To Be Great Again, America Needs Immigrants ...
Immigration has been expanding the United States population at a rate of about one million people a year over the last decade. It’s not clear exactly how much President Trump’s policies will reduce the net flow of immigrants, given that he has yet to articulate a broad-based immigration program. Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain has been more explicit, promising to cut the net inflow to the “sustainable level” of under 100,000 immigrants a year, down from an average of 250,000 in the last decade. For these leaders, delivering on these anti-immigrant messages may now be politically imperative, but it will seriously handicap their economies in the global growth sweepstakes.
History is littered with examples of emerging nations that have failed to generate enough jobs for a booming young population. But virtually no nation has ever sustained rapid economic growth without strong population growth. And at a time when every major country including the United States faces continued decline in population growth, workers are an increasingly precious source of national economic strength.
In the long run, governments have limited avenues to increase the growth rate of the labor force, which is unaffected by short-term fluctuations in unemployment. Even enticing the “forgotten men” — those no longer looking for work — back into the labor force can have only limited impact. The main reason fewer Americans participate in the labor force is not because they are discouraged, but because they are getting older.
In recent decades nations from Australia to France to Singapore have foreseen the looming economic impact of slower population growth, offering families “baby bonuses” to have more kids — but typically with little impact on the birthrate or the economy. The impulse to procreate may be one of the few areas of human endeavor that remains beyond the reach of government mandarins. In contrast, regulating immigration remains a relatively simple task, and if immigrants are properly assimilated, they can have an immediate impact on the size of the work force.
It would be unrealistic to imagine that hard economic logic will turn the anti-global, anti-foreign tide any time soon. So the likely result is that the United States and Britain will go ahead and limit immigration. To the extent they do — and their rivals do not — they will undermine their key economic edge, and cede much of the growth advantage they have enjoyed over Europe and Japan.
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New York Times OpEd
The last thing that we ought to be seeking for the globe is population growth. Eleven billion in 2100 is too much. International migration, on the other hand, could both grow the populations of specific nations and in many cases alleviate the problems of the sending countries, including those problems caused by climate change.
“The truth is, we know so little about life, we don’t really know what the good news is and what the bad news is.” Kurt Vonnegut
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