Harsh's Library

One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger

By: Matthew Yglesias - Read: May 2, 2024 - Rating: 8/10

In One Billion Americans, Matthew presents a provocative argument that the United States needs to drastically increase its population to remain competitive on the global stage — in a journalistic style. The premise is that as technology democratizes, the major global powerhouses will be determined not just by economic might or technological innovations, but by sheer population numbers. With countries like China and India booming in both population and economic power, the author argues that the U.S. could find itself outpaced and outdated unless it adopts a strategy to significantly boost its population.

The book dives into historical contexts where large populations have correlated with national success, noting that previous global leaders faltered when they did not have the economic richness to support their large populations, a situation that is reversing with the rising wealth of nations like China and India. The author points out the stark population disparities, highlighting how American cities like St. Louis and Detroit are losing residents, while places like San Francisco and New York maintain dense populations that drive innovation. This urban decay versus urban density creates an uneven landscape of innovation and productivity.

Moreover, he discuses the social infrastructure challenges in the U.S., such as child care, which are exacerbated by a relatively sparse population in many areas. The book suggests that increased population density could lead to more robust communal and governmental support systems, including improved child care solutions.

While acknowledging that his ideas may be seen as radical and unlikely to gain widespread political acceptance, the author hopes that at least some discussion will be sparked about how to tackle these issues. One Billion Americans is a bold, thought-provoking read that challenges conventional views on population, productivity, and national destiny, making it a must-read for anyone interested in the future of American society and its role in the global order. I got this book recommendation from Recommendo, another newsletter I'd highly recommend.