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Dec 18, 2020Liked by Noah Smith

Noah, probably you know this already but there's one thing that people think immediately whenever anyone talks of migration: Reduced wages.

I think that the best way of getting people to come around to the counterintuitive idea that immigration doesn't reduce wages (and sometimes it can raise them!) is by asking people:

"When women entered the labor force, were men's wages cut IN HALF?"

Then let people wonder.

There's no better way of convincing someone of a counterintuitive concept but by trying to get them to think about how it works.

I bring this up because your idea about the need of visualizing this grand vision for America is right on-point. That's exactly what's necessary, specially with such a counterintuitive idea as this.

When it comes down to wages, the women-into-the-labor-force example is IMO perfect, because it's something that SOUNDS as if it should have reduced wages (it was a doubling of the labor force), but saying that it cut wages IN HALF would get anyone to pause and reconsider their priors.

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I think that's right. There's no book making the comprehensive economic case for immigration yet.

I just might write it.

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Dec 18, 2020Liked by Noah Smith

Wonderful!

I would definitively buy it, even if I'm not an American.

In fact, if you write it you should consider release a spanish version at the same time as an english version. Something tells me that it might sell as well in Mexico and the countries of Central America who still identify ourselves closely with our diaspora.

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What about my hero Bryan Caplans Book, Open Borders?

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Just finished reading it. So good!

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The effect of immigrants on wages has to be strictly better than the effect of women entering the workforce, as the market now has more consumers.

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Dec 18, 2020Liked by Noah Smith

The appeal of dramatically increasing the US population is not neatly geopolitical, in my view. It's also a way to shift and reframe domestic politics, including in ways that make the US more politically functional so that it can credibly rival China. Yglesias says some of this: the vision isn't just pro-immigration and pro-urban (things the left, mostly, wants), it's also pro-natalism/pro-family, which the right wants. What it means overall is that the US would not be *such* a rural country anymore. You can't keep the population of Wyoming so low if the population of the whole country is several hundred million more. And that solves a central problem: if there are large cities in Wyoming, the Dakotas, and Montana, if Ohio's cities are full of people again, then our political culture shifts. The US Senate is no longer the choke point.

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Agreed.

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Problem as Steve King illustrated, is that many in the pro-family, natalist right only want certain kind of babies being born and raised. It's about more than just race. For many on the right, it's really more about Christian fundamentalist indoctrination. They expect to win the religous culture war on America by outbreeding everyone else. And they see the issue of immigration through this Christian bias.

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They can want that all they like but they aren't having kids at a greater rate than anyone else. They AREN'T "outbreeding" anyone. And you're conflating the Christian fundamentalists with the racist natalists like Steve King. While religious groups tend to have more kids (not by much though, and even then that includes non-fundamentalist or natalist groups like LDS or Orthodox Jews) it really doesn't include the racists.

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SDG, I actually spent most of my life in Christian fundementalist circles (both evangelical and right-wing Catholic ones) so I know the culture quite well and I also know that the religious ideology is often used to cover up some real problems with race. As the famous quote goes, the most segregated hour in American life is on Sunday morning.

Chrissy Stroop and various scholars on American religion have written a lot about these racial/religious issues, so I encourage you to read their work.

And yes, when I was in those circles I heard people say directly that their goal was to have more children than the secular libs, while complaining abou Mexican immigrants. So I'm not conflating at all, just telling what I know.

Oh, and there's also various ex-LDS and ex-Orthodox who have written about racism in their former communities. One person I used to work with tried to take on racism in their Orthodox community in New York City (and they would definitely label their particular Orthodox community as fundamentalist). For myself, though, I focus evangelical/Catholic communities, because that's what I know.

By the way, I'm pretty sure Stroop's next edited collection of essays will expand the conversation about fundamentalism in America to include groups like the LDS and others, so there's that to look forward to.

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Reactionaries are going to be reactionary. The sooner the reality of that is accepted, the sooner progressives can figure out how to convince other non-reactionaries of progressive goals. Reactionaries are not ever going to be made non-reactionary at scale. Don’t make that the metric for judging political commitments by non-reactionaries. Doing that shuts down all progressive political goals.

