Growing Population Diminishes Freedom

Published on March 11th, 2014

Overpopulation in the United States

Columnist George Will recently enthused about the day when there will be 500 million Americans. Will sees no problem with mass immigration, which is the main driving force behind our population growth.

Actually, by current projections, we won’t hit a half-billion until sometime in the early 22nd century. Nevertheless, there still will be plenty of population growth for us, our children and grandchildren in the coming decades of this century, if current projections hold true. Forecasts indicate that between now and 2050 (just 36 years) we will grow from 317 million people to 400 million. By 2100 the total will be 462 million.

When people discuss the problems associated with rapidly growing population, often the focus is on such issues as environmental stress and resource depletion. Yet another problem is the sheer congestion and resultant frustration. For a country with a heritage of “wide open spaces” and freedom, this is no small concern.

Some claim, however, that we don’t have to worry because population density of the U.S. is relatively low, and we still have plenty of wide-open spaces. The catch is that most of that land is open and likely to stay open for good reason. A lot of it is too arid or mountainous to sustain many people, and much of the rest is land we need to grow our food.

The areas where people can live, and prefer to live, are often crowded, and are becoming more and more so. Our Northeastern coast, for example, is as densely populated as El Salvador, the most crowded country in the Western hemisphere.



Crowding brings numerous irritations, as people in our densely packed metropolitan areas can testify. More people mean more rules, regulations and restrictions to keep peace and order. Traffic gridlock is a constant aggravation as people struggle daily to go about their business. Too many people too close together create considerable stress, and the price we pay for this stress may be far more than we even imagine.

In terms of political freedom, large populations make it difficult for individuals to have a personal impact on the decisions of government. This applies to government at local, state and federal levels. Our House of Representatives, with a membership limited to 435 representatives, who represent millions, provides an illustration.

Consequently, population growth proportionately dilutes each citizen’s influence on his or her House member, and the same applies to the Senate, which is limited to 100 members. In the next 36 years, our population is projected to grow by 23 percent. That same percentage indicates how much less sway each of us on average will have over our members of Congress.

Massive numbers make it harder for an individual to stand out in many ways, and this poses a danger to our American culture of individualism. Crowded countries such as China have learned to cope with their situations, and perhaps we can too. The question is just how much of our national character will we lose if we do so.

We don’t have to grow as fast as the projections. Sharp reductions in immigration would slow the pace considerably. It’s a choice we still can make.

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