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Is 300 million people a good thing?


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September 05, 2006

Is 300 million people a good thing?

Michael Mandel

The U.S. is about to hit 300 million people. In my latest online piece, I ask:

But here are a couple of questions for you to ponder as the U.S. gets closer to the big 300: Is it coincidence that the three countries with the largest populations also have the most dynamic economies in the world? And is it coincidence that the most innovative major industrialized country, the U.S., also has the fastest growing population and the most young people?

No, it's not a coincidence...take a look at the piece.

05:05 PM

Growth

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Young Americas more creative demand, now drives move creative supply from greater Asia. And that creative supply holds increasing product utility at every decreasing cost to all. Though a Korea or Japan may show greater direction in more creative demand. It is only a massive consumer market that can sustain still more creative demand. I see empowering the creative consumer demand as the most important mechanism to continue this. Being a democrat I would offer that supporting these creative consumer by what ever mechanism can accomplish this, will in effect trickle up in the expanding market.

Posted by: Mike Reardon at September 7, 2006 03:25 AM

Mike Reardon,what do you mean by 'the creative customer'.

Posted by: mohb at September 8, 2006 08:59 AM

You make a good case, and I don't really have a major disagreement with it (are you in shock?). I do wonder about a country such as Indonesia, with a population of over 245 million (CIA Factbook, July 2006 estimate), and the state of their economy in relation to your argument. And what about Brazil at a "mere" 188 million? They are the only nation of significant population to be energy independent thanks to their creativity in energy.

Posted by: Brandon W at September 10, 2006 05:03 PM

"Most dynamic" is kind of a cheat. It means whatever it needs to mean for the argument. Rapid growth? Immigration?. Innovation? All of the above? Certainly, China is not engaged in cutting edge work in more than a very few areas, if any. Uprooting entire manufacturing facilities to ship them home and building massive dams may be the most notable. Iceland spends more, per capita, on knowledge than does China, though Iceland's population is far smaller. Unless we are engaged in a discussion of "magic numbers" some account for why Nigeria, as it also approaches 300 million residents, is not "dymanic" is needed. And if size counts so much, why were India and China so poor when they first reached the 300 million mark?

India and China are catching up from a very low base. It has long been assumed in development economics that convergence is natural, that poorer nations can add prosperity on the R&D cheap, because of the work already done in richer economies. Very low labor costs and large labor pools certainly count as a large incentive to place facilities in China and India, without regard to innovation and entreprenuership. Reform is pretty obviously the biggest trigger for growth in both China and India, allowing them to do what development economics has always assumed they could do.

With barriers to trade, investment and above all, ideas, vastly reduced, the argument for the importance of a big domestic market seems weaker now than ever before.

Getting to 300 million US residents will make a difference in how much water we need, in how many votes we count, in how many desks we put in schools, but it will make little if any difference in the pace of innovation. Will it help to have a young population? Maybe, but the thesis started out as "big is good" only getting around to "young is good" later in the article.

Posted by: kharris at September 11, 2006 01:38 PM

It's a silly argument that more and more people are a good thing. Quantity is not equal to quality. In either numbers of people or in life or the economy. It's actually called overpopulation.

Large areas of China, India, and Mexico have rapidly falling water tables, and so do many other countries. All of this vital change is a consequence of too many people. Hell, Kansas has the same problem.

And do you think Indonesia, with a huge population, is "dynamic?" Think crowded cities, jammed highways, massive carbon dioxide polution, and the struggle for space and arable land. Above all, the author should try thinking.

Posted by: OldVet at September 11, 2006 05:58 PM

I think what Michael is saying is that a large population with the right culture and system is better.

If Australia had 100 million people, the world would be a better place.

If the US had 400 million ASSIMILATED people, the world would be a better place.

If Saudi Arabia had 100 million people, the world would be a worse place.

India is going in the right direction, hence the world is a better place.

Pakistan is going in the wrong direction, hence the world is a worse place.

Posted by: Kartik at September 12, 2006 04:36 PM

Dynamic yes, but the surge of young energetic go-getters in the US is one-sided .. from around the world they come here, not to spend a few years of study or trade, but to stay .. to live and build lives.

Posted by: Passport at September 13, 2006 10:34 PM

About Room.

I live in Michigan and have taken a driving job to get me by for now while I'm in grad school. I haven?? checked the numbers but I heard we are in a depression here. Driving in other states lets me live off their economy. So far I have driven from northern Michigan to southern Kentucky and from eastern Ohio to eastern Iowa. I've pretty much crisscrossed this land in every direction on many different roads over the last 3 months or so and I've made an observation.

Now this area I've driven represents a medium population level compared to the rest of the country. Further east there are more people, out west there are less. My observation: This place is empty, yes empty. What we have is miles and miles of empty farmland. We have room for this 300 million people and we have room for another 300 million or even another billion people here.

I'd say lets keep the immigration thing going. We won't run out of room any time soon.

About China

For most of its very long history, china was a rich nation or area. That?? why they have so many people today. Communism is why china is poor. They are recovering fast as most people know and will eventually pass the United States. This is another reason to have more immigration.

Posted by: Joe at September 17, 2006 05:32 PM

An explanation as to why the US is so far ahead of Europe.

After the great depression there was WWII. This launched our economy for quite a while before we even got involved with the military. Also after the war the US got to build more infrastructure and economy while Europe got to rebuild what it had before. We easily have a 15 or 20 year head start on Europe.

During this time all their best people kept coming here. Einstein for example.

Posted by: Joe Cushing at September 17, 2006 05:40 PM

The recent story of the US population reaching 300 million begs many questions regarding population growth in general. Are we dimishing our green and open spaces to accomodate the growing population? Do we have the resources to deal with this number without negatively impacting our environment? Tough questions, to be sure.

Posted by: John Schneider at October 25, 2006 08:54 AM


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