Plain English with Derek Thompson - Why U.S. Population Growth Crashed to a Record Low

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Today’s episode is about a historic low for America last year.

The US population grew at its slowest Pace in history.


Yes, in 245 years of being a country, America has never grown slower than it is right now.

Now I want to do two things in this episode.

I want to explain to you why population growth is declining, both the US and around the world.

And I want to persuade you that population growth is important.


Really, really, really important.

So a country grows or shrinks in three ways.

And only three ways.

Number one, Birds number two deaths.

Number three, Net immigration.

That is the difference between the number of people leave a country and who come into the country and all those numbers for the US are headed in the wrong direction.


Deaths are rising for Savi obvious reasons.

The pandemic is killed more than 1 million Americans in the past two years, but even if the pandemic had never happened, u.s.

Population growth would still be crashing to an all-time low and that is largely because immigration to this country has plummeted in the last six years since 2016.


The year before Trump became president immigration has fallen from just over 1 million to less than 250,000.

That means.

Each year were missing more than 700,000 immigrants the equal of the population of say Washington, d.c.


Not Moving into the country year after year.

Finally, there are birds u.s.

Fertility rate has also declined to an all-time low in 1960.

The average American woman had almost four children.

Today, fertility has declined to less than two about one point seven to be exact.


Now, you could say, and I would agree that it’s fine for Americans to have smaller families, but surveys show.

That Americans aren’t just having the family size that they want.

They’re having fewer kids.

It’s then they want because so many Essentials housing, childcare, health insurance are rising faster than wages.


So it’s not just that ideal family size is declining.

It’s that actual family size is declining even faster.

So what’s going on here?

Why is every engine of population growth sputtering at the same time?

And more importantly?

Why should we care?

Why does population growth?


Even matter to answer?

These questions?

Today’s guest is Matthew yglesias.

Matt is the author of the slow boring newsletter and the author of the book 1 billion Americans.

In this episode.

We talk about why immigration and birth rates are collapsing.

Why politicians won’t prioritize family policy and immigration in d.c.


Why population growth is Good for both Americans living today and Americans living in the future and whether critics have a case.

When they say a livable planet, can’t take another billion people.

I’m Derek Thompson.


This is plain English.


Matt Iglesias, welcome to the podcast, the glad to be here.

So let’s start with the news, the census bureau’s latest population report found that in 2021.

We had the slowest rate of population growth in American history, deaths increased for sadly obvious reasons.


The pandemic Birds also declined and so did immigration.

So Matt, I’d love you to walk us through.


Why you think this happened to start with births?

Why do you think birth rates are going down?

Sure, you know, some parts rights have been in a state of decline for for quite a long time.


Now, you know, there’s some stuff unique to the pandemic, that probably impacted this.

I think closures of schools was a big burden on parents.

These kind of things were highlighted.

We’re front of mine, but we’re into 20 to 30 years of declining birth rates.


And one thing that’s interesting that really Just by thinking is that we haven’t seen a decline in the number of people of children that people say they would ideally like to have your back in the 70s that number did go down.

But since the early 80s, sort of Ideal fertility as expressed by American, women has stayed pretty steady but realized fertility has gone down further and further.


When you ask people in surveys, you know, why is that?

They cite a lot of financial type objections.

They say, you know, Either I was too old.

By the time, I started having children, it took me a long time, to Achieve Financial stability or the number one answer.


Is that child care is too expensive, you know, in some objective sense.

Obviously people have larger families, incredibly poor countries, people have larger families in the 18th century assume.

It’s not like objectively true that it’s like not possible to afford children, but the relative cost of childcare.


Care has got up a lot while the relative cost of other things has fallen.

So I think people perceive it as much more burdensome to have to have, you know, two or three children than they used to, in the past.

Yeah, what a way that I see it.

Globally is that As education increases as women’s education increases as economies modernize.


You tend to see birth rates come down.

That is the global Trend.

And that would explain why countries across the world, the Middle East Africa.

Asia are all seen birth rates, sort of trend toward 2.5., But at the same time as you pointed out, there is a growing Gap in the u.s.


