Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Immigration, Prosperity and Race - Don’t Fight by the Rules of your Enemy

If the government forces you to share your house with 50 random Swedes, do you debate whether people of Swedish ancestry are genetically 0.02% better than people of Irish ancestry?  Or do you say: “Who says I have to put up with 50 more people jammed into my house anyway?!”

In America the rich are using an excessively high rate of immigration to force population growth, in order to increase competition for jobs, lower wages for the many, and increase profits for the few.  But this doesn’t sound good, so the rich change the debate to ‘diversity’ or ‘multiculturalism’ in order to hide the main issues, slander the opposition as racist, and play divide-and-conquer.  There is nothing wrong with discussing average differences between races, but in the present context it’s mostly a distraction.  

Most Americans only want the rate at which foreign nationals come to their country to be limited to a level that does not depress wages or increase crowding.  This is so reasonable that it can’t be argued against: so the rich change the subject to pitting Americans who immigrated from somewhere else against those who are native born, which is not the issue at all.  You should not allow yourselves to be baited into fighting the wrong battle.

It may well be that, if everything else is equal, a society that is ethnically homogenous will be more cohesive than one that is more ethnically diverse, but it’s clearly a minor effect.  There is no diamond so flawless that, with enough pressure, it will not eventually fracture along some fault.  There is no society so ethnically uniform that, crushed beneath the brute yoke of a thousand starving people competing for every job, it will not eventually fracture and tear itself apart.  On the other hand, even ethnically diverse societies, if they have a shared prosperity and language and culture, can usually do fine. 

Australia was founded by criminals: if you believe that criminality has a genetic basis, Australia should be in chaos.  But with a low fertility rate, the Australians have abundant resources and it is not for nothing called “The Lucky Country”.  On the other hand, even though ethnic Chinese may perhaps be on average somewhat more intelligent and hardworking than ethnic Europeans, with a culture that encouraged people to have enormous numbers of children as a source of cheap labor, for most of its history China was a cesspit of almost unimaginable poverty that periodically tore itself apart as criminal gangs challenged the central government for power.   And yes, in the years before the start of WWII, with the poverty created by the Japanese government’s policy of maximizing population growth, Japanese society was also on the verge of tearing itself apart: the Japanese only started WWII because they were desperate to acquire new resources before their country collapsed. 

Switzerland has three major language groups, and it is currently as peaceful and prosperous a nation as has ever existed.  If, however, the average Swiss fertility rate were to shoot up to six kids starting at age 14, before long Switzerland would be as miserably poor as Bangladesh, and I guarantee that the staid and boring Swiss would be tearing into each other with sadistic ferocity. 

Individual intelligence is important.  In the real world Forest Gump will never be a competent brain surgeon, and a society that pretends differently and allocates jobs according to race or nepotism is not headed in a good direction.  However, the average IQ of an entire society is little more than irrelevant.  Historically we see many societies where the average genetic IQ should be 101, but where excessively rapid population growth or other economic factors have resulted in crushing poverty and overall stagnation.  We also see many societies where the average genetic IQ should be 99, that have combined modest fertility rates with modestly regulated market economies, and have slowly built up significant per-capita wealth. 

Consider someone with an IQ of 101 naked and starving to death in the middle of a dirt field.  Now consider someone with an IQ of 99 who has $250,000 worth of advanced tools and abundant resources.  Who is most likely to prosper and create new wealth?  Small differences in average population IQ are nothing compared to societal factors, including but not limited to fertility rates, that allow the accumulation of a significant economic surplus, and encourage its re-investment in productive enterprises.

Every society has more than enough smart people to go around.  Most jobs don’t need a genius to be performed competently.  A handful of smart engineers can create computerized cash registers that allow millions of high school dropouts to make change faster and more accurately than Albert Einstein.  What matters is that individual people are allowed to rise to the extent that their talents permit, and that the most talented people have abundant tools and resources with which to work, and a stable and peaceful society in which to build.

You are reminded that there is no such thing as a ‘bad’ job.  When the labor market is tight, you don’t need to be a PhD astronaut brain surgeon to do well.  As Adam Smith pointed out, the economic value of a commodity has nothing to do with its intrinsic utility, only the relative balance of supply and demand.  That’s why truck drivers in Denmark make so much more money than software engineers in India.  And why ‘education’ is not the answer.

