Immigration and the Reddish Yellow Menace

If you try to work out Brad DeLong’s midterm questions you’ll see that if China ever does overtake the US in per capita GDP terms, it’ll take a very long time for it to happen. At the same time, China’s much larger population means they can overtake us in total output much faster than that.

For most purposes, of course, the per capita figure matters much more. Aggregation doesn’t change the fact that individual Indian people are incredibly poor. But in terms of the struggle for geopolitical dominance, the aggregate does matter. Which leads me to wonder why national security hawks aren’t out there more aggressively making the case for higher levels of immigration.


The US population is already growing at a faster rate than China’s. And the extent to which this continues to be the case has major implications for China’s ability to overtake us in total economic output. And thanks to the immigration channel, this is something we have the ability to control rather easily. According to Gallup, there are 165 million people around the world who say they’d like to move here, and Canada is the second most-popular hypothetical location. Not being much of a nationalist, I don’t see this as being close to the top of the list of good reasons to make the country more open to immigration. But insofar as many people do have nationalist convictions, it’s worth noting that there’s a tradeoff between the nationalist impulse to seal the borders and the nationalist impulse to prolong the period of American hegemony.