2006 March 15 Wednesday
Against Immmigrant Driven Population Growth

Nicholas von Hoffman argues against immigrant driven population growth.

The old saying that when in Rome, do as the Romans do is disputed by the advocates of diversity and those who remind us that “America is a nation of immigrants,� as though that were the full story. Some of American immigrant history has had little to do with idealism and lots to do with money. Without denying the enormous contributions made by wave after wave of the new arrivals, past immigration was also fostered by steamship companies, railroads, industrial strike-breakers and land speculators, much as today it’s pushed by corporate agriculture and other business interests who couldn’t care less about the lady lifting her lamp beside the golden door.

However beneficial immigrants may have been and may still be, should immigration be allowed to continue? The population of the United States is approaching one third of a billion people. If we continue to live as we do now, this nation, with another 50 or 60 million inhabitants, could be turned into a very ugly place, ecologically and aesthetically. Another 40 million after that and some American cities might begin to look like Calcutta or Cairo, or some planet whose atmosphere is mostly sulfuric vapor.

Thanks to the triumph of a reactionary individualism, public controls over private property are being kicked over one after another. Given the takeover of the courts by judges representing property interests, restraints governing erosion, water, wildlife and so forth are vanishing. That is bad enough at present population levels, but the imagination is aghast at what America the Unbeautiful will look like with another 10 or 15 percent jump in present population levels.

Immigration of today differs in many important ways from immigration in the 19th century. One important difference is that the United States was sparsely populated in the 19th century. Well, that's no longer the case today. The only sparsely populated places left are considered highly undesirable by the bulk of the population. Increasing numbers of desirable places are filling up. Cruise through Southern California or along the East Coast and see how much these places have filled up. You have to appreciate just how undeveloped many of those areas were even a few decades ago to understand how much has changed. I know a woman who remembers the orchards that used to cover what are now big housing tracts in Santa Barbara. You can see the same sort of change if you look carefully at 1950s and 1960s movies shot in Southen California.

What is un-American? Historically America was a place where land was cheap (and therefore housing was cheap) and people could do what they wanted without upsetting their neighbors. We live in increasingly regulated and constrained environments because we are so close to each other. I prefer the less regulated environments myself.

Von Hoffman asks some important questions worth pondering:

Yet, assuming for the sake of argument that immigration can be closed down and controlled, what would be the effects, immediate and long term? Would some work just go undone? Would we have a permanent labor shortage? Would, as has happened in the past, the high cost of labor stimulate the invention of machines and organizations to do the same work with fewer people? Would wages go up enough so that the educated middle class, which now cannot afford to have children, would at least have enough of them to replenish itself?

I think high labor costs would cause a big push for automation and a resulting rise in living standards.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 March 15 09:43 PM  Immigration Demographics


Comments
Wolf-Dog said at March 15, 2006 10:31 PM:

So far, the housing boom that caused the economy to expand, was partly due to the increase in population, which is also connected with immigration, since the white natives have low birth rate. The housing bubble will collapse like a house of cards if the immigration is stopped, and there will be a deflationary recession.

Automation will certainly increase the standard of living, but given the inequality of aptitudes, the lower 50 % will keep falling behind...

dennisw said at March 16, 2006 9:23 AM:

How about immigrant driven economic growth? And by this I mean our present influx of legal and illegal immigrants. If half of Mexico moves here tomorrow our GDP will go up a lot but our quality of life will gone down. We can bring in half of Mexico only if we accept that we will be bringing in millions of poor and uneducated people suitable for low level jobs

But how about it? If GDP and economic growth is so important this will give us an instant increase.
Actually I think the men who rule Washington DC have decided that the USA needs more demographic weight to take on China and India in this century. So we allow in the poor from Mexico, Latin America, and other 3rd world nations. We never boot out illegal aliens. 95% of all deportations are done at the Mexican border where illegal alien Mexicans are immediately sent back to Mexico. But we don't have the logistical capabilities to fly back home illegal aliens from Central America and other places. They're released with a promise to appear in court for proceedings. Of course they skip court

Dennisw

Leonidas said at March 16, 2006 9:56 AM:

Von Hoffman asks "...what would be the effects, immediate and long term?" of stopping immigration. He need look no further than Japan, a true mono-culture that allows virtually no immigration. Robotics and automation, as you mentioned, are very advanced and in daily use. The long-term advantages to lower immigration far outweigh the short-term economic dislocations (predicting economic outcomes is akin to fortune-telling). You never hear the Japanese worrying about sharia being imposed in 50 years, nor do they have to learn Spanish to order a cheeseburger (or sushi).

