Monday, October 23, 2006

Welcome the 300 millionth American

300 million Americans as of this week. Good. Every person is productive, that is, can be productive and makes America a better place. Just because some choose not to be productive - and are allowed to - does not mean we should exclude someone else. We are not running out of land. Land that people value is getting more expensive - because people want to use it and will pay too. Also, in many areas the price rise is due to shortage forced by our politicians, who complain the loudest about the high prices they caused. Here in Seattle, WA, the county severely restricts any development beyond an arbitrary "rural" line. The intention is to force higher density in the already developed areas. And the result is what we call "a perfectly predictable surprise." (credit to a Republican female commentator whose name I don't recall.) Higher prices. Mark Steyn recognizes the good news and calls out the doom sayers:
But the wee bairn might have expected a warmer welcome from his or her compatriots. Alas not. "Three hundred million seems to be greeted more with hand-wringing ambivalence than chest-thumping pride," observed the Washington Post, which inclines toward the former even on the best of days. No chest-thumping up in Vermont, either. "Organizations such as the Shelburne-based Population Media Center are marking the 300 million milestone with renewed warnings that world population growth is unsustainable," reported the Burlington Free Press. Across the country, the grim milestone prompted this reaction from a somber Dowell Myers. "At 300 million," noted the professor of urban planning and demography at the University of Southern California, "we are beginning to be crushed under the weight of our own quality-of-life degradation."
Because he already covered this development in his new book, America Alone which came out this week by coincidence.
America is the 172nd least densely populated country on Earth. If you think it's crowded here, try living in the Netherlands or Belgium, which have, respectively, 1,015 and 883 inhabitants per square mile compared with 80 folks per square mile in the United States. To be sure, somewhere such as, say, Newark, N.J., is a lot less bucolic than it was in 1798. But why is that? No doubt Myers would say it's urban sprawl. But that's the point: you can only sprawl if you've got plenty of space. As the British writer Adam Nicholson once wrote of America, "There is too much room in the vast continental spaces of the country for a great deal of care to be taken with the immediate details." Nothing sprawls in Belgium: It's a phenomenon that arises not from population pressures but the lack thereof.
Also check Hugh Hewitt's write up of four books everyone should read to be apprised of the situation we are in and its urgency.

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