Population Growth Not Necessary for Prosperity

More Misinformation from the Media:

What makes America great? . . . [T]he dynamism of entrepreneurs less hamstrung by an oversize welfare state. . . .  But virtually no nation has ever sustained rapid economic growth strong 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. . . . The main reason fewer Americans participate in the labor force is not because they are discouraged, but because they are getting older. . . . [T]he 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. – To Be Great Again, America Needs Immigrants, Ruchir Sharma, The New York Times, 5/6/17. [Link Here]

Fact Check: Immigration advocates commonly repeat this claim that large-scale and unending population growth is necessary for prosperity. If this is true, being packed tighter and tighter like sardines would seem to be a high price to pay for the alleged economic benefits. Nevertheless, there is no real proof that population growth equals prosperity.

It is true that a growing population creates a larger economy, but that doesn’t mean that a larger economy is a more prosperous one. More accurate measures of prosperity are the median level of income and the distribution of wealth. Since mass immigration began after the 1965 immigration act, our population has sharply increased, but our wage levels have stagnated and our middle class has significantly declined, with the percentage of rich and poor increasing.

Immigration is one factor in making the rich richer, as it transfers money from lower-income people, in the form of lower wages, to higher income people in the form of profit. When the wealthier classes and their media mouthpieces claim that immigration enriches the economy, the economy they speak of is that of the wealthy.

The article also raises the claim that without immigration the U.S. won’t have enough workers to sustain prosperity. Interestingly, this is at a time when we have a large and growing number of working age people (not just the elderly) who have dropped out of the workforce. A high percentage of them are people without college degrees—the demographic most likely to face job competition and reduced wages from immigration. If immigration were curtailed, rising wages might attract a large number of these people back into the workforce.

The claim that we will need more workers certainly flies in the face of numerous predictions that robots and computers will be doing a high percentage of jobs now done by humans. A study done at Oxford University estimates that this percentage will come close to fifty percent. In this situation we will be doing well just to provide employment for the people already here.

One way that continuing mass immigration most definitely will harm the economy is by changing the electorate to favor socialistic policies. Sharma notes in his article that our economy performs well because, relatively speaking, it is not hamstrung by “an oversize welfare state.” Immigrants, however, are inclined to support the welfare state and socialistic policies in general. Many come from countries with strong statist traditions, and many of them are poor and low-income people. To illustrate, Hispanics, who comprise the largest number of immigrants in the U.S. have an even lower view of capitalism than adherents of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

In just about every respect, America was a greater country before the current wave of mass immigration surged forward, more prosperous for more people and more united in values and goals.


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