It's strange that the mere notion of low immigration is such a wondrous, far-out idea, when we had our own low immigration period from 1924 to 1965. Up until the 70's the number of foreign-born in the country continued to decline. Here's hoping one of the 2008 presidential candidates has the few brain cells necessary to realize that curbing immigration would be a huge vote-getter.

Mik said at March 16, 2006 11:43 AM:

Wolf-Dog:

"the housing boom that caused the economy to expand, was partly due to the increase in population, which is also connected with immigration"

Let me see. Economy expanded, partially due to the housing boom. Let's say X% due to housing.

Housing boom was partially due to increase in population, lets say Y%.

Some of the buyers in increased population are immigrants who can qualify for mortgage, most of whom are NOT recent arrivals. Say this percentage is Z%.

So total impact of immigration of a few yeras past (because most recent immigrants cannot buy real estate) is
X% * Y% * Z%.

Since you are making profound assertions, what are the values of X, Y and Z?
You must know that, otherwise you would not have pointificated.

My gut feeling is impact on economy of immigrants buying houses is probably fairly small. Remove immigrants and nothing drastic will happen with possible exceptions of real estate prices in a few markets. On an up side, those very markets will experience reduced outflow of middle class residents that might help to stabilize RE prices.

"The housing bubble will collapse like a house of cards if the immigration is stopped, and there will be a deflationary recession."

Are you saying immigrants cross the border and apply for mortgage in huge numbers? Any evidence? Assertions are not arguments.


"given the inequality of aptitudes, the lower 50 % will keep falling behind..."

I find it ironic that many posters talk about bottom 50% as they have nothing to do with it. Judging by some postings, I'm not sure some posters are in top 50% of US IQ dustribution.

ziel said at March 16, 2006 12:09 PM:

Mik - "Are you saying immigrants cross the border and apply for mortgage in huge numbers? "

Not likely, but immigrants can still be an important factor in the housing boom - due to an apparently exotic practice called 'renting'. Hispanic immigrants have been know to pack in 20 to 30 in relatively modest homes (stacking) - you can collect some serious rent that way.

scottynx said at March 16, 2006 1:03 PM:

Mik:
Zeiel is right, you don't have to come to america and move into a house or even rent a house to raise house prices. Increase in demand for any living quarters can also raise housing prices, because many people move back and forth enough between different forms of living quarters based on thier relative prices (houses, trailers, apartments, etc. are substitute goods for eachother).

Also, what if current housing prices are partially based on estimates of future population growth (a plausible assumption). If immigration restriction is going to occur to an extent that could considerably lower future US population estimates, and if housing markets currently don't foresee that, then prices might fall or at least slow down.

But as a side note, even if immigration restrictions are not going to occur, and if US real estate investors use massive US population growth in thier calculations of housing worth, are they totally right? Are they taking into account the low tested IQ of hispanics, which doesn't bode quite as well for the future high value of american land?

To state this more broadly, Efficient Markets Theory, in most it's forms generally state that the market generally knows best, but do enough people know about differences among racial groups to make the market efficient in the numerous matters where this applies?

D Flinchum said at March 16, 2006 1:17 PM:

US Population in 1970 = 203 Million

US Population estimated to hit 300 million this October = 97 million added in 36 years. Part of this is immigration and part is the natural increase experienced even though we have reached replacement level population by US citizens as of 1970 because births are higher than deaths. The latter type of increase will eventually disappear. Without the increase in immigration over replacement level, US population would have peaked at around 2020 at about 255 million.

