Could immigration be necessary for America to remain the sole undisputed superpower?
Through the centuries that the US have existed, immigration has remained a pervasive and widespread topic in politics, but few can deny the profound impact that the high influx of people from all over the world has had in the development of the country.
Perhaps nothing is more proof of this than the period of American history known as the Gilded Age. During this time there was rapid economic growth, couple with — you guessed it — high levels of immigration.
The impressive growth in economy had a lot to do with industrial and technological innovation; couple that with the cheap labor of immigrants. Many put this period as the base that made the US surpass Britain as the western world power. However, the period in which industrial and technological innovations assured a country would be at the forefront of the world may soon end.
When it comes to what makes a country powerful, there are two major factors: military might and economy strength. We could write a whole book about what makes America’s economy so strong, but for the sake of simplicity, we will merely assert the conclusion: America’s economy is strong because is based in knowledge. A great percentage of the workforce is specialized and high amounts of investment go towards research and development, something exemplify by the juggernaut known as Silicon Valley.
But there’s another factor that plays a role: size. America’s population is huge with an over 300 millions. The sheer magnitude of this number puts the US as the third most populous state in the world. That alone makes the country hold down an important place in world politics.
As impressive as the figure is, it’s nothing compare to the two most populous states in the world; India and China. Each one has over a billion people. An impressive figure that looks even more astonishing when considering that the world population is 7 billion.
One must question under this circumstances then, why despite having such a large portion of the world, doesn’t China and India exert a larger role in world politics. Well, it all comes down to the fact that both countries’ economies have been plagued with massive poverty and a lack of infrastructure; a fact that made them reliant on activities like agriculture. This is a sharp contrast to the knowledge base economy that the US enjoys.
Thanks to policies that promote research and development and a more interconnected world; both of this countries are transitioning at an outstanding pace. Predictions for 2050 put China and India surpassing the US in sheer economic output.
Even in the realm of military power, the US has steadily been losing ground at the hands of China who has been modernizing and expanding its military at an outstanding pace. One would conclude that the event of the US losing its role as the world leader is not a question of If but of when.
There is, however, one useful fact that may help keep the US ahead of the curve: immigration. People all over the world see America as the land of opportunity; millions go through dangerous journeys just to enter without legal permission. Using this high influx of people as a boost for population growth may represent a viable measure to narrow the gap between the US and other countries.
However, it seems very unlikely that the government will take such measures given the stance against immigrant that have been characteristic of the current administration. Even then, one must question wetter this measure would provide to be viable enough, or whether it would be healthy for the economy to have the high population growth necessary to pull this idea.
As of right now, one can already see how the US influence is starting to dwindle. After president Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement, China has taken the lead in the fight against global warning; it has also been showing his military strength in the South China Sea by building artificial island in disputed waters. The US holding the position as the sole superpower is being challenge already.
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