Our nation, President Donald Trump has been saying, is âfull.â
This is complete nonsense. Itâs an ahistorical, anti-American view that demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding not only of basic economic theory, but also of what set America apart from the first. His message, if taken as truth, can lead only to decline. Nonetheless, his claim, intended largely for refugees from Central America, is meant to be clear. As clear as a âNo Vacancyâ sign hanging from the neck of the Statue of Liberty.
The famed poem at the iconic statue of Lady Liberty - the one welcoming the âhuddled masses yearning to breathe freeâ - would be gone in Trumpâs America. In its place could be erected a simple, hateful sign:
âGo away, you filthy vermin!â
Our nation isnât full today, nor will it ever be full. If people begin to believe that we are closed to newcomers, no matter their station, America is finished, both as an ideal and as a nation.
Anyone who knows the first thing about how and why our country was created, and what has allowed it to thrive, and to renew itself time and again, understands this well. And anyone who has even a passing familiarity with basic economics knows that if we are deemed to be full, we are going nowhere fast. A nation without an expanding population is a nation that cannot have a growing economy. There will first be stagnation, then ultimate decline.
One would think that even Trump, who is willfully ignorant about so much, would understand these fundamental truths. After all, he was a businessman before he turned to politics. Successful entrepreneurs donât generally look to see their empires shrinking.
There are cities large and small, many in the Northeast and industrial Midwest, that have seen their populations waning for decades now. From Baltimore to Buffalo, from Cleveland to Detroit, from St. Louis to Milwaukee to Chicago, shrinking populations have joined with greatly lowered expectations to create a cycle of decline and despair.
And itâs not only been happening in big cities. Here was Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, writing on Twitter:
âSouth Bend sure isnât âfull.â Our economic future depends on population growth, and nearly all our recent population growth has come from immigration.â
You neednât be a graduate of the London School of Economics to see the obvious truth in such a statement.
America was created on a pair of fundamentally revolutionary notions: that all are created equal. And that power should flow uphill, from the people to the officials selected by the citizenry.
If a land based on such radical premises is ever seen as full, the dream can only wither and die.