A Thought on Immigration

Greg Ip has a piece on demographics in Sunday’s Wall Street Journal.

Next year, the world’s advanced economies will reach a critical milestone. For the first time since 1950, their combined working-age population will decline…and by 2050 it will shrink 5%. The ranks of workers will also fall in key emerging markets, such as China and Russia. At the same time the share of these countries’ population over 65 will skyrocket.

There are two competing factors that dominate those statistics: people are living longer, in particular in retirement, and women are bearing fewer children over their lifetimes. As Ip put it,

[C]ompanies are running out of workers, customers, or both. In either case, economic growth suffers.

The solution to this, of course, is immigration. Blocking immigration because—pick a reason—means we won’t have the labor force we need for, among other things, saving our retirement safety net in substantially its current form or privatizing it.

We’ll have to get our immigration kit in order promptly, though, and be prepared actively to compete for them, much as our private enterprises already have to compete for employees.

By 2050, the world’s population will have grown 32%, but the working-age population (15 to 64 years old) will expand just 26%.

The competition will sharpen:

Among advanced countries, the working-age population will shrink 26% in South Korea, 28% in Japan, and 23% in both Germany and Italy….

That competition cannot be based on how many goodies our government can hand out; our existing and unaffordable Progressive/Democrat welfare state is the outcome of that. No, our competitive advantage is, and must be, centered as it always has been, on our individual liberties and the opportunities our freedoms create.

This is a national security matter, too. Absent a growing, vibrant labor force, we won’t have the economic wherewithal to fund a capable military establishment, much less equip it with the technology required to stay globally dominant—or even strong enough to defend us.

Certainly, we need to secure our borders, and we need to do an efficient, prompt job of vetting those we let in. And those we let in do need to either be satisfied with green cards/work permits, or they need to assimilate into American culture as part of their gaining citizenship.

But we must have those immigrants, just as we’ve needed—and gained—them at critical junctures throughout our history.

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