So, what? Go back to first principles. Is natalism good, from a progressive point of view? I’d argue it is. A younger population is less tied to tradition and hierarchical structures of the past. An equitable natalism in the US context would mean focusing on the black maternal mortality rate and other inequities in non-white communities that hurt their flourishing. Birth rates that are higher than they are now mean more children raised with siblings, which could, in a context of other progressive social policy, encourage more communitarian mindsets in young people. Larger families may encourage more childcare sharing among extended family and/or the local community, with a related effect on parent attitudes. More young people means more pressure for broader economic development to ensure adequate services and job opportunities. A higher birth rate means a society more oriented towards its future direction. And a larger population inherently means a denser population.

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Irene, you are very correct about needing to address problems like the black maternal mortality rate. But I actually think the "natalist" frame is flawed, for a few reasons. One is

America has major problems with its health, education, and other social systems across the board, that also need addressing. A limited natalist frame can obscure those problems.

Furthermore, natalist rhetoric excludes people who are single or who are married but who don't want children. This is a big problem considering how divided America already is across cultural/lifestyle lines.

It's best to adopt rhetoric and policies that benefit all Americans, to get buy in and improve the national mood. So work on raising wages, improving health care, etc...and talk about doing it for every American. That's the way to improve American life in many areas at once. And people will have more children then if they wish.

Take education, for example. America doesn't need to only be educating it's children better, but it should also be making it easier for adults to go back to school for continuing education for their jobs (and personal enrichment). Let's put Karen in the community college classroom and mix the generations a bit, get people connected more in a divided America. America really needs to adopt a lifelong educational mindset.

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Dec 18, 2020Liked by Noah Smith

Hey Noah. One other reason I can think of for a bigger population is the need for global partnerships to oppose China. With 330Mn Americans, America needs the EU, Japan, Korea and many many more countries to be united in their vision and form a powerful coalition to oppose China, which is hard! If America wants to go at it alone, and it seems like more countries are shying away from multilateralism, it makes all the more sense to "bulk up". Great commentary! Can we expect a review of Goodhart and Pradhan sometime?

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I hadn't been meaning to, but now I'll look into it! 😊

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Dec 18, 2020Liked by Noah Smith

One point I don’t recall Yglesias really addressing is Chinese population trends. As a result of the one child policy and other domestic cultural issues, current projections see a fairly rapid population drop in the not too distant future.

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Two things:

- In China, I often heard this called the 4-2-1 structure (4 grandparents + 2 parents + 1 kid). Parents would often talk with regret about how much pressure is on their kids because of this age crunch.

- I haven’t seen any data for it, but my impression is most Chinese people think the population is too large (人山人海)and are in favor of a lot population control measures.

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I think I read there was another book with a similar program for Canada, and it wouldn't surprise me if they beat the US to the punch. As the saying goes, America will always do the right thing--after exhausting every other alternative.

There's going to be a lot of pressure to migrate this century, what with climate change, technological developments with langauge translation/acquisition, increasing English education, desire to flee authoritatoon governments etc... Countries that take advantage and handle this correctly will see a benefit.

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A billion Americans would have even more mutual enmity and even less solidarity than the current number of Americans do, though.

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What is the basis for that statement? The source of the bulk of the current enmity between “Americans” is that one specific social group in the US, white evangelical Protestants who lack university degrees (and some non-evangelical non-university whites), has rejected the basic premises of the US’ post-1930s/post-1960s social settlement. That group rejects government economic intervention and the civil rights revolution. It rejects modernity/the Enlightenment more broadly. But it is one social group in the US, it is shrinking, and it sticks out in the survey data for how much of an outlier it is. There is a rough consensus among the other social groups in the US, and certainly there is enough to build more. Where there is “mutual” enmity it mostly comes from that group hating all the others and that group being resented/hated in turn.