Between the number of children, parents say or women say they want to have, which tends to be between say, 2 and 3.

And the number of children.

They Actually have, which is closer to two or even under two.

And one reason for that is that it’s just so damn expensive to have kids in the US, the oecd Compares.


The average child care costs for parents in the richest countries in the world by childcare allowance has subsidized, childcare things like that and for single parents.

According to the oecd, the u.s.

Is the third most expensive country in the world to raise a kid after only the Slavic Republic in Cyprus.

So it is really hard to have and raise children in America and as you pointed out Very correctly.


It is gotten harder during the pandemic.

Do you have a big picture theory about why the u.s.

Seems relatively unique among Advanced Rich developed countries in its lack of financial support for families.



I mean, you know, the u.s.

Welfare state is smaller on a whole number of Dimensions.

I think that’s sort of well-known, you know, exactly why that is people can disagree about but childcare is particularly difficult because it implicates all Kinds of culture War controversies that people have because, you know, what is an ideal child-rearing Arrangement is something that people really disagree about.


And if you were to support expand the welfare state, to take care of little kids.

You would have to sort of make some choices.


Are we trying to get kids into government-run?

Daycare centers, to maximize, labor force?

Participation among mothers.


I mean, parents, but realistically mothers are we?

Like, do we want to subsidize stay-at-home parents?

There was an effort to do that with the expanded child tax credit that The Binding ministration did early, but it turned out, you know, conservatives didn’t like that, because it cost a lot of money, it gave cash to people who weren’t working and progressives enjoyed the fact that it was going to cut poverty, but they themselves didn’t want to say, well, okay.


No, this is our ideal.

We want to just give cash assistance to parents.

They’ve tried to also create He ate a big Child Care Program, expansion of pre-K.

And so inside, even the Democratic caucus, there was a lack of decision, right?

What do we actually want to do here?


Because it’s, you know, it’s very personal but also a social Choice.

Question back in the 70s, the Nixon Administration toyed with creating a national childcare program, Pat, Buchanan, and other sort of religious, right?

People convinced him that that would be a mistake that really their base do not want to see.


This topic addressed at least, not in that kind of way and that, you know, he would be better off breaking with big business to stand up for sort of traditional, family values and mom stays at home that worked for Nixon politically, but it hasn’t actually like given us a Leave it to Beaver Society.


They, you know, so there’s this kind of mismatch between economic reality, people’s desires.

And then our own in decision about what do we even want to say about this?

I want to move on to immigration.

And if you would have asked me a like two years ago, I would have thought that the collapse of immigration was in large part, the result of trump Administration policies and that if you replace Trump, immigration would perk back up.


But instead immigration was lower in the first year of the B Administration, then any year under trunk.

So why have we seen this sort of six year decline in Immigration to the United States?

And why in particular did it can?


She knew to fall after Trump has voted out of office.

One thing that happened in her trunk as we had a kind of collapse of the Visa issuance system, you know, he was not very eager to see this kind of thing happening.

The pandemic, just say a little bit about what the Visa issue in system so that we get a visa to come to the United States.


You need to qualify for one but it’s also like a lot of bureaucratic Hoops that you need to jump through, right?

You need to go to a consulate.

You need to apply.

You need to generate a lot of paperwork, for an employment.

What type of Visa people back in the US needs to do their own paperwork?

It’s a, it’s an intensive sort of process Trump was not very interested in maintaining that function of government during the pandemic.


Really let it kind of go to nothing and the by the Administration has not been that swept to sort of bring it back online right to get consulates abroad working in person so that they can do this work efficiently at the same time.


They have continued a lot.

Trump error policies at the Border in terms of people trying to apply for Asylum because you know, early in Biden’s Administration.

There was a huge increase in the number of people showing up.

There was a perception in Central America, that the new team was going to be much more welcoming and that caused by into really pivot.


And, like, really try to say to people like, no, we do not want millions of people without visas, showing up the Border, making Asylum claims, and then politically, you know, there.

There is unfortunately not a ton of enthusiasm for increasing levels of illegal immigration.