US Population estimated to hit 420 million in 2050 at current rates of immigration with the overwhelming majority caused by immigration after 1970 and these immigrants' direct descendants. Without the immigration kick-up, we'd stand at 236 million in 2050.

US Population estimated to hit 571 million in 2100 at current rates of immigration with all of it caused by immigration after 1970 and these immigrants direct descendants. 271 million in a bit less than 100 years.


Agnostic said at March 16, 2006 7:01 PM:

re: "When in Rome..." -- isn't it strange than when "open borders" folks vacation in a foreign country where English is not the first language, and where other customs may not match American ones, these are the first people to talk down to the rubes about learning the local language, at least attempting to follow the local customs, and so on, to live for two weeks like an Authentic Italian, lest you be mistaken for one of those neanderthal frat boys in town for spring break?

And yet when others come here, these are the first people to say, "Let them do whatever they please, short of crime." I think "When in Rome" is too strong, though in the right direction, but the people I'm talking about are unabashedly inconsistent. On further reflection, perhaps the apparent inconsistency can be resolved if we note that they are both consistent -- namely w/ the underlying belief that "I'm better than you are, you slob."

L said at March 16, 2006 8:28 PM:

One of the biggest reasons behind the low (white) birth rate is the cost of housing and housing price competition to send kids to public schools in good neighborhoods. As Steve Sailer effectively points out, the key to whites having more kids is living in states with lower housing costs. The reason for this is obvious. If immigration were curtailed, and housing prices in these good areas were allowed to drop over time, the birthrate would eventually rise as people could more easily afford housing. Immigration is all about keeping small businesses more profitable, large corporations more profitable, hiding monetary inflation by the government and Federal Reserve, and continuing to fuel the housing and credit/debt boom. Now you know who really runs the country--the investors! Even individual property owners! Our country is being destroyed in order to keep the profit illusion alive. We need to let it drop, and shut down the border. Take the pain, so to speak. Its the only way, not to live in denial.

Mik said at March 16, 2006 8:38 PM:

ziel and scottynx:

I didn't say immigrants (including new immigrants) have zero impact on housing prices. They have probably marginal impact.
If you have data kindly present it. Assertions and bloviations are not arguments.

I don't have specific data and am not interested that much to look fot it.
But I know this: lattest housing price boom has happened from 2002 (or 2003) and peaked in Nov 2005, at least for my area. Immigration was about the same before that period and after. Clearly immigrants by themselves could not create boom before 2002 and after 11/2005.

I have observed closely real estate prices in SF Bay area for the last 22+ years. I observed 3-4 booms and 2-3 deflations, one long and painful (1991 - 1995/96). I remember HongKong bag men arriving before HongKong transfer and buying 50-100 single family homes in 2 weeks in Cupertino and San Jose. I have thought that with such demand real estate prices are driven strickly by chinese and indian demand. And then George HW Bush recession started, and prices fell 10-20%, HonkKong or no HonkKong, immigration or no immigration.

Wolf-Dog (formerly the Invisible Scientist) said at March 16, 2006 11:15 PM:

L wrote:
"Immigration is all about keeping small businesses more profitable, large corporations more profitable, hiding monetary inflation by the government and Federal Reserve, and continuing to fuel the housing and credit/debt boom. Now you know who really runs the country--the investors"
--------------------------------------------------------

I agree completely. This was my thesis. The housing industry and many consumption oriented industries are interested in this type of population increase. The housing industry is a rather low-tech industry, despite the new building technologies, materials, etc... When the population starts declining, there will be a depression in housing markets, and this time the depression will spread to all the other areas of the economy after 2008 since the current economic expansion is mostly due to the real estate boom (and the refinancing from homes).


I also agree that one reason the white middle class people are not having enough children is because housing is too expensive (Even some doctors have only 1 child and they are still renting a house instead of buying.)

But even if the price of housing declines (which certainly would happen if robots are allowed to build giant pyramids in Manhattan), I am not sure that this will be sufficient to stop the decline of population. The situation in Europe, is certainly pointing in this direction. Even with much lower housing prices, the middle class and the upper class will continue having less than 2.1 children per family...

