Book reviews / Non fiction

Book review: One Billion Americans

Whenever I finished a book and asked my partner what I should read next, he would point at this book.

It’s a pretty quick read, following where the policy of having one billion Americans can take you. Why one billion Americans? Well, the USA will eventually be taken over by other countries with large populations, and growing populations tend to produce more innovation. So if the USA wants to remain on top as an economic power house, why not shoot for having one billion Americans?

I’m not sure I want one billion Americans, but the policy outcomes are really interesting. Having support for parents, so they can have the amount of children they want to have, rather than the ones they can afford. This doesn’t mean having 10 kids, it’s basically the difference between 1 and 2 children. So pre-school, better education, maternity and paternity leave. Some standard and non-standard stuff that many European countries already have. Also thinking about this in a geographical context, it means making the US feel more like France, rather than Singapore or some of the megacities in China. It doesn’t seem overwhelming, it seems European.

Following other rabbits holes are similarly interesting if a bit WTF. The ridiculous situation with housing policy was one of them. I know we have similar problems in the UK – as everyone points out, people only show up to town council meetings if there’s a planning application to object to. However, in the US it seems to be a whole other level of ensuring NOTHING can change, which then leads to less available housing for everyone. Also again, putting increasing non-single-family homes in context, this isn’t creating mega-cities, this is allowing duplexes and small blocks of flats. It’s something that feels normal in places I’ve lived in London. What was also just breathtaking was the chapter on shrinking cities – that half the problem is that small and medium sized cities are depopulating, which creates a worse rate of return for living in these places as quality of service declines.

Anyway, it was a really fascinating read, drawing upon lots of studies and data to show how you would support one billion Americans. I’m wondering it’ll also solve some electoral problems, with the increase of people in different parts of the country, you’d have both sides of the political spectrum having to compete for more votes. Who knows.

My only criticism is that it was really broad strokes and I almost wanted more detail, but I don’t think it was that type of book. It was more of a rallying cry than a detailed roadmap to make this happen. Definitely thought provoking though!

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