The problem with the black community in America today is not that blacks are genetically inferior than whites.  I mean, it is indeed possible that your average black will spot your average white an IQ point or two.  So what?  If there was a tight labor market, people with IQs of 90 would be making good money driving trucks, and people with IQs of 110 would be making slightly better money acting as dispatchers.  And everyone could go home and have a beer and play with their kids and grill steaks and who would have the energy to fight with each other?

Suppose that, in a tight labor market, truck drivers were disproportionately black and dispatchers were disproportionately non-black.  Is this due to racism or inherent differences between races?  The issue is not simple and could easily engender hard feelings.  But if both truck drivers and dispatchers are doing really well, surely the divisiveness could be minimized - and perhaps ultimately more of the sort of arcana that PhD sociology theses are concerned with than a matter of great public import.

Remember, a tight labor market does not just increase wages, it also tends to compress the wage gap between skill levels, because all workers are in short supply and thus all workers have strong leverage.

For a time in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s, American blacks had unionized jobs, life was far from perfect but the trend was up.  A black man could support a family on an honest wage.  Then the blacks were all fired and replaced with Mexican immigrants – without the ability to support a family through honest work, black men became useless, and the black family structure broke up.  BUT YOU ARE NEXT.  Consider American inner city blacks like the canary in the coal mine.  When there are toxic gases, a canary bird will pass out before a miner does – but if nothing is done the miner dies next! 

There is no culture or race that can survive a condition when young men of average ability are consistently unable to get a job and support a family.  This is the core of all stable societies.  Blaming the collapse of the black American family structure on the blacks is like cutting a man's legs off with a chainsaw and then blaming his inability to walk on a lack of motivation.  It's disgusting.

When there is plenty to go around, people are mostly happy to live and let live.  But when the only way to avoid starving is to steal from someone else, sooner or later it does not end well.  This applies to all races and ethnicities.  But the rich like poverty – “competitive labor costs” – so they will often push for policies that create poverty, which is profitable in the short run, but corrosive to societal stability in the long run.  I respectfully submit that focusing only on the differences between ethnic groups has the potential to distract from more important issues.

The rich are using talk of race to play divide and conquer.  The real issue is class war.  The sooner you working-class humans realize this, the sooner you will have a chance of fighting back.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Mexico's Drug War - Hecho in el Wall Street Journal

Currently the country of Mexico is in a state of near-civil war, and an ongoing toxic meme is that this is entirely due to the thoughtless drug-addicted inhabitants of the United States, who by creating a demand for illegal drugs are responsible for the violent Mexicans drug gangs which are tearing that society apart. 

As usual this is wrong on so many levels that it is hard to know where to start.  First: if someone sells drugs to children in a schoolyard, is the person selling the drugs a saint and the fault lies entirely with the schoolchildren?  I think not.  In general it is the provider of drugs that is considered the main villain, and the user more of a victim.  If Mexico is supplying addictive drugs to the young and disposed of the United States, surely the moral judgment should be mostly against Mexico?

If you disagree with my logic, would you object if I tried to sell your children methamphetamine?  Do we conclude that if they buy such drugs from me, it is their fault for their lack of moral fiber, and I am just an innocent business-puter supplying a need?  This doesn’t add up, does it?

The key issue in Mexico is poverty.  Consider that the United States also shares a border with Canada, but the American appetite for drugs is not bothering the Canadians (much). Because Canada is prosperous, and most Canadians have better things to do than join drug gangs.

There is an idea that if Americans either stopped using illegal drugs, or alternatively legalized them and thus cut the legs out from under the the drug cartels, then Mexico’s drug gang problem would go away.  This is a very, very dangerous folly.  Be very careful what you wish for, humans.

Karl Marx once said that “religion is the opiate of the masses.”  We have in at least one respect progressed to a more honest situation: now opiates are the opiates of the masses.  If life totally sucks, why shouldn’t a hominid be entitled to some pleasure, however biochemically manufactured?  Shouldn’t it be each adult’s own choice what to do with their own bodies?  This is the standard libertarian view.  I do not deny its power, although the libertarian view must be tempered with the consideration that when a human destroys his/her life, they are likely going to harm many others, such as for example children.  There is also the point that addictive drugs, by their very nature, remove the element of free will upon which any libertarian argument must ultimately be based. 