Jorge D.C. said at March 16, 2006 11:37 PM:

What is un-American?

A non-white majority for starters. This country has been a WASP freight train from the inception with various minorities of seething aggrieved hitchhikers along for the ride.

As the aggrieved become the majority watch the train go off the tracks. The minorities didn't invent the train, don't know how to drive the train, and ultimately have no use for the train.

It's strange that the mere notion of low immigration is such a wondrous, far-out idea, when we had our own low immigration period from 1924 to 1965

It's not so strange. It's called media control. All issues are framed (or flushed down the memory hole) to the benefit of those in control. If you control the media, any idea can be made to seem "far-out".

Fact: A tiny minority of leftist Jews lobbied (bribed & blackmailed) congress for decades and finally passed the Hart-Cellar Immigration Act of 1965 which ended America's most recent low immigration period.

Ask yourself if that is democracy.

PJGoober said at March 17, 2006 7:51 AM:

Wolf-Dog writes:
[But even if the price of housing declines (which certainly would happen if robots are allowed to build giant pyramids in Manhattan), I am not sure that this will be sufficient to stop the decline of population.]

Dude, I'd bet that the hispanics we already have here are enough to stop the population decline in US for at least several decades to come. It might fall or flatten temporarily though in a few peak years of death for baby boomers, but once most of them have died, it's up, up, up again.

Also, here is Randall on secular/liberal vs religious/conservative fertility rates from the article: Steve Sailer: Total White Fertility Best Predictor of Bush Vote
[....Then there is the evolutionary biological angle to the differences in fertility rates of white women in different states: Will white fertility rates eventually start rising as the women who have the strongest genetically-caused instinct to reproduce have more children than women who have weaker instincts to reproduce? A few months ago I was watching a C-Span broadcast from a Washington DC demographics thinktank (and if anyone can find this report I'm about to describe please tell me - dummy me I forgot to write down the thinktank name and I can't find this report after many hours searching). The thinktank had just released a new study where they reported that in some African countries the fertility rate has stopped dropping and has even increased in some cases. My interpretation is that natural selection is selecting for women who will have more children in spite of the influences of modernity. This does not bode well for the optimistic view that problems will come from human population growth will eventually be solved by massive numbers of voluntary individual decisions to have progressively fewer children.]

PJGoober said at March 17, 2006 7:53 AM:

P.S. here is the link to Randall's post: http://www.parapundit.com/archives/002483.html

Dave said at March 17, 2006 10:15 AM:


re "It's not so strange. It's called media control. All issues are framed (or flushed down the memory hole) to the benefit of those in control. If you control the media, any idea can be made to seem "far-out"."

Yeah Jorge, in the UK we were told this week that we needed to build 5 million new homes over the next 10 - 20 years because more people living singleton life styles, the fact that we have 200,000+ net immigration per year was totally ignored. (the figures might seem small compared to the US but we already have a much higher pop density).

You're right its not democracy.


mik, large scale immigration increases the demand for housing, higher demand on a limited resource = higher price. Its quite simple. You might not see it play out exactly in the real world because it can take a long time for the effects to filter through and it also depends on the number of housing being built at the time etc etc, but in the long term there can't be any doubt that large movements of people need somewhere to live!

Rick Darby said at March 17, 2006 10:19 AM:

I happen to be writing from Athens, Greece, where I am on a business trip. It seems that everywhere I go in the world, towns and cities are expanding like crazy, pushing ever outward, up into the hills, wherever they can go. It's not some plot by wicked capitalists. It's overpopulation.

We can do everything possible to stop population growth now, or we can wait until the environment gets truly horrendous before we act.

Your move.

Mik said at March 17, 2006 11:50 AM:

Dave:

"large scale immigration increases the demand for housing, higher demand on a limited resource = higher price. Its quite simple. You might not see it play out exactly in the real world because it can take a long time for the effects to filter through and it also depends on the number of housing being built at the time etc etc, but in the long term there can't be any doubt that large movements of people need somewhere to live!"

Of course, unless new comers will choose for some reason to live 10 to a room, as they so often do in Central Valley, CA.
My argument was with a totally off-the-wall assertion that stopping immigration today will cause depression in US.

