For a Sustainable Future, Reduce Immigration

Kenneth's picture

By Kenneth Pasternack

An investor, Ken is a member of the CAPS Board of Directors and the treasurer.

The writer's views are his own.

May 8, 2013

The economics of immigration is much debated. Some economists and business interests suggest that immigrants grow the economy. Skeptics point out that immigrants increase the strain on resources and infrastructure, and each wave of immigrants competes for jobs with earlier arrivals, depressing earnings for all immigrants as well as citizens.

But the most direct effect of immigration, legal and illegal, is increasing the country’s population.

Two hundred years ago Reverend Thomas Malthus, an English curate and economist, first observed that populations which outgrow their resources collapse. A growing population must lower its birthrate to stabilize its numbers, or suffer an increase of its death rate through starvation, disease, and warfare with crowded neighbors.

California, the nation's most populous state, already shows signs of strain. Cities grow ever more crowded, schools and freeways more jammed, housing less affordable. The State Water System is fully allocated, unable to meet its obligations in the event of a statewide drought. Every year the state loses 50,000 acres of farmland to development. California’s population of 39 million equals a third of Mexico's, and more than Canada's.

For some countries the time has passed to heed Malthusian principles. Many immigrants abandon places like Central America or the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico. Overpopulation has depleted their farmland and dried up their rivers. After exhausting their land they seek to move on, restarting the cycle in ours.

We are not our brother's keeper, but we are the stewards of our environment. Americans understand this. The United States practices reproductive responsibility. It does not export excess population to other countries.

Indeed, in recent decades America’s birthrate has fallen below the bare replacement level, below an average of two children per couple. But immigration relentlessly swells the population.

America’s population grows, not because Americans have huge numbers of children, but because Congress brings in more and more newcomers. This explains why we suffer crowding in our schools and freeways, why open space is lost to development in our neighborhoods, and why local politicians bemoan the lack of affordable housing.

Sooner or later, reality must prevail. In a world of 6 billion people, America is powerless to solve the world’s problems by inviting everyone in. Every 4 years the world’s population grows by more than the entire U.S population.

Ultimately, America’s population growth will harm other countries, not just America. The world gains nothing by reducing the United States to another starving Third World country. Only an advanced nation can contribute to the advance of science and technology. Only a successful nation can assist other countries with technical and financial aid to solve their own problems. Only a nation enjoying excess resources can export food to the hungry.

The Malthusian verity will always apply. Population growth cannot go on forever. Stimulating the economy with population growth promotes a Ponzi scheme that must eventually collapse.

In blunt economic terms, we should not try to stimulate this year’s economy with permanent population increase. We cut a bad bargain by trading our natural resources for a dubious short-term benefit. Our most precious capital asset is the environment--the earth and its resources.

Instead of amnesties and quota increases, Congress should reduce immigration to roughly the number of people who emigrate from the country each year, about 200,000, or to the historic level of 300,000. Immigration could then remain “population neutral.”

With immigration under control, America’s population could stabilize. By setting a firm, sensible limit Congress could end ruinous growth fueled by unsound economics and futile humanitarianism.

 

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