Exactly how many Americans do we need to win? According to Matthew Yglesias, one billion. Making the case for massive population growth, One Billion Americans issues a radical but undeniable challenge: Why not do it all, and stay on top forever?
I am not typically in sympathy with Mr. Yglesias’s views, but he is a lucid writer and enough of a contrarian for even a conservative like me to appreciate and learn from ... The problem with One Billion Americans isn’t its radical aims but its glib insincerity. Mr. Yglesias is proposing to reorder the entire American economy and effect sweeping changes to its political system and social conventions, but he presents it all as a neat-o solution ... ach big idea he explains in the chirpy style of a Vox.com 'explainer' and each objection he dismisses with a quick citation of a social-science study or a flourish of abstract wonkery ... a form of intellectual tourism. The author visits a grand site, takes a few selfies, indulges in some local fare, and leaves. I guess he’s off to the next big idea. Maybe he’ll send us a postcard.
There will never be one billion Americans. Matthew Yglesias, the author of One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger, thinks it would be great if America were that populous ... Why, then, write a book about an impossible policy goal that few people want? The answer, in this case, seems to be that the 'one billion Americans' conceit is a kind of holdall into which Yglesias, a co-founder of Vox and longtime economics journalist, can throw an otherwise random assortment of his favorite center-left policy prescriptions ... This book, then, often feels as though it’s making the weakest possible argument for otherwise good ideas ... Many economics books devote themselves to cataloging the world’s ills, and then end with a curiously short “solutions” chapter that doesn’t really solve most of the problems in the book. One Billion Americans is a novel twist on this model. It starts with one curiously short and unconvincing chapter on the problem of having less than one billion Americans, and then dives into a long catalog of solutions. Most of them are very good ideas. But none of them solve the problem.
Why one billion? The author is surprisingly hazy on this point ... Yglesias has neither the visionary scope nor the technical expertise to make any of this remotely plausible as a sustained argument ... He has no theory of political power or change, no idea how any of this will come to pass ... Yglesias is an enthusiastic opinion-haver, but he is no autodidact: He lacks interest in the particularities and provenance of ideas that often obsess the self-taught ... this lack of interest in either real ideas or practical details means that even when Yglesias is sorta right, he is often yawningly, astonishingly wrong.