shoe leather in the ass and a one-way ticket home to their countries of origin. The fact that they are driving down wages means that there is a surplus of labor, and they aren't needed. It 's simple economics, and the rest is all lies. I want to live in a country with a good general quality of life, not in a crowded third-world slum state. Maybe you forgot that governments are supposed to be increasing the standard of living of their citizens, with rising real wages and services, safer streets, and better schools, not trying to drive down wages, make the streets more dangerous, fill the schools with dopes, and tax us to death while delivering fewer and fewer services.

Are you open-borders people nuts?

Posted by: s on July 6, 2006 12:10 AM


What do you think is the most 'essential' feature of being an American? I ask because, as I state ad nauseum here and elsewhere, I am an immigrant from India and I sure feel American even if my religion or home-cooked food isn't typical of most Americans. Granted, my family and I are well assimilated and have done well and my brother is married to the great-granddaugher of Norwegian immigrants: old Midwest, meet enclaves of the new Midwest.

I agree, changing things changes things. What is the minimum, what is the essence, what is essentially American? I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and I've also been shying away from your posts. Not anymore. There's no reason to, is there?

Genuine question: what is the minimum and what matters the most?

Posted by: MD on July 6, 2006 8:19 AM

Oh, and ethnic groups have fought each other before - the phenomenon is not particularly new.

I suppose with this latest wave of immigration we need a period of re-ordering and cooling off, as has happenened in the past, for various reasons. Seems entirely reasonable. And the 300 million part doesn't bother me in the least. A healthy society is a yin and a yang. I don't know what the ideal birth rate is, but I bet we'll be glad to have a more robust one than some older, more sclerotic places in the future. And, I think sometimes non-immigrants have no idea the pull of this culture, how much the children want to be a part of the larger whole, despite multiculturalism schtick. That pull is strong and real and the shift happens.

Posted by: MD on July 6, 2006 8:24 AM

MD, one answer to the question, "...what matters the most?" would be that Americans have the power to control America and it's politics (like Immigration policy). Right now, that is not happening. From almost everything that I have read, the politicians and bureaucrats are not representing the interests and wishes of Americans.

Posted by: Ian Lewis on July 6, 2006 9:33 AM

Walker -- "Schizophrenic"'s a good word for it.

Rick -- What happened to environmentalism? Once upon a time there was a kickass side to it, and there was also a rockin'-out intellectual side to it: "ecological thinking" was a big deal, and very provocative. (I got a lot out of it myself.) Was that always a more fringe-y part of the scene than I remember? Or did the whole scene (some super-fringe-y people excepted) sell out to D.C.? How did eco people turn themselves into a group that anyone with a streak of irreverence loves to mock? Once upon a time there were a fair number of eco-people who were themselves pretty mocking and irreverent. Have they vanished? Have I just lost track of them?

S -- Like you I distrust the whole "how many can we pack into the country" discussion. That's why I keep trying to raise the "what do you/we want?" question instead. Not because I think it is or should be the one determining factor in the discussion but because it's a factor -- an important factor -- that I think often gets overlooked, or steamrollered.

MD -- Is there any reason you shouldn't feel like an American? Anyway, I'll dodge your "essence" question -- down that way, trouble lies. But, where the whole immigration-policy conversation goes, there's a semi-relevant, ongoing debate you may get a kick out of chewing on. It has to do with the "What's an American?" question. On the one side are the "proposition nation" crowd. They argue that America is a nation of immigrants, and that all it takes to be or become an American is to sign on to a page full of agreements -- it's like signing a contract. On the other side is the crowd that thinks that's a crock. They argue that, like every other country, America has a founding population and a distinctive history and social structure, all of which need to be respected and taken into account where the future is concerned. The first crowd argues that we're unlike every other country -- semi-obligated to take in whoever wants in. (They're also, not coincidentally, very happy with having the experts make decisions about these matters -- since the currently-existing population doesn't matter, in their equation, then they don't have to be consulted.) The second crowd argues that, like any other country, we need a sensible border policy, that matters of immigration and population-composition are important, and that (where matters of population -- who gets in, how many, what the balance is -- go) current Americans have priority over everyone else. FWIW, I have no trouble with the second p-o-v, and find the first one absurd. Interested to hear your musings!

Ian -- Right on, and nicely-put!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 6, 2006 10:52 AM

You can't dodge the essence question, Michael, and yes, there is no reason I shouldn't feel like an American because that's what I am. If you are in the second crowd, how many people can you have in a country like me and still respect, honor, understand the founding population? And how should I relate to the founding population? Does it matter that I believe in the constitution? Does it matter that I speak English? Does it matter that listen to Hindi speaking parents at home? Does it matter that I feel comfortable with globalization, or aspects of it, because I'm part of a larger diaspora that spans multiple countries (mostly those related to the old British Empire)? What about the founding structure do I have to respect and how is that any different than reading a contract with all it's specific clauses and saying, yes, I sign up for this? False dichotomy. We are an immigrant nation with a particular history and a particular foundation and a particular culture. It's all one thing.

