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What in the World?

Migrant crisis at US border has far deeper impact

Sep 06, 2022

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The conversation over immigration remains a bitterly divisive topic in the United States. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) just sent buses carrying 75 migrants to Chicago as part of his ongoing effort to protest what he calls President Biden’s “open border policies.” But there is another angle to the migrant issue. Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan notes that the migrant crisis at the U.S. border has a far deeper impact. With the birth rate declining, America actually needs more people to come here in order to maintain its way of life.

Excerpted from Peter’s Sept. 6 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

As long as I’m slaying sacred cows, let’s make sure I don’t miss anything: the border wall has been the biggest boon of the last 50 years to illegal migrants, COVID has made large-scale immigration an economic necessity, and Trump/Biden policies towards immigration are one of the three largest sources of inflation today.Yeah, that should piss some people off.

Under the Trump Administration and the first year of the Biden Administration, we’ve seen the sharpest drop in inward migration in American history. At the same time, we have seen the sharpest drop in the birth rate in American history. Now, one of the problems that the Europeans and the Japanese are having right now – and the Chinese for that matter – is that when they industrialized, they move directly from the farm into relatively dense urban clusters and the birthright crashed and forty, fifty, sixty, seventy years on, all of them have gone terminal.

They don’t have enough people that they are generating themselves in order to keep their population alive in the long term.

The United States has never been in that state. We urbanized more slowly, so our culture had more time to adapt. And we had an intermediate step when we went into the suburbs and it’s easier to raise kids when you have the capacity to banish them in the backyard from time to time. And it shows up in our birth rates – or it did until COVID. And now, we’re seeing this COVID drop in birth rates globally. 

What does that have to do with migration? Well, it’s a simple numbers issue. If you aren’t going to raise the people yourself, you need to bring them in from somewhere else if you want your way of life to continue.

Hey everybody, Peter Zeihan here coming to you from just a few feet away. I am now looking north instead of south. So south is the cascade and the beginning of the Merced River. This is the glacial cap. That’s the original glacial wall from the last Ice Age, which carved out a lot of Yosemite. This is Turner Lake and that is the Turner head wall behind me. 

It’s about a thousand feet high…which means it’s a great time to talk about walls. So, people like to think that walls give them security, but really it depends upon the wall. So if you think about what’s going on in Israel with their separation barrier…you know you’ve got a 35-to-40 foot tall concrete barrier. That’s a wall – wall ALL CAPS, underlined and italicized. And that works. That largely separates the two populations except for a few deliberate points of contact. 

But most walls through history have not worked that well. The Great Wall of China is probably the best ancient example, or historical example, where it’s over a thousand miles long, 

it’s still a tourist attraction today, and it absolutely failed completely because they couldn’t seal off the entire space. The Mongols were mobile, that was kind of their whole thing. And so they just went around it. The modern wall that of course gets the most attention is the border wall. 

From an immigration point of view, the border wall has been beyond a failure. The problem is pretty simple. It’s not 45 feet tall. It’s only about 20. It can be climbed with a ladder and a lot of people have decided that if you can increase your income by a factor of eight by using a ladder once, that’s totally worth it.

In addition, there’s this little problem with physics. The Sonoran and the Chihuahua deserts that formed the bulk of the American border between Texas and Mexico – excuse me – between America and Mexico, is one of the world’s great deserts.

It is nigh impossible. It’s incredibly hostile to human life. And it has been arguably the greatest barrier between any two countries that exist in the modern age that isn’t an ocean. The wall basically obviated most of that because in order to build a wall, you have to have roads going to construction sites to build it. And when the wall is finished, the roads are still there. So what we have done is we’ve taken this 1200-mile buffer between the two countries and basically halved it overnight. And so it’s much, much, much easier for people to migrate up from the south to the north because we have literally built 50 roads for them to do so. Now you can always say that there are difference in policies between the Biden and the Trump Administrations. 

But honestly, the Biden Administration just changed the name and basically is doing the same policy as Trump. Now, there is a difference in perception. A lot of the Central Americans who are making the trip right now have decided that the Biden administration is more pro-migrant than the Trump Administration. That is true, and that has encouraged more people to make the trip. But that’s an issue on their side of the border; not ours. 

As long as we’re dealing with a political hot-rod issue or hotwire issue or third rail issue, that’s what I was going for. Let’s deal…with this from the other side. Under the Trump Administration and the first year of the Biden Administration, we’ve seen the sharpest drop in inward migration in American history. At the same time, we have seen the sharpest drop in the birth rate in American history. Now, one of the problems that the Europeans and the Japanese are having right now – and the Chinese for that matter – is that when they industrialized, they move directly from the farm into relatively dense urban clusters and the birthright crashed and forty, fifty, sixty, seventy years on, all of them have gone terminal.

They don’t have enough people that they are generating themselves in order to keep their population alive in the long term.

The United States has never been in that state. We urbanized more slowly, so our culture had more time to adapt. And we had an intermediate step when we went into the suburbs and it’s easier to raise kids when you have the capacity to banish them in the backyard from time to time. And it shows up in our birth rates – or it did until COVID. And now, we’re seeing this COVID drop in birth rates globally. 

What does that have to do with migration? Well, it’s a simple numbers issue. 

If you aren’t going to raise the people yourself, you need to bring them in from somewhere else if you want your way of life to continue.

Now in Germany, in Italy…it’s already too late. In Japan, they’ve managed to slow it down. China is crashing so hard. It’s probably going to be less than half as many Chinese in 2050 as there are now. The United States is nowhere near that position, but you’ve got to consider where you can actually get migrants from if you want to avoid a German or a Chinese fate.

Mexico’s largely tapped out. Mexico started industrializing in the 1990s. The birth rate halved just like it did everywhere else. It just happened later. So net migration from Mexico to the United States has now been negative for 12 of the last 13 years. In the Western Hemisphere, that really just leaves Central America. Now I understand that a lot of people find this very angsty, but consider this. The people who are willing to walk 1500 miles through hostile territory in order to find a better life? These are kind of the people we want.

And as the world breaks down, there will be more opportunities, particularly in the Eastern Hemisphere. But for the Western Hemisphere, Central America’s it. The only other way to get to the United States on foot from anywhere else in Latin America is through the Darien Gap. And while there is more and more traffic coming that way, you’re still talking about the low tens of thousands a year versus honestly, the millions of people that the United States needs to either generate itself or import if it’s going to maintain its economic position and its quality of life. 

So, you know, food for thought on both sides. And for those of you who in the last two videos who I’ve just angri-fied to no end, bear in mind. I am a very equal opportunity bubble popper, and we’re gonna take aim at some of the issues on the left in the next couple of days. Okay. That’s it for me. See you guys later.

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