Friday, November 21, 2014

The Migration Dilemma: No we don’t want to hurt families-but-just how many people do we want in the USA?

Today President Obama announced his new immigration policy (1) largely designed to prevent deportations of illegal immigrants from breaking up families. Certainly our nation should not be too harsh on hard-working people who have come here for economic opportunity and who have had children born in the US. However, I can’t help but wonder if this policy will re-activate the floodtide of illegal immigration that has taken place over the last two decades but that has recently shown signs of subsiding.

We are often described as a nation of immigrants and as a descendant of immigrants it is uncomfortable for me to argue that the US should cease to provide opportunities for deserving people. However the great surge of immigration in the 19th and early 20th centuries occurred in a very different setting than today. In 1900 the US population was 76 million. Today it is 320 million and is rapidly climbing toward 500 million by mid-century primarily because of immigration and the higher fertility rate of immigrants (2).

This raises the question of how many people do we want in our nation? Do we really want 500 million, how about a billion?  Business interests always favor population growth–more people, more sales more profits. But what about the life-styles of average people? Do we really want to live in the sort of ultra-crowded, polluted, degraded environment that is typical of China and India today?

Another issue is jobs. The combination of competition from abroad in manufacturing and the increased use of automation and computers at all levels of economic activity is limiting employment prospects for Americans. Whether it’s a highly trained software engineer from Bangalore or a carpenter from Guatemala City, the net effect of immigration is to further reduce opportunities for Americans. For the first time in our history even college graduates are having a difficult time finding jobs. Slowing immigration wont solve the problems caused by globalization and automation, but it will mute the effects somewhat.  

The US can’t address global poverty by having the world’s poor move here. Indeed much poverty around the globe is due to over-population. To this observer the intelligent approach for our nation is a combination of stringent limits on immigration coupled with strong support for population control and economic development in the poorer nations of the world.  


Friday, November 7, 2014

Prepare to feed the masses? Or push the population curve?

A recent report (1) from the Earth Institute at Columbia University discusses improved prospects for food production in Africa, indicating that the continent may be able to feed itself despite a projected population increase to 2 billion by 2050.  While improved food production is certainly good news, the report simply accepts the idea that there must be a huge increase in population over the next few decades. Even if hundreds of millions of additional people can be fed, their existence will wreak havoc on the planet. Presumably the additional billion Africans, along with similarly surging populations in south Asia and elsewhere, will aspire to American style (or at least Chinese style) affluence with the attendant disastrous impacts on resource use, pollution, species extinction and global warming. In Africa and around the developing world, investments in agriculture and industrialization dwarf investments in population control. Maybe priorities should be reversed.