Monday, September 12, 2022

Delirious Economist Argues "America Would be Happier With More People" - Don't Buy It!

Crowded I-25 Near Denver. Imagine three times more people - and cars.
                                                LA traffic on 405

"It is now the willingly childless woman who is the heroine of our planet. She is the one who now deserves all the kudos and praise, for helping to do what is necessary to spare humanity from the ravages of over-population" -   Isaac Asimov, from a talk at Queen's Park Theater, Barbados, Feb. 6, 1976

Among the cornerstone axioms offered by Isaac Asimov in terms of excess population is this one, extracted from a lecture by Albert Bartlett (  )

 In this post I consider a recent piece  ('America Would Be Happy With More People') from a Bloomberg columnist (Tyler Cowen) who's also an economist at George Mason University.   In line with his claim, e.g. writing this babble:

"The growing demands of an increasing number of workers and consumers is itself a form of economic stimulus. But these demands are not in general inflationary, because they are offset by more work and higher output. Those boosts in supply will tend to offset inflationary pressures, and they also will maintain economic growth. A significantly growing population is a kind of macroeconomic free lunch.

....The most common argument against a growing population is that it harms the environment. But any potential solutions to environmental problems involve innovation, and more people means more potential innovators. It is the growing, dynamic societies that are most likely to improve green energy.


Yes, America is in a funk, and low population growth is both a cause and symptom. But this crisis need not be permanent — and one way to solve it is simply to make and bring in more happy people."

One wonders if all he cares about is filling every highway, byway and green space with more human pollution, congestion, and competition for ever scarcer resources which invites more crime, more violence. Already, this past Labor Day weekend, more than 18 mass shootings occurred, including in Minnesota, Virginia, and Florida.  If Asimov's axiom is any kind of moral barometer - and I believe it is - many of these can be traced to psychological effects of crowding, likely combined with delayed ramifications (social and economic) from the pandemic.  The latter, as many studies have shown, have ramped up stress in a large portion of the U.S. population. (Nationally, gun deaths — which include firearm suicides, homicides and accidents — were the leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 1 and 19 in 2020, surpassing motor vehicle crashes.)

The key point remains: "As you put more and more people into the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears."   Thus ever more savage, barbaric bloodletting, massacres, slaughters.   The very barometer of morality disappears under the load of people fighting for scarce resources.  In the U.S. it is bound to get worse, especially if the Repukes seize congress back in the midterms (thanks to too many not voting or the Reeps' planned election shenanigans) and they carry out promised hits on social programs.   

Bowen also appears oblivious to the fact, again from Prof Bartlett's video lecture, that his optimism is misplaced as when he writes:

"America’s population is not declining right now, but it is not doing much better than holding steady. That brings its own mood of stasis and complacency. And let me be so bold as to suggest that, more than most countries, America is highly dependent on its own sense of optimism and growth. Otherwise, how is it to remain a top innovator? "

But as Bartlett notes in another frame:

So we can safely assume Cowen's optimism is almost all based on "faulty arithmetic."  Economist though he is, he did not do the math to support his wackadoodle thesis that more people will make America happier. No Siree, added people will not, it will make for a meaner, more violent society.  Look for a hundred fold increase in road rage incidents alone, as the roads get more clogged and the drivers get more impatient (and pack more Glock 9mms) 

 I also strongly object to his "stasis" bollocks, which, let's face it, is the go to drug for ever increasing growth capitalists and Neo-liberals.   But I suggest Cowen take another look at Prof. Herman Daly's recommendations as in this excellent piece:

This Pioneering Economist Says Our Obsession With Growth Must End - The New York Times (

Daly has been all about steady state economics for some decades, and as he notes in the interview: 

"no one speaks against growth or in favor of steady state or leveling off. But I think it’s an elementary question to ask: Does growth ever become uneconomic?

But is Cowen aware?  Does growth ever become an "uneconomic" entity for him? Even when California, for example, needs to find a way to generate another 4 million megawatts in power for 3.6 million people - and do it despite tanking water levels to operate hydroelectric dams?  No, because growth is his pet axiom and dominates his ideological 'wheel house'.  But it's doomed to fail because the resources (e.g. water to enable hydroelectric dams to work) are not there to support it.  There may not even be sufficient water available to support the consumption of 'standard' proteins in 10 years, perhaps less, e.g.

To that end, Cowen shows he's not much of a serious economist as he flouts two other fundamental Bartlett axioms:


In effect, his pro-population increase tract shows: i) No cognizance of resource limits (never mind the environment which will also undergo degradation with enhanced consumption) and ii) No concept of sustainability, period, given there is nary a syllable about "stopping population growth."   It appears, then, he assumes sustainability without running the numbers and hence- in terms of Bartlett's axioms-   he is also displaying intellectual dishonesty.  I will leave it to those like my now tenured psychology prof niece to consider whether packing this country with another hundred million people - whether from home grown newborns or immigrants-  will make Americans "happier."

See Also:

Meet Another Overpopulation Crackpot...Errr Advocate (Matthew Yglesias) Who Insists The U.S. Can Hold 1 Billion People 


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