I've never felt so alienated from both the left and the right as I've felt with the immigration debate. I probably favor more robust immigration than you do, based on numbers, but a slow down is probably a good idea for a while.

China and India are coming on and we shouldn't be afraid of the future. We should grow and push and strive and be optimistic. We should be thoroughly American. Where I do agree with you is the destructive corruption of the current system. You have one set of rules for one group of people and a second set for another. Creates resentment. Creates a feeling of powerlessness, lack of faith in institutions, an pervasive sense that the little guy can't get ahead. Even as the little guy is getting ahead. It's the corruption of the current immigration system that bothers me. We can't turn back time, it's not gonna be Gandhi with the spinning wheel in a rural village for us, or for India, thank God. That way lies trouble, too. Control our borders rigorously, yes, because a government ought to do that, at the very least. Overhaul the bloated and inefficient INS (dream on, I know). Teach our children English, teach them the positives of this unique experiment instead of only the negatives, give them a sense of scope and accomplishement as well as, 'there's work to do.'

I'd favor letting in more educated and technocratic types, but that's not all we should let in. It should be a robust mix. And we ought to talk openly about that mix. We're not obligated to take anyone in. But, we might think about whether we want to fear the future, or meet it head on. I have no respect for the, ' they're taking my jobs,' crowd. They are going to take some of them away anyway, here or abroad. We should try and smootht the way for those who will be hurt by the rapidly changing economy of today, while staying out of the way of those that want to participate in markets abroad to create jobs at home.

Posted by: MD on July 6, 2006 11:36 AM

Okay, I take back that 'no sympathy' comment. I do feel sympathy for those people whose jobs are at risk from immigration. As a physician, guess what, I'm one of those. Technology, people, globalization. It hits all rungs of society. One discovery in the lab and my job of looking in a microscope is gone, gone, gone. What I should have said is, "I have no sympathy with the politicians who pray on fear instead of helping people who need to navigate the future and are worried about what will happen to their livelihoods." Fear will get us nowhere.

Posted by: MD on July 6, 2006 11:41 AM

Aargh, I just lost a comment I think. If I double post this point sorry, but I take back the no sympathy comment. I could lose my job to technology and immigration and globalization as much as the next person. I'm a physician and all it takes is one discovery in the lab and my job of looking in a microscope is gone. Politicians shouldn't capitalize on this fear. I do feel for people worrying about the loss of livelihood, but hiding will get us nowhere.

Posted by: MD on July 6, 2006 11:43 AM

MD -- Apologies for the comments confusion. Because of spam-comment hell, we're still personally having to approve every comment before it goes up, so commenters are experiencing a frustrating wait when they hit the "post" button. I've really gotta get off my butt and find a webguy/gal who can set us up with one of those "type in these random numbers and then hit post" deals.

MD opens up! Always a treat. I'm not sure we disagree about much of anything, though, except maybe how big we'd like the US's population to be, and I'm puzzled that you seem to think we do. On what do you think we differ?

There are a couple of eensie points you make that (as an amateur immigration-policy wonk) I'd tweak a bit, if I may. I gather that you're under impression that the Proposition Nation vs. Borders Realism debate is between left and right. It isn't. (That's part of what makes the debate about immigration policy so intellectually interesting, at least to me, btw.) You'll find the Teddy Kennedy crowd and the GW Bush neocons among the PropNation crowd, and you'll find hardcore guntotin' nationalists right next to Howard Dean union people (as well as most mainstream Americans) among the border-realism crowd. Fun!

And I think you may be a bit too open-minded about the relative pressures that globalism puts our various classes under. Journalists, doctors, and politicans might experience a few shocks. But our workingclass population has been suffering from our nutty immigration policies for decades -- they haven't seen their real incomes rise since the '70s, and that's in large part because we're importing more and more poor people all the time (as well as exporting a lot of manufacturing jobs). Also, poor and illegal Hispanics (god bless 'em, of course) don't settle in upper middle class neighborhoods ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 6, 2006 11:58 AM

Well, you know the numbers far better than I do, so, well, what. Hmmm, let me think about this.

I find comparing incomes from different periods interesting. How to compare? Real incomes haven't risen for the working class, but is the working class at a such a stand-still? What about the fact that we also have lots more cheaper goods and that a lot of things don't cost what they used to, partly because of cheap labor and technologies? I'm probably in over my head, but surely there is a balancing act between more labor to make cheaper things and more labor to depress wages? Isn't that the balance? It's the old is Wal-Mart good or bad for the working class argument, isn't it?

As for right versus left, I guess what I meant is the standard talking points of the right and left pundits. I'm pundit-ed out these days. They are irritating me no end (blog types excepted, of course).

