A friend recently shared, “As We Live Longer, How Should Life Change? There Is a Blueprint.” The article investigates how we will have to reimagine education, careers, cities, and life transitions for lives that span a century (or more). I’d like to consider just one issue that arises in the article—the fact that the population in the USA is aging and its birthrate continues to decline. (The same is true in other wealthy countries too.)
One result of these demographic trends is that social security is now expected to be unable to pay full benefits by 2033, as there are fewer young working people paying the tax for older Americans.
(Of course, if we raised the Social Security tax limit, which is the maximum amount of earnings subject to Social Security tax, the system would be awash in money. Currently, the Social Security taxable maximum is $142,800 in 2021. Workers pay a 6.2% Social Security tax on their earnings until they reach $142,800 in earnings for the year. Yes, that means that Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, etc. legally have to pay less than $10,000 a year of social security taxes on their salaries; the same as someone making 142K.)
Now let me begin with a serious caveat. I’m a philosopher and not an economist, political scientist, or immigration expert. I learned long ago not to venture beyond my field of expertise and think that because I’m an expert in one field I also have expertise in another.
Yes, I can read about Covid but that doesn’t make me a world-class immunologist like Tony Fauci. (Although I took university physics, chemistry, and biology I don’t have the necessary background in the natural sciences to even begin to understand viruses at the molecular level.) Yes, I can read about relativity theory and quantum mechanics but that doesn’t make me Sean Carroll. (I don’t have the necessary background in the mathematical sciences to even begin to rival a physicist’s understanding.) Yes, I read parts of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations in a grad school seminar (as well as Milton Friedman, F.A. Hayek, and other neo-Austrian economists) but none of this makes me Paul Krugman or Joseph E. Stiglitz or Thomas Piketty. (Again, it took them a lifetime to acquire their expertise.) And I simply don’t want to fall prey to the Dunning-Kruger effect.
But with those caveats out of the way, my best guess is that the USA needs to mimic Canada which recognizes they must vastly Increase immigration to make up for an aging population. (Their goal is to triple the size of their population by the end of the century.) I’d surmise that the USA also needs to vastly increase immigration so we have some young hardworking people to pay into social security.
Moreover, it is well-documented that immigrants are 80% more likely to start a business than those born in the U.S., and that the number of jobs created by these immigrant-founded firms is 42% higher than native-born founded firms, relative to each population.
To put it simply, it seems crazy when you have young people arriving at your borders and saying “I want to be on your team” and you reply, “no we don’t want you on our team.” They arrive willing to work and there is so much work to be done. What good does it do us to not have strawberries picked or rooms cleaned or highways repaired? What good does it do us not to have more engineers or computer scientists or physicians? (And yes, I am well-aware of Garrett Hardin’s notions of the “tragedy of the commons” and “lifeboat ethics.”)
However, I’m a fallibilist; I could be all wrong about this. And I apologize for venturing beyond my field of expertise. This was meant as food for thought.