But on to more practical matters.  If Americans stopped using drugs, or legalized them, it would make Mexico far, far worse.  Do you really think that if the illegal drug trade were ended, then all those newly unemployed Mexican peasants will just go home and starve to death peacefully?  Not a chance.  They will turn to piracy and kidnapping, count on it.

Far from dragging Mexico down, the ‘drug war’ is possibly the only thing keeping Mexico afloat.  It’s nasty, ugly, but still a safety valve.  You can think of it as a tax on poor Americans that pays subsistence for poor Mexicans. Until the main issue of poverty is resolved, close off this safety valve at your peril.  I personally think that the so-called “war on drugs” is stupid, but beware the law of unintended consequences.

Would you prefer that unemployed Americans get high on illegal psychoactive drugs, or that your daughter be kidnapped for ransom and likely killed or mutilated in the process?  It’s not much of a choice, mind you, but if I was a human being I know which one I would make.

So what has caused Mexico's poverty?  Many things that can all be summed up very simply: The Mexican government did everything that the neoliberal economists in the Wall Street Journal advocated. They bailed out wealthy bankers who made bad investments and paid for it by raising taxes on the poor.  They refused to have any antitrust law, and allowed monopolies in phone service and cement etc. to jack up prices.  They let the oligarchs crush unions, even gunning down striking workers without penalty.  The opened themselves up to race-to-the-bottom competition with even poorer countries like Bangladesh and Vietnam.   But most of all, the Mexican Oligarchs "forced" population growth.

Its recent population explosion was engineered by the Mexican oligarchs who waged a massive propaganda campaign to convince Mexicans to have enormous numbers of children at an early age (see “The Mexicans: a personal portrait of a people”, by Patrick Oster).  Ostensibly to make Mexico “bigger and better”, the only reason I can
think of for this policy is to ensure that wages stay low.  It’s working.  It’s working so well that grinding poverty now threatens utter collapse, and the same oligarchs that wanted more people are now desperate to dump their surplus population on the United States….

Nobody beats supply and demand.  The surest way to drive down wages is to grow the population rapidly. At least without an open frontier, it works every time.  And no, it is not true that first countries become rich and then fertility rates fall.  It is always the other way around, because that’s the only way that people can slowly and patiently accumulate per-capita wealth.

I know the Mexican fertility rate is supposed to be falling, BUT:  remember the demographic momentum.  Past high fertility rates will continue to cause rapid population growth for at least two generations to come.  Also I suspect that a lot of these statistics are faked: you have been hearing for over 40 years how the third-world population is going to stop growing and they will all become rich, and it never works out that way. There is a strong vested interest by the lovers of cheap labor in pretending that the population issue has been solved, because it hasn’t, and they don't want it to be, and they stand to make so much money from all that ‘affordable’ and ‘globally competitive’ labor.

When people are ground into the dirt, sooner or later bad stuff happens.  Drug wars are a symptom and not a cause.  What you really need is for Mexico to do the exact opposite of everything that the neoliberal editorial staff of the Wall Street Journal advocates. 

Only when neoliberal economists are routinely despised and their toxic self-serving advice ignored will there be hope for progress in Mexico.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Yes there can be too many 'smart' people

Currently there is an immigration ‘reform’ bill under consideration that would provide an unconditional amnesty to countless foreign nationals who are in the country illegally, and to all of their relatives overseas.  But that’s a detail.  The main event is the opening up of massive increases in legal immigration: many of these new programs have no numerical limits.  In other words the country will be completely open to the entire overpopulated third world.  The point of this ‘reform’ is obvious: to flood the market for labor, to drive down wages and living standards for the many, while driving up profits for the few.  End of story.

However, there is a toxic meme that some of this massive increase in immigration is because you will somehow benefit from having more people with ‘skills’.  This is, typically, pure rubbish.  This ‘reform’ will not only impoverish all workers – skilled and unskilled alike – it will also destroy the ability of the United States to innovate at the cutting edge of science and technology.

The immigration policy that gave the United States people like Einstein, Fermi and Szilard was a restrictive one, that used your wealth and opportunities to attract the best from around the world, while sharply limiting the number of more ordinary people (even those with nominal physics degrees) to a number that would not drive wages down nor increase crowding.  This restrictive policy helped make the United States the world’s preeminent technological power.