So it’s been a, he was such an emotional centerpiece of trump era politics, but it’s not something that Democrats see is like a winning issue for them to Champion.

I see a connection between both topics here.

Declining birth rates and declining immigration.


Because in both cases, there seems to be no political will to do something that Obviously good.

Like should we want families to be able to afford children?

Yes, and what are you gonna do about it as little as possible.

It’s the same with immigration.


As my friend.

Caleb Watney.

Who is the co-founder of a new Think Tank Institute for progress.

As Caleb has said, immigration is a geopolitical cheat code, do Americans.

Want the best scientists?

Well, immigrants have been awarded more than one-third of America’s Nobel prizes for medicine since 2000.


Do we want the best companies?

Well, Immigrants account for more than 50% of America’s billion dollar startups, like, high-skilled immigration, is a trillion dollar check lying on the ground and Washington, is just refusing to pick it up.

So Matt, why is Washington refusing to pick up this trillion dollar check lying on the ground?


Can’t even lot of people.

I know.

I mean Hubie Caleb.

Lots of people who are interested in science and growth.

In the economy are very sort of focused on this topic.

Why is it challenging?

For highly skilled workers for scientists for the top talents of the world to come here, you know, the political system is very focused on the security situation.


At the southern border.

The living conditions of millions of undocumented people who’ve been here often times for decades, the families of those, kind of people.

And that is where any political discussion.

Eventually those and then it goes to die there, right?


You start by saying what?

We’re going to have a discussion.

In Congress about visas for scientists and then somebody says, well, okay, we could give more visas for scientists.

But then we need to take away family, unification visas, you know for the children of Cambodian refugees and then somebody else says, no, I don’t want to take away this category visa and then you have a discussion of like, well could we increase the overall Visa cap, but then you’re into, what’s like no one in Congress has comprehensive immigration reform.


Form and so then you need to do something with the president documented population.

You need to do something about the Border.

Nobody even knows what to do about the border.


I mean, Trump got a lot of juice out of the wall, but now he gets a lot of juice out of the fact that, like, people continue to come which they’ve some like logic brain where you’re like, well maybe then the Walton work, but that’s not, you know, how it plays, right?


It’s like we need more wall.

We need two balls.

We need seven walls and there’s just there’s more political.

Around these kind of subjects there is around something boring.

Like why is it so challenging to hire a Canadian computer programmer and like, let her come move to Seattle rather than Vancouver?


Like isn’t that sort of uncontroversial and like, obviously better, but it’s not what gets people fired up.

So to summarize where we are u.s.

Population, growth has fallen, not only because deaths are going up, but also because births and Ian are going down.


And I think one reason why birth rates and immigration are headed in the wrong direction, is that we have failed, politically, and culturally to make the positive case for population growth.

We failed to persuade people that population growth is good, that more Americans makes for a better America.


So you are the author of the book, 1 billion Americans, which calls for among other things, 1 billion Americans that is tripling America’s population.

So Matt, the floor is yours.

Why in the biggest picture is more population growth good?


Why is one really basic reason?

And we’re seeing play out right now with Russia, right?

Is that the United States has a lot of economic clout in the world, right?

Where you can do sections that are quite damaging to foreign actors around the world.

And the reason we can do that is we’re not just rich on a per capita basis, but we’re big, right?


Nobody cares.

Where’s what New Zealand wants to do in global economic policy.

Now, as it happens, they are joining us in the Russian sanctions effort and, you know, good for that.

But the United States and the European Union are these really big actors on the world stage and China is another really big actor.


India is not quite as big an actor because it’s so poor, but they’re up there because they’re so big, right?

And so if you understand the history of the past 200 years, the United States, Is America emerging as a great power of the world stage, has a lot to do with us being a country.


That has a lot of people in it.

Some of that is because we’re a large country, you know, in terms of our Dimensions, but Canada is bigger, in terms of land area.

Then the United States, we are bigger in terms of geopolitical power because we have 10 times as many people living here, you know, and that’s like our weather is better.


Which is good for us.

