Matt Yglesias on Why the Population is Too Damn Low | Conversations with Tyler
Matt Yglesias, in a conversation with Tyler Cowen, presents his vision for a larger, less politically divided America, as detailed in his new book ‘One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger’.
The discussion covers a variety of topics including urban growth, declining fertility rates, and the potential benefits of increasing returns to scale.
America’s Strength in Scale
America’s strength has always been closely tied to its scale.
The United States should learn from countries like Sweden, which manage to be more humane while still being dynamic and fostering big startups.
Potential for Diversity in the European Union
Countries or regions that don’t have a tradition of being diverse can start being diverse.
The European Union, which is now quite diverse, could potentially take in a billion people if it continues to develop a more European identity.
Governance Issues in Increasing Urban Populations
The ability of an urban area to grow is limited more by governance issues than by space or congestion.
New York could potentially grow to a similar size as Tokyo if it could overcome its governance issues.
America’s strength has always had a lot to do with scale… the United States is a big place… it’s a diverse place… it’s a place that cares about its power on the national scale. – Matt Yglesias
Political Constraints of Population Growth
Managing people’s tolerance for social and demographic change, particularly with regards to immigration, is an important political concept.
While some people would want to move to cities like New York, there has been dynamic growth in sunbelt metro areas like Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston.
Potential Impact of Subsidizing Fertility
Subsidizing fertility could potentially shift the composition of the American population towards less educated people.
However, society often disincentivizes educated professional people from having more children, not because of the financial cost, but because of the impact on their relative standard of living.
Impact of Larger Families on Feminism
Having larger families might negatively impact women’s equality at the very top levels of achievement, but it wouldn’t negatively impact the mainstream ways in which feminism affects most people.
The societal changes that have led to women being better educated than men and the narrowing income gap at the median level wouldn’t be negatively impacted by larger families.
The Role of Federalism in Governance
The solution to governance issues in a larger America might lie in federalism, although American federalism has not always delivered on its promise.
The direct public provision of services, which works well in smaller countries, might not be as effective in a larger America.
Yglesias rates the state of Maine as underrated, highlighting the diversity of its rural culture and its unique position as a northern New England state that is spatially cut off from the rest of rural America.
He also suggests that his father, Raphael Yglesias, is underrated as a novelist because social realist fiction writing has become unfashionable.
Enduring Musical Tastes
Yglesias believes that the band Metric has stood the test of time, and he continues to look forward to their new music and revisit their old work.
He also stands by the band Rancid, suggesting that their music has enduring appeal for him.