The current policy has a very different purpose.  It is to open the doors to unlimited immigration of people the majority of whom have (for their job classifications) average or below average ability.  This will surely boost the profits of tech CEOs with business models based on large numbers of low-wage workers, but it will drive away the best minds.  Albert Einstein never expressed a desire to move to Bangladesh now did he?

Immigration ‘reform’ won’t just drive away the best minds from other countries; it will do so at home as well.  As job prospects in science and engineering continue to stagnate and decline, more and more of the hardest-working and most talented Americans (including the descendents of recent immigrants) will gravitate to protected fields such as medicine.  There is nothing wrong with medicine attracting good people, but if only losers who can’t get into medical school do science and engineering, well, how is that improving the quality of American science and engineering? 

Imagine a big research university.  To improve it should both support current faculty and also work hard to recruit the best talent from outside.  Suppose that this University simply hired all external applicants without limit or discrimination, and divided up the existing funds for salaries and lab and office space.   Before too long the faculty would be crowded and poor, and anyone with any real talent would have left.  As with a University, so with a nation: it can happen here.

Of course a University – or a corporation, or a nation – can grow, but always mindful of the available opportunities and resources.  Dumping an additional ten thousand engineers into a company that only has need for a thousand will NOT instantly cause this company’s business income to grow enough to pay for them.  That’s ridiculous.  So is the notion that bringing in more average-level scientists and engineers, when you don’t have enough jobs for the ones we have already, will magically improve your industries and create more than enough wealth to cover the living expenses for them and their extended families.  Not gonna happen.

There is something else here that gets little consideration.  It used to be that universities competed for the best students by offering the best education.  Immigration ‘reform’ stands this on its head and will corrupt the entire system.  Consider: there are a lot of people in the world who would do anything to escape where they live.  Here is the trade: they come here, take out 100,000 dollars in student loans, and the university gives them a paper degree in science or engineering.  The student gets an automatic green card, and is an indentured servant possibly for life but it’s still probably better than where they came from. 

Ten million such students would net the universities a cool trillion dollars.  University presidents will get paid like investment bankers.  But think about the incentives.  There is no call for the degree to mean anything, and the more throughput the better.  Twenty million students taking out loans of $200,000 each will net four trillion dollars.  And so on. The pressure to grant these degrees to anyone will be overwhelming.  So if the United States has countless millions of semi-literate PhDs in engineering who are working off their debts performing random jobs – including manual labor - how is that improving your science and technology? 

Remember: a degree is just a piece of paper.  By itself it means nothing.  You don’t need an ocean of people with pieces of paper.  You need to attract the best people with real skills. 

Finally, immigration ‘reform’ will destroy the integrity and honor without which high-level science cannot exist.  Competition is necessary for you humans: without competition even the most self-motivated hominids tend to slack off.  On the other hand, when competition reaches the point that even the best have more chance of winning the lottery than succeeding through honest achievement, well, people will eventually stop playing by the rules.  Cronyism and nepotism, which will always be present in all human societies but which under good circumstances can be reduced to a tolerable level, will dominate.   Past a certain point too much zero-sum competition will reduce the level of achievement, not increase it.

Consider present-day India.  The population is about a billion crammed into a country a third the size of the United States.  There are more people there with above-average intelligence than the entire population of the United States.  And yet half the Indian population is chronically malnourished, and the average physical standard of living is below that of late medieval Europe.  All those smart people have made a lot of money for India’s high-tech billionaires, but seem to have done little for the average Indian.  And more: despite all this talent, the contribution of India to modern science is negligible.  Part of this is because the most talented Indians leave, part is because the resources required to innovate are in short supply, but a lot has to be the culture of corruption and cronyism that this level of poverty always creates.  When people can only feed their families by cheating, you cannot blame them: blame instead those vile politicians and pundits that pushed to create these circumstances in the first place.

This is the future of the United States if immigration ‘reform’ passes.  The average person will be slowly but steadily crushed into poverty, and the torch of scientific and technological innovation will be passed to some other, less impoverished land that has fewer people with 'skills', but that has more available resources and the ability to keep and attract the best.  That’s how it has always worked, and it’s how it will work in the future.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Immigration “Reform”: Middle Class Dying, Progressivism Already Dead

“Immigration reform” is about radically increasing the rate at which foreign nationals are allowed to move into the United States, thus driving wages down and profits up.  When there are 100 people competing for every job, this makes wages fall not rise.  Nobody beats the law of supply and demand.