But, you know, we have recruited more people, historically through immigration.

We sort of settled, the interior of the time.


We have all these major cities.

And so there’s aspects of that, that help Drive our economy forward, but it also drives our sort of national power forward.


And we’ve seen this very concretely play out over the past few weeks.

And yet, I don’t think people focus on it.

They just sort of take it for granted that like, well, America’s big and Canada’s small, and that’s just some kind of weird coincidence, but it’s not a coincidence at all.

I mean, this is a policy choice that throughout the 19th century.


Was a very deliberately made to build this up into a major.

One point that you’ve made before is that it’s really important.

Not only that, the United States retain bigness even grow its business for, you know, the geopolitical tug of war between the US and Russia but also because China fits into this geopolitical struggle as well.


China, right now isn’t just a little bit bigger than the United States.

It’s bigger than the u.s.

Plus Europe plus Japan Plus South Korea plus Taiwan plus Canada, plus Australia, it’s bigger than all of us.

Find and if you want to retain our geopolitical power in the world as China becomes potentially more authoritarian and even more aggressive internationally, you know, we don’t know what it’s going to do in the next few decades.


We don’t know if it’s going to become more Putin ish, in terms of its military strategy.

We need to grow because our size Matters in the geopolitical calculus.

It matters in terms of power military might, but it also matters in terms of economic power.

Like there are American companies say apple that are willing to overlook China’s.


Rific record on human rights in sinkiang because they want access to their enormous domestic market.

Like that is in a way an argument for having a big domestic Market.

You can get countries to do what you want.

You can get companies to do what you want.


If we want to retain these benefits, these geopolitical benefits, these economic benefits.

We have to grow.

Is that a fair summary of this sort of geopolitical argument for growth?


I mean, if you look right now compare U.s.

To China economically.

We’re either a little bit bigger, or maybe they are a little bit bigger depending on Whose statistics, you believe, and how you count it.


But, in terms of wealth, you know, China is about On a par with Bulgaria or Mexico countries, that are much more much weaker than the United States you’re talking about per capita, whatever.

But still like, why is china?

Such a big deal, right?

And it’s because they have so many people, right?


So, they had a big swath on the world stage companies, care a lot about them.

You know, not just foreign companies, but American companies, censor their movies to fit Chinese sensibilities because they need access to that market and China is growing.


Their economy continues to grow.

They’ve slowed down, but they’re still growing faster than we are because it’s easier to catch up.

When you’re poor, we can sort of hope that China stumbles in terms of its domestic handling of things, but that’s not a good plan.



Whereas we can control our destiny in terms of what is our population here.

Or are we supporting our families at home?

Are we taking advantage of the fact that people would like to move here to continue to be a country that has a market that people care about that?


We can use that influence on the world stage, but also continues to be a place that innovators want to bring their new ideas here.


They want to think about, well, how does this work with America, you know, that’s a position of leadership that we’ve had for so long that you could sort of take it for granted.


There’s almost nobody alive today.

Has any experience of the United States not being the number one economy in the world, but that future could be coming really, really soon.

Unless we sort of take deliberate action to stay on top.


What if someone says, what if a listener says, I get that bigger is better in the geopolitical calculus, but I don’t really care that much about population decline.

I don’t really see how population decline or at least a Slowdown in population.

Growth is negative for America.


Well, it means that there’s more space for me.

It means that there’s less traffic for me.

I don’t want more people.

I don’t want more change.

I like America sort of the way it is, and I’d be fine with a kind of calm static Pond of American population growth today.


What would you say are the economic and cultural downsides of population stagnation, which is the future that we are very clearly sliding into?

I mean, one thing I think to look at is the actual parts of the United States where the Relation is declining and that’s been the case in large sort of rural swaths of the country.


And the kind of, you know, High Plains have had population decline for a long time.

We’ve seen a lot of Rust Belt cities have had their population decline, an incredible amount.

And you know, I don’t want to knock st.

Louis or Cleveland or Detroit or other cities that have suffered large-scale population decline, but I don’t think you go to those cities, you particularly don’t go to the neighborhood instead of depopulated and look around and say, Oh, this is great.