I'm not sure where I got off track with your posts. I guess I feel like you think we will be irrevocably off track if we continue our current policies, but I don't think our current policies will continue. I think that large screeching noise is what happens when the larger US public pays attention to something, isn't so complacent, and wants something done.

(Also, sometimes your immigration posts attract a few people, that, uh, wierd me out. Like that guy who says he only likes European-types. You know. That one guy.)

Posted by: MD on July 6, 2006 12:33 PM

"Pundit-ed out" is excellent! There really is an awful lot of pundit-izing going on these days, isn't there? Hard to tune it out, too. At the same time I'm glad that the topic is finally out in the open. Just a couple of years ago you were shunned and ostracized if/when you attempted to raise it. Maybe the price of a subject finally going public is that it then gets pundit-ized to death and turned into something annoying. Modern life, eh?

You're right that current policies probably won't continue as is ("as are"?) -- but, if the Senate has its way, they'll actually change for the crazier. Between you and me, part of what fascinates me about the whole spectacle is the way the elites seem to think they can get away with what they're up to. (And they may get away with it!) I don't think I've ever witnessed such a ... naked, or brazen, or something instance of our elites pointedly trying to defy strong popular opinion, and shoving a much-hated policy down the public's throat. (My language is falling apart here, but I hope I'm being clear anyway.) If this isn't an amazing and striking example of the degree to which our elites have turned against Us Just Trying To Go About Our Business Normal People, then I don't know what is. They really seem to have it in for us.

Looking forward to your further thoughts!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 6, 2006 12:44 PM


Lots of things cost more. Just look at tax increases to fund social services for the illegals and others, education, k-12 and college, which dwarfs buying a DVD player or big screen TV. Look at housing costs. We all do a lot more than buy gadgets. Also, a lot of manufacturing jobs, no matter what they paid, have gone to China. Cheap goods still cost money, which you don't have if they ship your job overseas, or import latinos to undercut you wages.

Posted by: s on July 6, 2006 1:00 PM

Well Michael, now you've started it :) Once I start, I can't seem to stop.

But s (why didn't I think of an even easier handle like that)! China is losing manufacturing jobs, too! And housing is still built by labor, isn't it? Is the working class really poorer now than it was 20 years ago and is the reason competition from immigrants coming here for the past 20 years or so (when the flood gates opened again)? I seem to read different opinions.

I'm actually not a fan of open borders and I'm not arguing that the current policies are okay. I'm saying something completely different. I'm saying that a certain amount of immigration is healthy, is important, and is one of the reasons we are, in general, not a closed off, inward looking, sclerotic, pessimistic society. Beware the Derbyshire pessimism (anyone else read NRO?). That kind of pessimism is the easiest game in town. Never believe in anything, never work for anything, never expect anything.

Look, limit immigration. Fine. But can we also limit farm subsidies, open up our health care system to real market forces (don't even get me started), understand that the future will be all about shifting markets and who can move most rapidly to take advantage of them? Not who can hunker down and hope for the best. How about, smart borders more than open borders?

Posted by: MD on July 6, 2006 2:35 PM

Sign me up for MD's political party!

Especially eager to know your thoughts/opinions about opening the health care system up to real competitive forces, btw. What can I do to pry them out of you?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 6, 2006 3:31 PM

Michael, I'll second your wish for MD's take on health care.

(Guest post! Guest post!)

Posted by: communicatrix on July 6, 2006 7:41 PM

The immigration debate is plagued with argument by anecdote.Witness all the sob stories about illegals you constantly see in the MSM. Sites like Vdare respond with tales of illegal alien criminals.
Another problem is the PC/multicultist bias of the dialogue. Those who are for any limits on low-skill Mexican immigration are continually called anti-immigrant and anti-Latino. Any consideration of the interests of currently existing US citizens-and especially those with biological and cultural links to the founding majority of the nation-is almost always considered inherently racist. The very idea that people with origins in the British Isles actually created the nation that everyone who lives in the US benefits from is discussed only at the most superficial and perfunctory level. The people I refer to may be of mixed ethnic origin but have thoroughly assimilated what used to be referred to as traditional American values and almost always refer to themselves as "American" without any hyphens. Blacks such as Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams almost certainly belong to this group in all respects except biology but I believe they are anomlies and probably not statistically significant. I think it's fair to state that most African-Americans have a strong separate ethnic identity.

I don't know if ethnic compostion(as opposed to, say, selection of immigrants by IQ and education) still plays any role in the continuance of the US as a successful nation but it would be great if the topic weren't taboo. This is separate from the discussion above relating to the right of current US citizens to decide immigration policy in light of their own preferences. This right should be recognized as a basic attribute of the right of self-determination.

Posted by: perroazul del norte on July 7, 2006 9:43 AM

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