Here's the beginning of my new 1800 word book review
in The American Conservative
JOEL KOTKINâ€™S new book on population growth in America, The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050, is that rare work of futurism whose title downplays the changes in store for us. The current Census Bureau projection is not that the U.S. will grow by merely 100 million residents from 2010 to 2050, but by 129 million, from 310 million today to 439 million in 40 years.
Although heâ€™s reluctant to be precise about whatâ€™s looming, Kotkin, a veteran commentator on social geography and a fellow at Chapman University in Orange County, assures us that the population bubble is, on the whole, very good news. â€?[B]ecause of Americaâ€™s unique demographic trajectory among advanced countries, it should emerge by midcentury as the most affluent, culturally rich, and successful nation in human history,â€? he writes. â€?No other advanced, populous country will enjoy such ethnic diversity.â€?
Perhaps. Yet the U.S. already was the most successful nation in human history. In 1969, for example, a mere 203 million Americans, even without the enjoyments of much diversity, got the human race to the moon. Presumably, the 439 million highly diverse residents of the U.S. in 2050 will have reached, at minimum, Alpha Centauri.
But Iâ€™m finding it hard to share Kotkinâ€™s enthusiasm for what he calls Americaâ€™s â€?vibrant demographyâ€? because Iâ€™m tapping this book review out at the Department of Motor Vehicles office in Van Nuys, California. My son is waiting in a 500-foot-long line to get to the first window so he can wait to get to another window, which will probably shut down for the evening before he finishes. Californiaâ€™s government is broke, so the DMV is closed several Fridays per month and is ostentatiously understaffed the rest of the time.
Van Nuys is in the center of Los Angelesâ€™s San Fernando Valley, where I grew up and where Kotkin has lived for decades. Long ago, the Valley was celebrated for making the California dream affordable to the average American, but weâ€™ve since been test-driving Americaâ€™s future. When watching all the vibrant demography at the Van Nuys DMV waiting to take their driving tests, the next 40 years appear less edifying than they do in Kotkinâ€™s prose....
Although Kotkin is enthusiastic about the quantity of these upcoming residents, heâ€™s reticent about their average quality.
Read the rest in the magazine, on paper or here