We have all this extra space because extra space in the form of like vacant buildings and warehouses that are falling apart because nobody wants to invest in their maintenance or you know, traffic lights that it’s not economical to keep operating them.

So you turn them off.


Like that’s not what people mean by space.

Really right AB soap.

Like we can have national parks, right?

We can have, you know, open Vistas.

We can have Farms.

People can have backyards.

That’s all fine.

But you know, parts of the country that are growing rapidly.


If you go to Austin, Texas, or you go to the suburbs outside office and you’ll save yourself, but this is thriving, right?

These are places where people are going.

And if you go to a Tiny Town in the Texas Panhandle whose population has fallen by half over the past 40 years.


Nobody looks at that.

And it’s like, this is great.

Like this is the future that I’m looking forward to.

It’s hard in concrete terms, actually to stay in a place.

Place that’s losing people, you know, you grow up there and you say to yourself, like well, what am I going to do when I grow up like what kind of services am I going to provide to a community?


That is shrinking?

How am I going to find a partner and get married in a place that other young people are leaving?

And so that kind of decline begets, further decline.

Where’s a place that’s growing?

You say.

Hey, like I’ve got a great idea for a restaurant and there’s going to be more customers that are you say, I know how to swing a hammer and people are going to want more house.


So I’m gonna I’m gonna go there and growth begets more growth.

It’s true that it begets traffic jams, but there’s worse things in the world than traffic jams, honestly and you go to places that have like like Syracuse New York where they have this incredibly overbuilt roadway system.


And I mean, it’s true.

It’s nice that there’s no traffic jams there.

But the reason there’s no traffic jams is that Upstate New York has been a profound economic decline for a generation and they’d be much better.

Our office of traffic.

What do you say to the argument that there are countries that have had extremely slow population growth for the last few decades rich countries that have had extremely slow population growth for the last few years or decades?


And they basically seem fine like someone says, I’ve been to Tokyo, I’ve been in Japan, they’ve barely been growing for the last few decades.

Japan seems pretty rich in happy.

I’ve been to westerners southern Europe, their population growth through absolutely pathetic, but you know, Rome is a beautiful place to live and you know Madrid seems absolutely wonderful.


And I really liked Prague.

What do you say to these people who say, you know, like I’ve been to the places that people like Matt Iglesias say we are turning into and they seem kind of fine to me.

Our is there something that they’re missing or something that they’re not yet seeing because of the Ripple effects of population?


Slowdown in Decline.

I think those Southern European countries, in particular.

They’re very beautiful.

They have a lot of great, ancient architecture and things like that.

And they really Are great places to go and I think we have to ask ourselves, you know, as Americans if we are honest, you know, are like the suburbs of Columbus going to have the same charm.


You know, the United States is a great place to live in its own way, but I think primarily in the sense that like we are very economically Dynamic society that is going to lose out if we don’t have that Japan, you know is an interesting case because Japan has had very slow growth.


A lot of Shinae Jang.

And it is true that they are doing okay.

In geopolitical terms though.

They are also very much counting on the United States of America, to sort of be there, you know, older brother, as they faced off against much more Moline kinds of powers of the region.


And so, it seems like, that’s, that’s fine for Japan, but who is going to be our United States of America?

Like if it’s not us and different countries have different histories.

Japan has this great pose.

World War 2, tradition of pacifism.

And I think we sort of understand why that’s become embedded in the Japanese political system, and why people there are not really inclined toward nationalistic appeals and this kind of thing.


The United States, I think most people here have a sort of different view of our role in the world and that we have been willing to be sort of the global leaders.

The people who say it’s true that Ukraine is like many thousands of miles away and across an ocean, but we are going to Care about this and if we want to keep playing that role, I think we need to sort of Step Up into it.


And we also have an advantage culturally that Japan does not have that central European countries.

Do not have which is that we are a polyglot nation of immigrants and have been for a long time.

We can point to a long history of people coming here from all over the world of our culture changing and adapting.


I mean, I like to say it truly only in America thing.