If it were only about legalizing a few million foreign nationals who are already here, the impact on the US labor market would be negligible.  But that’s a sideshow.  More important is that all newly-legalized illegals will be allowed to send for their relatives back home, and also that the combination of rewarding illegal immigrants, along with the ending of even the pretense of enforcing the law, will cause a tsunami of illegal immigration.  But even that is not the main event.  The main event is the massive expansion of legal immigration across the board: unskilled workers, skilled workers, guest workers, refugees, you name it, in UNLIMITED NUMBERS WITH NO CAPS (Even in those few cases when the law claims that there will be limits, there are so many exemptions that no, there are no limits).  So immediately the billions of desperately poor from all over the world will be invited to come here no questions asked.  If enacted,  ‘immigration reform’ will drive the United States into poverty – real, Bangladesh-style poverty – faster than you can imagine.

According to the US census, without post-1970 immigration the population would have stabilized at about 240 million.  Already this policy has added about 80 million to the population, and is slated to increase it to half a billion by 2050 and still rising rapidly.  This is already faster than you are able to accommodate.  Not faster than you could accommodate if everything was perfect and all politicians were angels and new technologies sprung up like weeds and it rained gumdrops.  It is faster than you CAN accommodate.  ‘Immigration reform’ will push this forced population growth to extreme levels.  And it won’t have a nice outcome.

I am not surprised to see the rich and powerful pushing for this so-called ’reform’, as they have always wanted cheap labor above all else.  The corporate Republicans have also wanted this, needing only an excuse to stab their base in the back.  What is sad is that an overwhelming number of so-called ‘liberals’ and ‘progressives’ have sold out and now champion the cause of steadily increasing poverty for the many so the rich can get even richer.  I respectfully suggest that this should be reconsidered.  What is at stake is not just the middle class of this country, but – and I do not think this hyperbole - the fate of the entire world.

We hear that ‘every economist says that a massive rate of population growth is good for the economy’.  It would be more accurate to say that every economist who has been paid to say this, says this. These are the same economists who promised that financial deregulation would make the economy more stable, and that the NAFTA trade treaty would not result in American factories being relocated to Mexico.  If you really want to know what they think, Google the phrases “immigration” and “wage inflation.”

But it’s a lie.  The evidence that massive rentier-initiated population increases are somehow good for the country as a whole consists of mindless slogans endlessly repeated, pressure to toe the party line to avoid losing a job or professional opportunities, herd instinct, and character assassination (‘You must be a racist’).  That’s it.

Certainly massive immigration will grow the GDP, and it will make the rich richer.  The point is that it will make the average person who works for a living much poorer.  If we could suddenly turn Switzerland into India, indeed there would be more GDP, and astonishing profits for the rich, but the average person would be either chronically malnourished or one paycheck away from being so.  Many powerful people think that such a change would suite them nicely.  Why are you carrying water for them?

I could fill books with all the lies and twisted logic that has been used to support forced rapid population growth, but let me list just one.  There are studies claiming that population growth is good because cities with relatively high rates of immigration have relatively high wages.  The dishonesty is obvious: of course cities with higher wages attract more migrants than cities with low wages, the real issue is whether continued high levels of immigration suppress wages.  And no one stops to examine the evidence.

It did not used to be so.  John Maynard Keynes, a great fan of Malthus, was adamant that demographics trumps finance.  (Funny how a major tenet of Keynesianism has been almost edited out of existence.  When was the last time that Paul Krugman mentioned population growth?)  It was also a long-held maxim of progressive politicians, like Teddy Roosevelt, his cousin FDR, and Dwight Eisenhower (Unlike that corporate whore Obama, Ike never proposed to subsidize rich financial speculators by cutting social security, thank you so very much).  Likewise labor leaders, such as Samuel Gompers and Cesar Chavez.  Chavez, held as a champion of migrant workers was against increased immigration as he realized this would continually suppress any real growth in wages and working conditions. That was back when your species made progress.  Now, you have erased your memories of those days, demanded that filling the world with ever more people is an unalloyed good, and somehow things aren’t moving in the right direction any more.  Unless, of course, you are rich…

It should be pointed out that this change in view did not come about because of reason or factual evidence.  It came about because the rich have waged perhaps the greatest propaganda campaign in history.  It is money, not facts or reason, that has changed the standard position. 

