In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Seattle Squeeze: New Urban Living
  2. Checking In
  3. Ben Aronson's Representational Abstractions
  4. Rock is ... Forever?
  5. We Need the Arts: A Sob Story
  6. Form Following (Commercial) Function
  7. Two Humorous Items from the Financial Crisis
  8. Ken Auster of the Kute Kaptions
  9. What Might Representational Painters Paint?
  10. In The Times ...

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« Elsewhere | Main | Music and Lit »

October 25, 2006

300 Million -- Or More?

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Scary thought: What if the Census Bureau is guilty of undercounting? Virginia Abernathy thinks that we passed 300 million six years ago. She also thinks we're heading for a population of 800 million by 2100. Is anyone really in favor of this? Haya El Nasser provides a more establishment but still informative overview of the US and its population history. Nice graphic too.



posted by Michael at October 25, 2006


Michael – Did you get as alarmed over US population growth in 1967, when we passed the 200 million mark? Relax: 400 million is just around the corner (projected for 2042).

The USA Today article was very good, but I particularly liked the 50-state interactive population map. A few items stood out for me.

Except for Texas and Florida, most states of the old South have typically hovered in the lower ranges with respect to population (from 1800 to 2000). Few of these states cracked 5 million until the 1950s or 1960s, and even today none of those states have a population which exceeds 10 million people.

Texas had a growth spurt beginning around 1900, but in 1950 (postwar prosperity and immigration shifts) California finally passed Texas in population and never looked back. By the way, total US population in 1950 was “only” about 151 million.

New York’s population rapidly took off after 1800 and rose steadily, until it also was overtaken by California in the late 50s or early 60s.

POMI (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois) kinda made up a population heartland, from 1870 onwards, significantly exceeding the population of most other states.

Posted by: Alec on October 26, 2006 4:30 AM

Fun looking at population charts, isn't it? Nice to have those visuals-through-time to plant in the brain. A good graphic can be amazingly info-dense.

As for population size, etc: I like bringing up the preference-and-aesthetics thing. I'm amazed it isn't done more often. Becker and Posner, for instance -- brilliant guys -- recently compared serious notes about immigration and population. And not once (not once!) did they touch on what they might want or prefer. It was all about costs, resources, benefits, etc. Important stuff, of course. But so is the "what we want" question. I find it downright weird that Americans are so prone to avoid it, or see it as secondary. We're rich! To some extent we get to choose! Sigh: the problems and complexes Americans have with the aesthetic dimension ... A subject for another blog posting.

Anyway, as for my own prefs: I liked the US better at 200 mill myself, and 800 mill doesn't sound very appealing at all. All those newbies aren't going to be filling out Alaska and North Dakota, I suspect, or colonizing the peaks of the Rockies. Instead, already-existing-and-populous places are going to become even more so. Longer commutes, more sprawl, more congestion, more water challenges ... And, given that it looks like scads of them will be Hispanic, more and different kinds of ethnic strife and identity politics. Not very appealing. Plus I like the US as a land of a lot of wide-open spaces. It's OK with me if other people have other preferences and tastes, of course, though I may think they're nuts. But it drives me crazy that people aren't having the "Is this really what I/you/we want?" conversation.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 26, 2006 11:58 AM

Michael, I think the absolute least likely outcome is that anybody will be worried about Hispanic integration in 2100. By then the latest wave of Hispanic immigration will be a distant concern, part of the fabric of US history, with no more stigma than italian or german heritage has now. No, there'll be some entirely new ethnic group threatening the status quo in 2100 - or perhaps the return of some older one - that is perceived as an important new social concern. Folks will say "Sure, those hispanics integrated just fine, we love them now, but these new guys are DIFFERENT. They're poor, they have low literacy rates, they live like animals, they take low-paying jobs, they don't share our moral values..."

Posted by: Glen Raphael on October 27, 2006 12:21 AM

Michael – re: It was all about costs, resources, benefits, etc. Important stuff, of course. But so is the "what we want" question. I find it downright weird that Americans are so prone to avoid it…

You mix two points here. Issues about immigration are important. On the other hand, “preference-and-aesthetics” is just a fancy word for whim. Americans are not avoiding this question. Most of us understand that it is simply wrong to make individual whim into national policy if there is no significant public policy issue. Hell, there may even be a Federalist Paper on this, and the notion of mindless mob rule comes to mind. Your musings here are similar to someone saying, “wouldn’t it be great if we passed a law mandating that every house in America be painted eggshell white.”

Limits on population is not a “what we want question.” It’s a “what you want” question without traction or persuasiveness, or rational argument. It’s a fun rant, but not meaningful. Somehow, the idea of 300 million or more people gives you the heebie jeebies. But no matter how I look at it, no matter how often I read your posts on this, I just can’t get exited about it. I also note that whenever this issue comes up, there are often a scad of posts offering different --- and totally incompatible --- alternative whims and preferences relating to the US population. And no one has ever offered a solution to rising population which would not either collapse the economy or invite tyrannical intrusion into people’s private lives.

Consider how the world has changed and yet still rolls along. Recently I was reading about the closing of Tower Records stores, where I spent a great deal of my young adulthood learning about and arguing about music. There have also been a number of articles about the fifth anniversary of the iPod. In subtle, but definite ways, these changes mark a huge evolution in popular culture. In the late 50s and early 60s, the rise of AM radio and portable transistor radios, along with the emergence of teenage baby boomers with a good amount of spendable income, saw the rise of a distinct pop culture. Today, commentators have noted that the Los Angeles radio market has eliminated all country music stations because one market segment greatly prefers pop, rap and Spanish language radio, while another larger market segment has abandoned radio altogether in favor of iPods, satellite radio and other music sources. And the people who still want to listen to country music listen to non-LA stations, stations on the Internet or collect CDs and MP3s.

The point here is that not only do people find ways to satisfy their preferences without intruding on others, but new preferences and options are created which no one previously considered. The rising population offers similar challenges and opportunities.

Glen – There is an interesting wrinkle to Latino immigration which few are talking about, and which is not easy to speculate about with respect to its future outcome. Because of the sheer numbers of Mexicans and Latin Americans coming over here, the proximity of Mexico, and the ease with which technology and speedy travel allows people to retain their cultural connections, we are seeing the rise of Latino immigrants who want to work here, but who do not see any reason to become Americans or to assimilate. I am not sure that we have seen this before on a large scale with other immigrants to the U.S. And even though he is far on the fringe, the Green Party candidate for governor openly asserts that borders do not apply to “indigenous peoples.” Also, there are a number of Latino California politicians who openly announce their allegiance to fellow Latinos without regard to citizenship or residency status, and who see no problem with raising taxes on citizens in order to provide services to non-citizens.

In fact, one thing that I find interesting, and a major ideological weakness, is that many libertarians and socialists find an odd congruence in their denial of the importance of borders or national identity. The problem is that most people don’t think this way.

I am not suggesting that all Latinos are seriously considering “La reconquista.” But some open-border conservatives have this delusion that they can control illegal immigrants by slotting them into “guest worker programs,” and that when those jobs are completed, the workers will magically return home, or simply come into the country and immediately look for better paying jobs. And some open-border liberals see illegal immigrants as “the poor and oppressed,” who just yearn to become Americans and Democratic Party voters. Both of these groups love to argue with each other over their own view of the world, and never take a minute to ask this new group of immigrants what they want, or pay attention to the conversations about resurgent Latino nationalism that regularly occur on Spanish language radio and TV stations.

Posted by: Alec on October 27, 2006 3:43 PM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?