Is that like our big auntie.

Immigrant demagogue president was married to an immigrant from sleep.

And that’s that’s America, you know, and it is something that not to say that other countries can’t have ever grants.


But if you’re you’re living in Finland and like the name of the country is, well, this is a land for Fitz.

It’s a, it’s like a tougher call to say, well, should a lot of people who aren’t finished.

Come here.

Like, what does that mean for us?

Don’t we exist to like be our own kind of thing?


But America has its own vision of like what is our national Mission and its kind of grandiose, right?

But like we are a Bastion of freedom to all the world and not a place for a particular ethnic group or particular language.


I want to add two more ingredients.

This jambalaya of why population slowdown in population, decline might be - in ways that ordinary listeners might not immediately into it one, is that if you look at Japan, And its GDP per capita.


Not its overall GDP its per capita GDP over the last 25 years.

It is flat in 1994.

Japan had a higher GDP per capita than it has today.


Meanwhile over that same time.

GDP per capita in the u.s.

Has more than doubled.

I think that growth is really important in a polyglot.

Culturally diverse Society because as the economy becomes seen a zero-sum and essentially, everyone is just permanent permanently the exact same amount of income per capita forever.



See that would other people get is what they don’t get.

They see the world as his zero-sum fight for scarce resources, and I think that’s really bad for a culturally Rich culture that Dynamic Society because it turns groups against each other, they convince themselves.


Cause even more, that what group over a gets is, what group B has taken away, just all makers and takers.

So I, I fear for that in a world where America truly becomes economically and demographically stagnant, is that if you think the culture wars bad today, just wait until the perception of zero-sum politics becomes the reality of zero-sum politics.


Maybe just reacted that before I go on to my number two.


No, I think that’s right.

And I do think that the demographics that nation in Japan is Today, sort of per capita income stagnation that.

I’m just, I’m just old enough to remember the era in which Japan was the country of the future and companies, like Sony and Toshiba were at the Leading Edge of technology and Innovation, and I think that it’s hard.


I mean, we just know in life that younger people tend to drive Innovation that Society is that have growth in terms of their breath can also have growth in terms of Ideas and things like that and a lot of these other countries can still do well, if they have good Legacy institutions, but they sort of are along for the ride of kind of copying innovations, that are elsewhere while the leading companies in the world are American or perhaps the future Chinese and it’s, you know, something that we need to consider is the interrelationship between demographic, dynamism and dynamism of ideas versus becoming a place that’s dominated by elderly people.


For very nostalgic or often not in the workforce, who sort of, you know, brightest ideas were 40 Years of the past and then you.

Yeah, you have a kind of a zero-sum nature and particularly for the United States.

If we say, we’re sort of like giving up on growth and we’re giving up on leadership that we would rather just kind of be quiet and pleasant.


But then you look around and you know, it’s a country where people have different ethnic backgrounds.

People have different religions you.

We can put ourselves.

Against each other, if we want to our sort of political entrepreneurs are very good at that, when that’s what they want to be doing.

Or we can say we have a lot in common, right?


We have the sort of, optimistic can do American Spirit.

We have this Legacy of growth, a legacy of Global Leadership and we are going to work together despite, you know, different religious backgrounds, and things like that.

And I were even America has always tried to go forward and if we don’t do that, I don’t know.


I don’t know that.

We can slide down.

He’ll quite as gracefully as Japan has hmm.


The second thing that I want to point out is that I think there’s some people who say, okay you and Matt have put together an argument for why population growth might be good for future.

Americans are good for future American power.


But why is it good for contemporary Americans, isn’t it?

Just going to cash out and more traffic and more crowdedness.

And I think it’s important to say that today’s demographic slump is a reflection of bad.

Bad things like Death Rising is bad.


Americans losing a million people.

Depend emic is badge.

The fact that parents are terrified or just scared of having as many kids as they want.

That is bad.

The fact that there are immigrants around the world who have a billion dollar idea in their head and were like, we’d rather not allow you into this country, or that there are political refugees around the world who desperately need to escape terrible circumstances that want to move to the US.


