Some Thoughts about Immigration and Population


John Wright

Last evening I watched a TV segment about problems experienced in Lewiston, Maine, as 1000+ Somalis have immigrated to that town in the past year. The contrasting positions were of the town officials and non-Somali residents, who spoke about strain on town services and budgets in a town of only 35,000 people, and, the Somalis, who are trying diligently to integrate into that community. The traditional residents were uncomfortable even with the presence of the Somalis, yet they could not deny USA historical ideals and laws pertaining to immigration. You might note that immigration from European countries late in the 18th century and early in the 19th century produced similar feelings of unease among the established USA residents in their chosen communities.

I noted that immigration of Hispanics, Indians, Koreans, Pakistanis, Vietnamese and others have already produced considerable demographic changes from Florida west to California then north to Oregon, and then east to Illinois. Now we are experiencing change in the northeast, and soon down the eastern coast. Basically, those who immigrate into the USA are establishing a "border" state presence as opposed to an even migration across the USA; thus we see the notable localized demographic effects.

Taken as a whole, the process of immigration is following, for the most part, our laws and our published historical ideals. And once again the concerns of earlier times in our history are resurfacing. Three questions come to mind: 1) What will these changes mean to future generations of our children? 2) Are our historical precedents relevant now? 3) Given world over-population, at what point do we become concerned with what may become excessive immigration, i.e., that which lowers the quality of life for most USA inhabitants?

Letís take a look at the positive side. I note that Indians and Pakistanis have become a significant presence as, for example, convenience store franchise owners. These people understand deferred gratification better than other groups, with the possible exception of Korean and Vietnamese immigrants. They live frugally to a fault to amass capital to become business owners. They live out the American Dream, by working hard to become successful and secure. I suspect that we will find a very low percentage of these immigrants occupying our low-income entitlement rolls as the next twenty years pass. Instead, they will displace less effective business owners who have historically been operators of store franchises, gas stations, etc.

Our Hispanics are also known to be hard workers and they frequently are on the low end of the income scale, occupying laborer jobs of many types. They displace former USA residents who historically worked at or below the official minimum wage. Hispanics tend to reproduce in large numbers and the difference between their increasing population and available jobs results in increasing numbers of entitlement recipients. This is a notable negative that speaks not to Hispanics, per se, but to our entire laborer population. Supply and demand considerations alone will result in perpetuation of marginal wages. More will be said later with employment problem examples from countries like Germany.

Given approximate bell curve distributions in inherited aptitudes, similar to those of existing residents, immigrants have typically paid dues for one or two generations by living below average in consumption and above average in hard work and saving money for starting businesses and providing higher education for their children. . Eventually, all willing 18th and 19th century immigrant groups from Europe carved out success in the USA. As a whole, the overall population of the USA has profited due to the temporary low-income labor supplied by new immigrants. This is similar to the benefits we enjoyed when Japan carved out a presence in the USA automobile market by producing low cost, high quality vehicles that shamed GM, Ford and Chrysler for their planned obsolescence practices and high cost, low quality vehicles. In a true capitalistic society, with world trade aspirations, we allowed high quality automobiles to "immigrate." Displacement, as represented by increasing market share for Japanese automakers was the obvious result.

As we move into the future we would like to believe that our history would be repeated, successfully. If I believed that to be likely, I would not have written this article. Instead, I found myself thinking about quality of life in a world of expanding population, and lack of relevance of historical precedents regarding immigration, in what was but no longer is a period of great geographic and industrial expansion in the USA. In short, we have no present or future plans in business or government that call for increasing population as essential to our growth in capability or to the maintenance of our standard of living. We have a serious pending population problem and increasing immigration into the USA is simply a warning of the coming of that problem from elsewhere in the world. We are not alone, as other modern countries are experiencing the same problem. We already have too many people opposite our natural resources, our land and our need for people.

Australia has been highly restrictive in immigration policy for more than twenty years. Germany has experienced major protests over allowing immigrants in to take precious jobs. Both of these countries represent smaller versions of us, and as you might expect, it is the smaller nations who first become aware, as their capacity to absorb immigrants is less. Japan has long been poor as an immigration destination, and their response to overpopulation among their own people is frequent abortion. For them to maintain a decent quality of life for their thirty million inhabitants on that small island, there is no choice but to severely limit reproduction. Having experienced their crowding, I would never want to live in Japan. I do not want my descendants to experience that crowding here either, as it is a terrible reduction in quality of life and is entirely avoidable.

It seems then that immigration, per se, is not the problem. Instead, we have nothing in place here or elsewhere in the world to stem the tide of excess reproduction or excess immigration into areas of lower relative population. Never have we seen any country become economically successful with excess population. What history does tell us is that civilizations that overpopulate usually decline and sometimes perish. What about worlds? Is it possible that our leaders as well as we common people are blind to population-based negative implications for our global future?

The truth is that we have never experienced the problem of excess global population, and we are not possessed of effective and humanitarian means to stop it now. Available birth control (conception control) pills and devices are not the issue. The right to reproduce is seen virtually everywhere as a given, except in China, which has finally taken action against excess reproduction. Frequently excess reproduction is tied to pathetic and outdated religious views that "God" knows what he is doing. Indians have long held that the only way to be secure in old age is to have plenty of children. You can readily see that cultural reproduction values like those of India, however they came about, are now highly destructive. India, with a land area only one-third the size of the USA has a population of one billion people. Is it any wonder the better-educated Indians are trying to emigrate from that chaos and immigrate into other countries? As with Hispanics, who are predominately Catholic in their beliefs about reproduction, Indians who immigrate into the USA will likely follow their cultural heritage and reproduce to excess.

Apart from crowding and food/shelter considerations, I am concerned about harmful byproducts from energy consumption from fossil fuels that we use to keep warm/cool and to provide transportation. I think about water requirements and the fact that we cannot increase the size of our oceans or the number of our rivers or our rainfall. We appear to "solve" our problems temporarily by continuous expansion of our infrastructure in roads, water systems, electrical generation, sewage treatment facilities and housing, but where does it end? Technology advances in food production have allowed us to reproduce to excess, but technology cannot increase our land area or the crowding that constitutes a lower quality of life.

We can choose to take definitive action against over-population, but if we fail to do that, life as we know it ends when the net effect of carbon dioxide generation and other heat generation convert the planet Earth into another Venus. Let us look to our atmosphere and our ocean temperatures to tell us how rapidly we are advancing towards that end. And let us think how we could be so stupid as to let that happen, preceded by a century or two of marginal, declining living conditions for our descendants. Is that what you want for their future?