Donald Trump seems to be having trouble from the judicial branch in implementing executive orders aimed at restricting entry to the U.S. Presumably folks who were opposed to these orders are happy about this roadblock. I’m wondering if even people who support Trump’s attempted policies should also be happy about this.
As Hawaiians and Native Americans can attest, immigration can completely change the character of a country and the experience of life as a citizen. Why would we want to let one person, however wise (Obama!) or unwise (the hated King Donald) make decisions regarding what kind of a country we will have in 2050 or 2100?
Should Congress figure this out and limit the authority of Presidents to make massive changes via executive order?
Instead of experiencing dramatic unplanned changes, why not get a political consensus around two main points:
- how large a population do we want to have?
- what kind of fellow citizens do we want to share the country with?
Most of our population growth is driven by immigration either directly or through the higher fertility of the immigrants we have accepted (Pew). If we increase immigration we can accelerate our growth from 325 million up to 600 million or perhaps even 1.35 billion (works for the Chinese, right? They don’t have any more land than we do.). If we shut off immigration entirely we could perhaps hold at somewhere between 325 million and 400 million. If we eliminate immigration and tax incentives to native-born Americans to have children, we could gradually restore the U.S. to the level of crowding circa 1970 when 200 million folks occupied this land (plus roughly 1 million Native Americans, who could not be considered “occupiers”).
There is no rational fact-driven approach to determining a “correct” population size, which is why it would make sense to decide it via a political process. Some people value solitude, open space, and affordable real estate. Others might prefer a society packed with interesting people to talk to and are happy to live in 300-square-foot studio apartments.
What about the Jihad/no-Jihad choice that Trump highlights? Maybe that is the wrong question.
Let’s start with economics. We owe $19 trillion and want someone else to work to pay it back. In light of The Son Also Rises, if we want successful people in our population we can give priority to immigrants from the most successful economies worldwide and to immigrants who come from exceptionally successful families (look at parents, aunts/uncles, grandparents, siblings).
There’s more to life than money, right? What could be more important than being surrounded by happy people? We can give priority to immigrants from any country ranked as happier than the U.S. and be more selective about immigrants from comparatively unhappy countries. (Note that at least one study shows that people in Syria and Yemen are extremely unhappy and therefore a heavy weight toward this factor would accomplish the same thing as Trump’s proposed restrictions.)
How about political stability? To judge by Facebook, at least half of Americans express terror on a daily basis regarding the consequences of perceived political instability under the Trump Administration. Why not give priority to immigrants from countries with a long history of political stability?
Facebookers are also prone to complaining that a lot of Americans don’t respect science and scientists. Instead of tearing ourselves away from the TV to study, we could give priority to immigrants from those countries whose 15-year-old citizens scored well in science on the PISA test. Alternatively, we could seek immigrants from countries with higher numbers of scientific publications published per capita (it might work out to more or less the same countries).
Crime makes people unhappy. Why not give priority to immigrants from countries that have a low crime rate?
The above are simply examples. My point is that we have a representative government. Why not let our representatives in Congress decide explicitly what the population should be and what kind of people we would hope to attract? Have the population size be an input to immigration policy rather than an unexpected output. Have at least some of the personal characteristics of the “new Americans” be a goal rather than a surprise.
Maybe this can be wrapped up with a Constitutional Amendment that tweaks the Fourteenth Amendment so that it is no longer enough simply to be born on U.S. soil.
Readers: What do you think?