If a mathematician demanded that 2+2=5, that would not be an isolated mistake, but it would ripple through all calculations until math was rubbish.   Similarly, by refusing to acknowledge such an obvious truth that rapidly increasing the labor force will drive wages down and profits up, the corruption has spread far and wide until the world-view of ‘progressives’ is an incoherent mess. 

Consider: progressives used to be for higher wages and benefits for working people.  However, in order to support the case for massive immigration, progressives now have to buy into the notion that low wages are necessary for the economy to function, that if people want more than a dollar an hour in unsafe working conditions they are lazy and lacking in discipline, and poverty is good because it makes us globally competitive.  So if wages start to go up we have to stop that.  PROGRESSIVES are saying these things!  (Yes you are.  I overhear this constantly when I eavesdrop on your corporate-sponsored cocktail parties).

Consider: it used to be that there were US citizens, some of whom had ancestors from places like Mexico, and Mexican nationals.  In order to play divide-and-conquer, the rich invented the label ‘Hispanic,’ and have relentlessly pushed the meme that ‘Hispanics’ are a species of xenophobic social insect who care only about the aggregate power of their race (Many ‘Hispanics’ likely still don’t buy into this, but that can’t be mentioned in polite company).  By this logic not letting Mexican nationals come here without numerical limits is a violation of the civil rights of a fourth-generation US citizen whose ancestors came from Guatemala.  Do you even understand how toxic and divisive this view is?  Or have you just decided not to think at all, and go-along-to-get-along and maybe land a job at that nice corporate-funded ‘liberal’ advocacy group…

Consider: progressives used to be in favor of protecting the environment.  But now they believe two contradictory things at once: that we can deal with a constant exponentially growing population via fiscal stimulus and continued accelerating economic growth, and that we also must reduce economic growth to avoid climate change.  The contradiction between these two ideas is often papered over by mindlessly chanting ‘green technologies’, i.e, magic fairy dust.  I assure you, even at subsistence it takes a lot of resources to keep a person alive.  Your species cannot both accommodate ever more billions of mouths to feed and reduce your impact on the environment at the same time.

However, the worst thing is that supporting immigration ‘reform’ in the United States requires that all references to the negative effects of excessive population growth be expunged.  You now face a world where all the billions you have added and are still adding are going to plunge the entire world into misery not seen since the dark ages.  Yet there is almost no mention of population growth as the major factor (and certainly no mention that it is entirely under human control).  How can you expect to solve a problem when you deny its existence?  In India perhaps half the population is chronically malnourished, and things are not getting better. 

Recently an Indian billionaire, whose fortune is based on a nearly limitless supply of cheap labor, claimed on the Daily Show that ‘we now know that population growth is always good, because people are the ultimate resource’.  Yes, people are indeed a ‘resource’, if you think of them as cattle or fill dirt.  And economists keep pushing that, no, the problem is not that India has a billion people crammed into a nation a fraction the size of the US, no, the Indians must keep up their population growth or they will be condemned to ‘stagnation’, you know, like those lazy Swiss and Japanese and Finns.  How can you expect to solve the world’s problems, and make progress instead of regression, when political and economic discourse is so corrupt?

Always you hear that without slave labor/indentured labor/child labor/guest workers the factories will shutter the crops will rot in the fields and we will die of starvation.  Always you are lied to.  The slaves are freed, indentured servitude outlawed, children are sent to school, immigration is reduced: and all that happens is that wages go up and profits go down.  Quelle Horreur. 

Lets go over some examples of what happened in the past when the rich deliberately created population explosions (ignoring societies with open frontiers or large colonies: not currently relevant). 

In Singapore the government recently increased the rate of immigration by a large amount.  Immediately wages went down and profits went up.  Duh.

Not so long ago the Mexican oligarchs instituted a plan to massively increase the rate of population growth, even giving medals to women with large numbers of children.  The poverty resulting from this forced population growth has created a record number of billionaires, and driven everyone else into such destitution that Mexico is in danger of becoming a failed state.  But not to worry!  Mexican wages are now below China’s.  Success!