Over the long run an immigration COULD cause additional demand for housing, IF living standards are high enough to maintain sq footage / person as it is today or not much lower.
If we accept sq footage/person in India as a new standard, I would guess we could accomodate another 500M people without one additional housing unit constructed.

L said at March 17, 2006 2:52 PM:

Wow! I finally figured it out! The elite's strategy is to continue our so-called "prosperity" by replacing our deteriorated manufacturing base with a "house manufacturing" base! As long as immigration remains uncontrolled, this can go on indefinitely! We got lotsa open land here! Hide inflation by importing Immigrant cheap labor (no matter what the race--maybe the hispanics will not be so happy about immigration when the chinese replace them in their low-wage jobs). Big banks can continue to give loans, loans, loans to illegals to buy cars, houses, and what not, bundle and sell 'em (as well as the lucrative derivative trade), the money circles around in our economy until we have to buy real things, at which time it goes overseas, and then those foreigners buy (or are pressured to buy) our treasury debt, as we borrow ever-larger, astounding sums to finance the welfare/warfare state! Any foreign country not wanting to play the game will have a gun in their face! Until it all collapses, of course, and we sink into a Titanic Depression, probably hyperinflationary, and we have race wars over the remaining jobs and opportunities! Whatta plan!

All of this to hide the failure of the welfare state and the gross monetary inflation created by the Congress and Fed. This makes me sick! Comments pleasse!

Quequeg said at March 17, 2006 8:54 PM:

Zero Population Growth is Too High - article by The Bear's Lair
Here are some excerpts from the article:

The Indian Ocean tsunami tragedy, and its 150,000 casualties, reminds us fortunate Westerners that too many of the world's people live in places and conditions that we would consider intolerable. The problem is not the world economy, it's world population, which has doubled in the last 50 years. The Zero Population Growth campaign of the 1970s was misguided in one respect: zero growth is too high, we need a reduction! ..... With a world population of 6.4 billion and rising, concentrations of huge numbers of people in unsafe and squalid conditions are inevitable.
With the United Nations forecasting world population increasing to 9.1 billion in 2050, almost all of the increase coming in poor countries, this problem is only going to get worse. If world population were to increase in the second half of the 21st Century at the same speed as it did in the second half of the 20th, it would be 18 billion by 2100, a clearly unsustainable figure. Ecological decay, use of resources, overcrowding, disease and poverty are all made worse by excess population; it is time we tackled these problem at their source.
Throughout human history it has been demonstrated, that provided knowledge, law and infrastructure are not destroyed (yes, the Dark Ages, even though depopulated, were indeed Dark) a country that has suffered a population drop, or is for some other reason far below its population potential, will be wealthy, in terms of the living standards of its people. ..... Conversely, a country whose population has been increasing in an unchecked manner will have low living standards, high unemployment and high crime, even if it is technologically sophisticated by the standards of its day, as was Charles I's Britain.
... a world population of 1 billion would enable the entire globe to enjoy a middle class lifestyle, without farming marginal or ecologically dangerous areas, and without any danger of resource exhaustion or ecological disaster...
The United States is rejoicing in its high population growth compared with the EU -- another 3 million Americans in 2004 -- and trumpeting its faster rate of increase in GDP, without correcting for population growth. China, it was reported last week, is considering relaxing its "one child" policy in order to increase the country's population. EU officials make anguished speeches about a "demographic deficit," whereby there might in the future be fewer Europeans. And so on. .... What's needed is a World Population Treaty, which binds participants to work towards the eventual goal of reducing world population to 1 billion, and, as a first step, to bring forward as close as possible the magic date on which world population ceases to increase and starts diminishing.
D Flinchum said at March 18, 2006 6:23 AM:

"Von Hoffman asks "...what would be the effects, immediate and long term?" of stopping immigration"

A crucial element in the economic rise and fall of the middle class in the last century has been overlooked the level of immigration to the US.