In order to have a beautiful rich life and were saying, We’d rather not as politically difficult.

All these things are bad.

So even if you are skeptical of the most grandiose positive Vision that were putting forth about the benefits of population growth.


We should see with clear eyes that the reason for the demographics lump.

All of it is bad stuff happening.


I mean absolutely anything.

That’s especially true when you think about them kind of family side of this, right?

I mean, it’s like what are we doing?


As people, or, as a Xiety, it’s very important that people be able to have the kind of family life that they would like to have.

And the fact that it’s become more challenging to do that.

Not through malice, but it’s the Natural Evolution of the economy.



People get more years of education than they used to, which is good.

It’s the way the economy works now though, but human biology has not changed as rapidly as the nature of capitalism, and it maybe doesn’t like magically.

People enough money to buy a house with multiple bedrooms and also to get childcare, an appropriate age to start a family.


And so, you know, we have people are becoming parents later in life, which is great.

I mean, and it’s wonderful and I right around my kid and my knees hurt, you know, it’s, it’s sad if that ends up with people, not being able to have the families that they want to have, right, that we should be masters of Our Own Destiny and not Not just like victims of economic trends that say, oh, you know, like the market doesn’t really want people to have kids.


It says that we should substitute consumption of streaming video for consumption of childcare services.

And yeah, I mean that is what the market is telling us we want to do but part of the reason we have a government is that we can sit down and say, no like that’s right.


This is a wealthy Society.

We would like people to be able to raise children at like a Appropriate time and the quantity that they would like compatible with women being in the workforce and all these other things.

And so we should make that possible like that is the road to a better tomorrow, and it’s true.


I mean, there are technical questions of how do you design these policies?

There are cultural value questions, but it’s worth taking the time to like, actually figure something out and find a way to support families because I don’t think anyone really.



Oh, well, like we should just be totally indifferent to whether or not like this is a country full of happy children or not.

I want to ask about the most common objection, the most popular objections to your argument for population growth.

The one that I see the most is, what about climate change?


Isn’t it?


That if Americans had fewer children and if the Chinese have fewer children, and if all these countries have fewer children, that there would be less emissions growth.

And less of a catastrophic risk to the biosphere.

What is your answer to the climate change?


Objection to population growth?

This is an idea that people invoke a little bit sporadically as an environmental policy, right?

I mean, you know, if you drive drunk and you wreck your car and you like kill five, people that reduces emissions but no one’s like, oh, that’s amazing.



No, you should go do that.


Because what we’re trying to do an environmental policy is like, have a sustainable future, right?

Like, have a world in which people can get, you know, low-carbon energy sources and live good lives.

We’re not saying, I think reasonable people are not saying, you know, what we need to do is like Rec human existence because then it would be as polluting and that’s not it’s not such an idea that anybody tries to apply in a Stay away because it doesn’t really make sense.


That would instead just sort of invoke.

It sporadically and be like, well, if there were fewer, people wouldn’t have these problems and you could, you could phrase that as a kind of, like, I’ve got mine that writes like, you know, I don’t want to support any investments in clean energy.

I don’t want to change the built environment at all.


So my solutions to environmental problems is other people shouldn’t have children and I’ll just keep living my life.

The way I am.

And that’s like, that’s really crappy.

I think when you phrase it that way it is, Is going to be challenging to change.

What kind of vehicles we use and change how our energy comes from and change our agricultural system.


But for most of these topics, I do think there are available technological solutions to produce zero carbon energy.

And we need to make the political choices to in fact, deploy them and Analyse them.

I mean, it’s a great topic and I know you’ve written about sort of abundance and these kind of things and that’s the, at least that’s to me.


The version of the future of that I want is when we say like, there is enough clean energy for everyone not, but we’re going to stick with dirty energy.

But if we don’t want to use too much of it, so there aren’t going to be any people around.

And then we’re going to like, not ask too many questions about what’s supposed to happen in Nigeria Ethiopia, and all these other countries that want to get rich and want to industrialize, right?


I think there’s the acute argument in the big picture argument, the acute argument that you just made very well.