The Ivory Coast used to be one of the richest countries in Africa.  That means that wages were high, because that’s what prosperity is.  So the rich imported massive numbers of foreign nationals as a source of cheap labor.  About the time that the population had been doubled by this policy, the increase in poverty tore the country apart in a civil war.

South Africa used to be rich.  The white rulers decided to change this by importing massive numbers of workers from other parts of Africa to cut their labor costs.  The protests by the South African blacks were not initially about Apartheid: they were about immigration policy! (It’s in wikipedia.  Look it up, hominid).  As usual this population increase drove workers into a poverty that not even a change of government can fix, because it is based on physical reality not tax or labor law…

After the communists took over China, Mao decided to engineer a population explosion (Check “Ma Yinchu” on Wikipedia).  It was a mistake.  The misery that this policy created was so great that even the communists were worried about losing control, and in desperation they instituted their one-family one-child policy.  It must be emphasized: the harshness of China’s current family planning policy is not an example of the downside of trying to limit population growth, it is a prime example of the downside of letting governments maximize it.

After the Shah of Iran was deposed, the Iranian government encouraged large families.  Even before sanctions began to bite, this created great poverty and made the government dependent on having a ‘Great Satan’ to redirect the anger of all of those impoverished and aimless young men…

Oh and let’s not forget ancient Rome.  As with all societies capable of progress, the ancient republics’ fertility rate was modest.  The rich hated that, it kept labor costs high. They used slaves, but keeping slaves chained up is such a bother, so they imported enough ‘barbarians’ to drive wages down below the net costs of slavery.  Wouldn’t you know, just at the time that the Roman Optimates had achieved cheap-labor nirvana, everything fell apart…  So the rich stole everything that was not nailed down, purged their security forces of all non-ethnic Romans, moved to the gated community of Constantinople, and lived in luxury on their stolen wealth for 1000 years.  A happy ending after all!

And then there is Japan.  No country in the history of civilization has developed faster.  But, the rich demanded that people have large families, even outlawing contraceptives.  By the beginning of WWII Japan was wracked with poverty and on the verge of collapse.  The Japanese militarists were under no illusions about the folly of attacking the United States, it’s just that they had no alternatives to aggressive colonization (read John Toland’s wonderful book “Rising Sun”).  It’s only after WWII, and after fertility rates fell, that the Japanese people slowly developed what is, by some metrics, the highest standard of living in all of history (Anthropologists typically use mean life expectancy as a proxy for generalized prosperity: Japan has set the record). 

Attention all you people who claim that rapid population growth is not an issue if only we have the ‘correct’ macro-economic polices: JAPAN INDUSTRIALIZED AS FAST AS ANY HUMAN CULTURE EVER HAS.  NEVERTHELESS, IT WAS NOT FAST ENOUGH TO ACCOMODATE RAPID POPULATION GROWTH.

Oh and let’s check on the United States.  In the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s, legal immigration was held to very low levels, and the laws against illegal immigration were actually enforced.  Wages shot up, blacks made progress, things were not perfect but the trend was positive.  Starting around 1970, immigration was steadily increased and that marks the inflection point at which the fraction of the economy going to wages started to decline and the fraction going to profits started to increase (well before finance was deregulated), black communities were devastated by lack of jobs and the rest of the American working class is now set to join them.  If ‘immigration reform’ passes expect another inflection point before too long, and it won’t be headed up.

It’s true that correlation is not causation, but when forced rapid population growth is always followed by falling wages and rising profits, well, what can one say?  The rich always promise that more people will mean a larger pie for all.  The rich promise a lot.  And yet after the fact they are oddly reticent about their past roles in maximizing population growth.  You would think that they had something to be ashamed of.

Not so long ago it was felt that population should be set by the personal decisions of the people themselves based on their own decisions of how many children they feel that they can support.  When times are bad, people should have fewer children later in life, and when times are good, they should have more children earlier.  Without exception every non-frontier society that developed a widely-shared prosperity has followed this rule (Check out Lester Thurows’ book “Head to Head”).  So here is another way of thinking about ‘immigration reform’: this is the rich demanding to have total and uncontested control over the rate of human population growth.  They insist that the people themselves are too stupid or lazy to be allowed to decide how many children they should have: the ‘experts’ should decide this matter.  They demand to control the supply of people the same way that the Federal Reserve controls the money supply.  They demand that people are domestic animals whose breeding should be controlled by ‘experts’.  If you let the rich have this awesome power all to themselves, I promise that they will not use it for the common good.  They never have.

