Following the recent attacks in Paris western nations are pretending, once again, to have a discussion about how many immigrants they should allow into their country and where they should allow those immigrants to come from.
In this pretend discussion one side emphasizes the plight of refugees and the sense of solidarity that we ought to feel with our fellow human beings in need. The other emphasizes our responsibility to protect our fellow citizens and the possibility that the administration that spent over $2.1 billion on a website that didn’t work may not be doing quite as good of a job as they claim vetting refugees for jihadist sympathies.
There may or may not be some temporary political hay made out of whether our immigrants come from Somalia rather than Syria but this is, as I mentioned, a pretend discussion because in the long run western nations are going to continue to take immigrants wherever they can find them. We are going to continue to take immigrants from wherever we can find them because if there is one thing about which we have consensus in this deeply divided country it is that we all want economic growth.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]There may or may not be some temporary political hay made out of whether our immigrants come from Somalia rather than Syria but this is, as I mentioned, a pretend discussion because in the long run western nations are going to continue to take immigrants wherever they can find them. [/mks_pullquote]
There are few, if any, prerequisites for economic growth that are more fundamental than a growing population. Since western nations have a fertility rate that is far below replacement the only way we can have a growing population is through immigration. It is population growth that allows the value of hard assets (like real estate) to appreciate. It is population growth that makes workforce growth possible and makes an increasing GDP normal. In our increasingly childless western societies it is immigration that makes population growth possible and the monied interests all across the western world have no appetite whatsoever for a shrinking population and the economic impact that would have.
Several nations have taken steps to decrease their economic reliance on immigration. Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, Russia, Taiwan and other nations have experimented with government programs to simply pay people for having children. China has recently ended its one-child policy citing the economic damage threatened by a shrinking population. Some nations, like Denmark, well you can tell they are really getting desperate.
But despite these efforts at internal population growth the citizens of developed nations seem to be pretty stuck on the idea that raising many children is just too much work. Ironically this aversion to children among westerners is likely to be closely related to how we care for our elderly.
From the dawn of human history until the mid-point of the 20th century one was considered fortunate to have a large family because it meant you would be cared for in your old age. But with the dawn of various social security systems and government pensions throughout the developed world we have moved into an era when having a child is rarely a good economic decision for the individual.
The problem, of course, is that these social security programs are all totally dependent on an ever increasing number of people paying into them in order to remain solvent. So while they decrease the individual’s motivation for raising children they increase the nation’s dependency on a growing population. And, again, without individual citizens choosing to have children the only way you can have a growing population is through immigration.
So when it comes down to it the impact of demographics on economics will simply not allow western nations to do anything serious to limit immigration. This is a reality imposed by our current fertility rate which is probably greatly influenced by our social security systems and neither of these is likely to change. Honestly, the only thing young, able-bodied westerners seem to find more revolting than the idea that they should care for children is the suggestion that they should be financially responsible for the care of their own parents.