212 Comments
Jun 29, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

This is such a critical need and the US is foolishly wasting the opportunity. Attracting and assimilating diverse motivated immigrants was one of our Superpowers. It's like we're purposely digging out kryptonite to shut ourselves down.

Immigration is the only proper antidote to the negative population bomb that is on the horizon of an aging population. We should be doing everything we can to welcome the bright and motivated people of the world to come join us and build a better country.

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Jun 29, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

The strangest thing reading this as a Canadian is that we 'know who we are.' The idea that Canada has no real identity and can only define itself in relation to the US is so ingrained, it was actually taught in our Civics classes! But I really think this Maximum Canadian identity can be a good and modern one, separate from the American one and hopefully somewhat inoculated against nativism. Now about those houses...

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Jun 29, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

The Squamish getting a ton of criticism from every NIMBY in Canada and responding with even more housing is so incredibly based

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Jun 29, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

Noah, I wish housing was the only major issue here, but Canada also has a massive protectionism/bureaucracy problem that the world (and many Canadians) are unaware of. Housing, arguably, is just one symptom of this. Canada's going to increasingly punch below its weight despite its great human capital if there isn't a big shift.

Good starting point here: https://www.everybodysbusinesscanada.ca/

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I am a Canadian -- an immigrant actually -- and I find the disconnect between the discussion of immigration and the discussion of housing alarming. All those immigrants, encouraged by the federal government and not (yet) opposed by the existing population, are going to flood into major cities because that's where the opportunities are. But those same cities are where the new housing, if it exists at all, is beyond the means of practically everybody. I have a vision of a near future where a million people are standing on the streets of Toronto because they have no place to go. Exaggeration. perhaps. Nevertheless, there is a clear policy on immigration and none on housing. There has to be a clear link between these two issues.

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As a Canadian I would like to reassure our American friends that promoting population growth is in no way intended to threaten or challenge the US militarily. The US population is currently around 9 times bigger than Canada's. At its best, Canada's population policies might reduce this ratio to 8 or possibly 7 times. The US will remain massively larger than Canada in any realistic scenario.

What's more, Canada's population is spread over what is essentially an archipelago of "islands" separated by rock and tundra instead of ocean. This means that Canada would be easy to invade and defeat.

Finally, Canadians are not just culturally similar to Americans. We are actually a type of American. (I am reminded of this every time I hear my English wife's friends talk about "America" as being a place that includes such cities as Vancouver or Toronto.) A certain sort of Canadian nationalist is annoyed by this, but the rest of us are absolutely fine with it. (In fact deep down most Canadians believe the "ability to shop in the US" should be a basic human right, and are shocked every time they are reminded that it isn't.) This means that in any military conflict between the two countries a very large minority, or possibly even a majority, would side with America.

Calm down.

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Jun 29, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

I love Canada.

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I’m a product of the dysfunctional US system. I moved from Sydney to San Fran in 2002 under H1-B and rapidly realized the downsides - no citizenship or even permanent residency within a decade, my wife unable to work,soaring house costs and being tied to an employer like an indentured servant. So we moved to Vancouver in 2004 and have never looked back. Really is a great place to raise a family, though expensive. I now work for a Canadian subsidiary of a US big tech firm of which there are thousands here.

I’m also doing my part on the housing density issue - I built a duplex in my back yard but city of vancouver red tape is preventing me from selling them so they have sat empty for 3 months.

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Jun 29, 2023·edited Jun 29, 2023

“my suspicion is that they fear the competition the children of these immigrants will provide for their own children in the academic system.”

This excerpt gets at a basic problem with the proposal, which is that it’s not clear why it’s rational for incumbents to prefer a system in which they and their descendants incur a loss of relative status (which in the general case is guaranteed when you select for high performing immigrants) to a loss of relative GDP growth. Economic analysis often equates wellbeing with the tangible consumption of goods and services, but “not enough stuff” seems like it’s not obviously the chief complaint of the urban PMC (unless perhaps it’s stuff like lawn space or quiet neighborhoods that are more rather than less scarce under a high immigration / YIMBY equilibrium) - conversely, status and positional goods competition matters to them and everyone else because we are, after all, a bunch of hairless primates with computers and a circle of inmediate concern that maxes out at about 150 people.

Henry VIII couldn’t buy an air conditioner for all the money in the world (nor non-terrible medical care, for that matter) but it’s not clear that he would be “wrong” to prefer being a king in Tudor England to being a nobody in 2023. If the Canadian urban PMC feels more status-constrained than consumption constrained, in what sense is supporting high-skilled immigration a rational choice for them?

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If there’s a logical chain of causation that starts with immigration and ends with the proscription of single family zoned neighborhoods, then sooner or later there is going to be resistance to immigration.

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It feels to me like, in some ways, sentiments are starting to shift a little here in Canada. My sample size is admittedly very small but I have had 3-4 conversations in the last month with people who are very politely ( how Canadian!) starting to feel the effects of these big numbers of new people coming to the country. Last year, stores like Tim Horton's would close early or have major line-ups because of lack of employees. Everyone's teenager who wanted to work could get a part-time job anywhere, anytime and quit one to get a higher paying one across the street. This year, teenagers are struggling to find summer work because so many of these new immigrants are working in jobs that teenagers would normally occupy... and they can work 40+ hours a week so are easier to accommodate from a scheduling stand point- no all immigrants coming here are highly skilled. Last year, many younger Canadians were still living with their parents as we were coming out of Covid and they were thankful that they had had the option of coming home during the pandemic. This year, when they try to look for housing and find that they cannot afford a tiny studio apartment, the housing crunch become very real. The frustration is also getting very real. Parents worry that their kids will never be able to afford to move out and buy a home. The mix of high inflation with what feels like a slowing economy could, I worry, really impact overall sentiment on these big, quick populations changes.