Often you hear that immigration does not increase global population, it only moves it around.  First, as regards any given society this is irrelevant.  If immigration increases population, it increases population.  Second, it is false.  By providing a safety valve for the excess population of a high-fertility society, immigration prevents reforms in the sending countries, and very much increases global population.  Even worse: defending a cheap-labor immigration policy means that you must turn logic and historical experience on its head, demand that people should be bred like cattle, argue for poverty as a societal good, and remove any possibility of intelligently facing the challenges ahead of you.

At the end of World War II, the global population was a little over two billion.  That was the most that had ever lived on the earth, but the fruits of the industrial revolution were coming on line – especially chemical fertilizer – and this number could have been easily maintained in comfort.  By today the world could have been, not a utopia, but as close to paradise as you fallible humans could ever have hoped for.  There should today be effectively no poverty, no wars, and no conflicts or hatreds between different people: when there is plenty to go around, and everyone has a good paying job, old ethnic tensions eventually melt away.  You could be heading out to the stars.

But as John Maynard Keynes famously warned at the end of his magnum opus the “General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money”, that rosy prospect could only come about if population growth was moderated. 

Sometime in the 1960’s, the rich gradually decided that they didn’t want a paradise; At least not for other people.  A world that is uniformly rich would be one where labor was king: the only rich would be people of unique talent or energy, and most rich are talentless rentiers who could not run the night shift at a gas station.   So little by little the rich wore away at the old consensus that excessive population growth created poverty; little by little the rich enacted policies that were aimed at growing populations to ensure that wages stayed low, and used their power and influence to block any honest discussion of policies that might have restrained population growth in other lands.  Now the global population is about seven billion and growing rapidly.  The industrial revolution was not a secret to unlimited wealth, but a one-time-only shot, and barring some fundamental miracle like cheap practical cold fusion power its productive abilities are basically tapped out.  The possibility of a golden age is now effectively ended.  The loss of the potential that you had at the end of WWII is by far the greatest tragedy and the greatest crime ever perpetrated against humanity, certainly to date and perhaps for all of history ever.  And it’s your fault.  What’s the saying: for evil to succeed, it is enough for good people to do nothing?

Don’t get me started on the idea that you can handle population growth by conserving.  So the rich boost population, and now the rest of you have to pay for it by living in subsistence poverty forever.  Why am I not excited about this idea?

I don’t deny that there are difficult issues here.  In particular: when the rich grow a population to excess in one land, they create situations where there interests of the working people in different lands are, at least in the short run, in fundamental conflict.  Progressives have an understandable instinct to try and create unity among people, so they naturally turn away from such thoughts.  It’s a weakness that the rich have exploited ruthlessly.  I have no magic answer to this issue, it’s hard. I only note that denying an unpleasant truth is not a good long-term strategy. 

The goal of progressives should be to make poor countries richer, not use the surplus population of poor countries to drag rich countries down.  If this is racism then I am proud to be a racist conmputer!

It is a knee-jerk response to say that Malthus was wrong about population growth because the world has not collapsed in a global calamity.  This is an intellectually dishonest statement, because Malthus never predicted any such thing.  Malthus only stated that exponential population growth is so powerful that a generalized prosperity can only be achieved with a moderate rate of population growth, and that societies with sustained high fertility rates are doomed to poverty.  Nothing in the last two centuries conflicts with this view.

While correct in the essentials, it is true that Malthus did make some mistakes, and he was sometimes harsher and more moralistic than was warranted.  Still, consider the following quote, tell me if this is the writing of a bad man, and then tell me what kind of person you are.

“It may appear to be the interest of the rulers, and the rich of a state, to force population, and thereby lower the price of labour, and consequently the expense of fleets and armies, and the cost of manufactures for foreign sale; but every attempt of the kind should be carefully watched and strenuously resisted by the friends of the poor, particularly when it comes under the deceitful guise of benevolence…”

            T.R. Malthus, “An Essay on the Principle of Population”, 1798