Is that even if the US, just Cops growing and Spain just stops growing and the United Kingdom, just stops growing.

You’re still going to have billions of people from Africa.


South America, southeast Asia, entering the middle class, which they have a moral right to do.

And if we don’t decarbonize the grid, then we’re going to be walking into a future with way too many emissions no matter what.

They’ll just be a world with global warming and a slightly smaller us, but the big picture argument, the moral argument to me is that we should To make the world better.


For more people.

We shouldn’t hope for a slightly less shitty world with significantly fewer people.

That clearly seems to be the worst outcome here.

The other argument that I want to throw at you though.


Is that population?

Growth is just annoying.


Traffic sucks, crowded bars.

Suck America’s packed already.

There isn’t enough space.

What is your argument to the there isn’t enough, space objection?


So I don’t think people realize how empty the United States and, you know, I like to go through these kind of basic facts, but if you tripled America’s population, then we would have about the population density of France who would be about half as dense.


As Germany would be best tenth as dense as the United Kingdom.

Even lower than that compared to sort of the big Asian countries, Korea.

Japan, Taiwan, not only are those all nice countries.

But like, I’ve been to the UK and London, is a really big city, but you can also like, Took the train to Cardiff.


And I went past the Rolling Hills and like the Sheep around and so even countries that are dramatically denser than the United States of America, have plenty of sort of space in them as an aggregate type thing.

And you can go down the list.

In terms of resources.


We have much more than three times.

The per capita, freshwater of a country, like, Germany or Spain or Italy and they’re not, you know, Running Out of Water there.

Do course.

There’s a management challenge.


I mean, if you go Go from where America was a hundred years ago to where it is.



We had to build a lot of infrastructure to facilitate the growth that we’ve had in the future.

We would need more infrastructure if we had more people.

I just don’t think it’s, it’s almost like Unbecoming a country that like, went to the moon to say, like, well, we couldn’t build an aqueduct for water when we built them in the past, like many of them.


Like there’s all these people in Phoenix, which is maybe not the greatest place to have dumb decision.

There and you know, it’s okay we can we can find ways to make all of these sort of picking your room type objections, you know, work.

I think if we, if we take it seriously, let’s talk about one of your favorite policy suggestions for helping Americans have as many children as they want.


And one policy suggestion that you have on the immigration side.

What’s your favorite?

Most plausible policy change on the fertility, front?

So, I mean I think we got close to establishing just cast grants to all parents of young children.


And now it’s going to go away unfortunately in 2022, but I really think that people who care about family life need to sort of put all their efforts into this and it’s not that child care is bad or the preschool is bad but that you can use money to purchase child care services if you have it.


And at the thing that is most likely to generate some kind of brought Coalition, that is values.

Agnostic is the idea of cash support for parents, you know, Mitt Romney has some interest in this idea.

So there’s little kind of inklings of bipartisan support and that’s really what I would work toward their, and your favorite policy suggestion for immigration.


You want immigration.

I think there’s a lot of different ways that we could go, but I think, especially really in grazing or uncapping, the number of English-speaking college graduates, or maybe just people with technical skills.

And who can come should be a no brainer.

It’s not the thing that kind of raises, hackles are the biggest concerns about wages and scarcity and things like that right now.


You know, Tom Cotton has this bill that’s like make immigration to the United States based on he calls it merits, but it’s based on this educational table technical skills, and I think it’s like a perfectly reasonable idea, but then he wants to cut the amount of immigration in half and that doesn’t make sense.


It’s like if you got better at selecting the most valuable and And he should get more of them.


I mean, it’s like anything is like that if you have something that’s like more amazing than you want more of it.

And that’s kind of the area that we should be pushing toward.

But it means trying to disengage from some of that the long-standing arguments about immigration and we’ve had money for families more smart immigrants.


Seems like a layup for some reason.

It isn’t.

I know you and I are working daily to change the culture climate to make the obvious more obvious, but We will continue to do so Matt.

Thank you very much.

Thank you planning this with Derek Thompson is produced by Devon.



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