The “Great Wave” of immigration started in the 1880’s, adding millions of new citizens to the US. The “Great Wave” was diminished by three events: More restrictive immigration laws enacted by Congress in 1924, the worldwide depression in the 1930’s, and World War II. Then in 1965, Congress enacted legislation that started another “Great Wave” of immigration that has steadily increased to record levels today, including 12-20 million illegal immigrants. The 5 years from 2001 thru 2005 produced 7.9 million immigrants - about half illegal - making it the highest 5-year period in US history.

Labor, like consumer products, responds to the market: An abundant supply depresses price, or in this case, wages. It is no accident that the period when the middle class experienced the greatest level of economic progress occurred between 1947 and 1973 while immigration to the US was still relatively low by current standards. Nor is it any surprise that the middle class has experienced economic decline in more recent years after decades of heavy immigration. The economic decline would have been even worse except for the rise of the two-income family as more women entered the work force.

Bipartisan agreements to drastically increase immigration levels have had a huge impact on the economic welfare of the American middle class. In a recent study, George Borjas, the Harvard economist and Cuban immigrant, concluded that immigration from 1980 to 2000 added significant numbers to the workforce and decreased wages of the typical US worker by 3.7%. The wages of US workers who did not complete high school were decreased by 7.4%. The wages of US college graduates were decreased by 3.6%. In most cases, this decrease in wages was sharpest for workers with between 11 and 25 years of work experience - just when they were likely to be raising and educating their families. Since acquiring a college education is usually a person’s best ticket to a comfortable middle class life, this statistic is particularly troubling, not just for the workers themselves but for their children, who could use financial help from their families for further education.

The reason that the US seems to be doing so well is that the top 5% in the US are cleaning up.

Quequeg said at March 18, 2006 9:07 AM:

Are we on a 40-year immigration cycle? From 1880 to 1924, we had high immigration. Then, till 1965, we had low immigration. Then, till today, we've had high immigration. Yet, it doesn't look like this cycle is ending anytime soon. We've got to put more pressure on our politicians.

I read somewhere that between 1940 and 1970, we had a fair economy, in which the wages of the poor went up 3% per year, the middle class went up 3% per year, and the rich went up 3% per year. Since 1970, wages have been flat for 90% of the workforce.

I think it's largely because between 1940 and 1970, we had low immigration and low outsourcing. Not only did we increase immigration in the 1960s, but tariffs were lowered:
Restoring a Global Economy, 1950–1980

World trade barriers were reduced under the auspices of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) signed in 1947. This process peaked in the 1960s, when the Kennedy Administration in the United States made major efforts to secure radical reductions in tariff rates. During the middle of this decade there was a comprehensive reduction of barriers to trade in manufactured goods.

In the aforementioned article, there's a link to this graph:
Waves of Globalization
It shows that we had globalization between the 1880s and 1920s, but then we went through a "disintegration" till the 1970s. So, it's not like globalization is something brand new, nor is it just a natural, unstoppable phenomenon.

Gary Glaucon said at March 18, 2006 10:10 AM:

Look carefully at Bush's line item veto idea. It's an inevitable power grab because Congress has abdicated its fiscal responsibility. Look for more consolidation of presidential power due to Congress' lack of political will. Once Americans decided that government WASN'T a necessary evil, it became everyone's gravy train.

We're back in the last days of the Roman republic with the barbarians pushing on us. Buckle up!

scottynx said at March 18, 2006 6:47 PM:

[Look carefully at Bush's line item veto idea.]

Bush hasn't yet vetoed anything on earth since he would have to veto the whole enchilada. So if having a line item veto makes Bush finally veto some spending, then thank god.

Gary Glaucon said at March 19, 2006 5:25 AM:

"Bush hasn't yet vetoed anything on earth since he would have to veto the whole enchilada. So if having a line item veto makes Bush finally veto some spending, then thank god."

It's obvious that you are concerned about spending, but you're not concerned about the continued consolidation of presidential power.

Sam Cooper-Smith said at February 23, 2007 9:36 AM:

It seems all the world's poor are rushing to join the lands of the world's rich, would it
not be better if they made a rich land for themselves? Legal immigration is one thing but illegal immigration should be treated as the crime it is and always subject to deportation.


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