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I don't think the economic externalities (=ve and -ve) from migration are big enough to be the primary consideration. The main case for more open borders should be based on the benefits to potential migrants and to the people in the destination country (partners, family members, and possible colleagues) who would benefit from allowing them to come.

The case is particularly clear in relation to countries with comparable income levels. Allowing free movement between them is a win for everyone. That's one of the great successes of the EU and one of the reasons why most young UK people voted against Brexit (selfish and stupid old voters, who were unlikely to be affected either way, could afford to engage in the politics of nostalgia and did so).

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I have not read Matthew Yglesias' book but I'm curious as to why a billion people in the US would be advantageous? Mind you, this comes from a introvert who loves the outdoors and open spaces. I find city's stifling. Even the most well organized, elegantly planned ones. Number go up doesn't make for quality of life. Then there are varying views on balance between human growth and limits on resources.

You are having water shortages in various places at present. Also who is going to pop out all these babies and raise them? Educate them? I don't equate numbers with efficiency, quality, geopolitical power, or military advantage. I'd rather punch above my weight class.

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Do you know about the US immigration quotas? No more than 7% of total visas may be issued to any one country in a fiscal year. But India and China both have 18% (>> 7%) of the world's population. So it's unfair for them. No other country has more than 7%. It's insane that 1.4 billion people have the same limit as Vatican City (825 population). If both India and China divide into 100 countries their people have a much easier chance to get a US visa, this makes no sense because dividing countries suddenly won't change the individual's talent.

https://thevisafirm.com/dc-immigration-lawyer/visas/quotas/

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As a Canadian, I find Noah's writing related to Canada to be somewhat ill-informed, which has me concerned about the validity of his writings about other places I know less about. I feel duty-bound to point out some inaccuracies in the article, in the interest of calibration.

I hope Noah accepts this in the same kind manner in which it is offered.

1) Canada has never been on board with multiculturalism. Francophones have never embraced it, because it would lead to francophone cultural dilution (not just national population dilution). Multiculturalism is embraced by national elites (crucially, in all parties), and also among the first generation immigrants which now make up a large portion of the population. Anglophones so far have accepted the benefits at the cost of their culture fading away, but their are growing signs that the limits of tolerance have been reached or exceeded. Combined with the anglophone left's peculiar fixation on casting Canada's British heritage as essentially evil, a political reckoning may be in the offing. All is not calm in the peaceable kingdom.

2) Precisely zero of the federal government's immigration program is driven by the Anglophone majority's desire the reduce the political influence of Quebec. First, no such desire exists, but I'll get back to that later.

Francophones are correct that high-rate immigration will dilute their influence nationally. The francophone culture is generally more pro-immigration than anglophone culture, but knows it can't attract the ever-higher volume of skilled immigrants this would entail. High skill francophone immigrants face becoming hostages to a small culture in North America. Therefore, ramping up immigration for Quebec translates roughly into draining Haiti and french Africa of their mid-, low- and no skill people.

Francophone dilution risks inflaming francophone separatism. Anglophones in Ontario (with nearly 40% of the national population) always politically lean away from inflaming next-door francophone separatism. With Quebec clearly not on board with the federal immigration project, Ontario will follow eventually (hastened also by the housing crisis). The clout of either province alone is enough to cause a future federal political reckoning on immigration. The clout of both, when aligned, ensures federal re-alignment.

3) British Columbia, Ontario and the federal government are headed towards loggerheads on the immigration program, because the federal government controls the immigration levels, and the provinces face the expenses, and the housing shortages, which are increasingly acute. The previous round of immigration increases in 2015-19 led to the current housing crisis, and the newer 2022-2025 program is set to crush housing in Vancouver and Toronto.

4) Causes for high immigration: The program has nothing to do with national security (from the US). Canada has no economic, military or political security in the 21st century without a stable US, period. The immigration program has to do with avoiding dealing with declining per-capita GDP, declining birth rate. But the main driver is that Canada's elites imagine that their future-elite children will matter more globally helming a country with a larger population.

5) Re: "low rise cities". Canada's largest cities are not low-rise. By North American standards, they are often as high-rise as they come, New York excepted. That's part of the problem. Canadian cities need more walkup and low-rises, as do American cities.

Finally:

For 35 years, Canadians have mostly supported a high rate of immigration, and factions have managed to not upset a fine political balance on the file. Critically, Canada has a rare conservative party that successfully pursues the votes of immigrants and supports high-rate immigration. However, that balance was lost in the immigration acceleration of 2016, and obliterated in the 2nd round in 2021. The end result some years from now is likely to be large-scale rejection of high rate immigration by anglophones. I suspect that Canada's elites, in their greed, are going to lose what had been excellent in moderation.

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"we Americans to the south need to take a hard look at what Canada is doing, and ask ourselves why we can’t do something similar"

You're right, Noah! I would love an immigration system that gave points for needed skills, higher educaton, language fluency, and cultural similarity. I'm a post-liberal / conservative nationalist, and count me in on that plan!

Instead we have a system that prioritizes family connections over everything else, and allows even those who don't make the cut to enter the country and live for decades with effectively no fear of deportation, until the Washington uniparty throws up thier hands and grants them all a "pathway to citizenship" via amnesty.

As you say, our system works for perfectly for the PMC / laptop class, and it's various shades of annoying to disastrous for everyone else.

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