We can talk about the cultural diversity of the current US and the cultural diversity of potential immigrants, but there is no way, in the contemporary world, for the US to receive mass immigration of non-university-educated white evangelicals.

So what is the basis for thinking that one billion Americans would have even more mutual enmity?

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There is also a strong right-wing Catholic element to the Trump coalition, too, though. It's NOT just evangelicals. See the recently resigned Barr, for example, who gave a speech raging against secularism at Notre Dame. 🙄🙄🙄 The many writings of "Catholic integralists" also comes to mind, as well as people like Ross Douthat who try to whitewash that toxic Catholic subculture. 🤢🤢🤢 America's extreme religiosity is a problem in general, beyond just one narrow group of believers.

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Interesting question about what it would look like. I think/hope the shift will basically be that most Americans won’t live in detached single family homes anymore - but that still leaves plenty of diversity in the housing stock and lifestyle choices. It would look pretty different across different cities, and there will be a range of densities that people can choose from in each metro area. A lot the growth in suburbs would be “missing middle” housing (as YIMBYs like to call it) which can take many different forms - rowhouses, duplexes, fourplexes, stacked triplexes like Boston). A lot of that new development would be transit-oriented, so suburbs would probably start looking more like Arlington, VA or Bethesda. Those areas aren’t going to become Manhattan. But the downtowns of smaller cities might become more like Manhattan. Surprising places like Houston, Phoenix, Atlanta are already seeing a lot of high-rise residential construction downtown.

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I think even with 1B people many of us would still live in detached single-family homes. New Jersey is 13 times the average U.S. population density right now, and many New Jerseyans live in detached single-family homes!

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The US on its own might be too small for 1 billion people, but if you include Canada and even perhaps Mexico in that landmass, 1 billion isn't much.

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Does Yglesias address where the new immigrants are coming from? The last major region on the planet on the planet that combines the poverty and excess labor to provide these kinds of numbers is Sub-Saharan Africa, whose population will increase from 1B to 4B during this century. (Also the Indian subcontinent, but to a much lesser extent, most Indian states have a TFR of 1.6-1.8 now). Will they be successfully integrated? Even if so, will it be a smooth process, or will the political shocks from such a radical re-engineering of US demographics incapacitate America's ability to project power during the given time period anyway?

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Haven't read the book yet, but based on Yglesias's Twitter feed I think he would like more Asian immigration, including from places like Hong Kong.

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Yeah, but there aren't enough people from there willing to move to the US anymore though...🤔

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What I wish Matt (or you) could tell us is how many of these 670 M new citizens will be willing to Put Country Before Party, and what will happen if the answer turns out to be 200 M. I haven't yet read the book -- does it touch on questions like this?

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When was the last time Americans put country before party? 😥

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One thing:

- Japan (126 mill) + EU (446 mill) + USA (328 mill) + New Zealand/Australia/South Korea/Taiwan/Canada (142.5 mill) = 1.2 billion people. So, is multilateralism dead?

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I mean, that's not a coalition we will ever actually assemble to balance China!

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No? E. H. Carr observes that the fundamental divide in international politics is between those which support the status quo - which is basically these countries, right? - and those opposed to it. Japan, the EU, the US, Australia, Taiwan, and Canada are all concerned about China's "might makes right" diplomacy. I think Vietnam and India would also have an interest in balancing China.

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I would love to be wrong, but I think it's going to be VERY hard to get healthy EU-USA relations again post-Trump (and post-Brexit). It's going to be hard for other countries to trust the US after this debacle.

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Ha no doubt. But time can help heal things, and, in the mean time, the liking suggests an alignment in political incentives as most countries populations are not really big fans of China: https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2020/10/06/unfavorable-views-of-china-reach-historic-highs-in-many-countries/

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We'll have to see how it plays out with Biden and what Trump does. But I tend to think the EU and USA just have very different priors and goals. There's been tension there for a long time, even before Trump.

Also, getting Japan and Korea on the same page is a huge ask. Might be better to think of there being several coalitions, rather than one massive one.

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