Fewer People, or More?

Could it be possible? For years I’ve been reading about the complications of a growing population. How large numbers of people strain resources and create pollution. How too many are condemned to live in poverty and “food insecurity.” How we live where we’re not supposed to — in floodplains and on barrier islands to be flooded out, or in the middle of forests to be burned out.

So it was quite a surprise to hear of a provocative new idea — what this country needs to become greater is more people, not fewer. About six hundred seventy million more.

That is the thesis of Matthew Yglesias, author of One Billion Americans. According to Yglesias, to preserve our position in the world, we’re going to need more of a lot of things — more ideas, more ambition, more resources, and more people. It’s the only way we’ll be able to compete with the huge population centers developing in other countries. We need to think bigger, while at the same time taking our problems more seriously. National prosperity actually comes from supporting families, welcoming immigrants, and exploring creative policies that support growth, like improved infrastructure, better education, and controlling climate change.

Would it work? Getting to one billion would require absorbing a huge number of people in a relatively short period of time. It’s mind-blowing considering this country hasn’t even built a new major airport in decades. But it certainly is something to think about. How else are we going to compete with China and India?

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