John Rohe responds
These comments are prompted by Eartha Melzer‘s article (Greening Hate, April
18 Northern Express). The Tantons‘ issues and values merit our attention.
For this reason, I took the time to write their biography.
Dr. and Mrs. Tanton are no strangers to the arguments raised by Eartha
Melzer. When their love of the land moved them to consider threats to the
land, they became leaders in the population movement. As the biography
points out, Dr. Tanton was national president of Zero Population Growth
(ZPG) in the 1970s. At the time, our fertility rates were plummeting from
3.5 children per woman to 1.7. The Tantons then addressed the next
population issue; immigration reform. Charges like those leveled by Eartha
Melzer might have been expected. The Tantons‘ resolve was unaffected.
Since the mid-1970s, U.S. fertility has been so low that we have not been
filling our shoes from one generation to the next. Nevertheless, the U.S.
Census Bureau reports that our population will more than double in the
lifetime of a college student today. This doubling is just the first
installment. One additional doubling will bring the United States to a
billion person nation!
In writing this biography, I have attempted to examine the Tantons‘ lives
and motivations. Your readers should form a neutral opinion on whether it is
fair to accuse them of “greening hate.“
Here‘s a sobering fact: We live on a planet having a daily net population
gain (births minus deaths) of approximately 220,000 people every day. In
other words, Detroit‘s population of just under 1,000,000 people is being
replicated on the planet every fourth day. There are approximately 1.2
billion people going to bed hungry every night. Several hundred thousand
people slip beyond the brink of malnutrition every year, and 2.4 billion
people eke an existence on less then $2.00 per day. This hardship will not
be eased with relaxed U.S. borders. Those who cut and run from foreign lands
are often the best catalysts for change back home.
Dr. Tanton has often been heard to suggest: “The price of admission in the
immigration debate is to propose the optimum level of annual immigration.“
While immigration has fluctuated over the centuries, the annual average has
ranged between 175,000 and 200,000. John Tanton would propose it now be set
at 200,000. For the past decade, legal and illegal immigration has been
about 1.5 million per year. Melzer did little to meaningfully advance the
debate beyond name-calling. She fails to identify an optimum level of
population or immigration. Perhaps by default, she is adopting the Wall
Street Journal proposal that the United States should have no borders. In
its quest for access to cheap labor, the Wall Street Journal, and certain
big business interests, want others to pick our cotton. Curiously, they
label any dissent as racist. Melzer and the Wall Street Journal have become
strange bedfellows on this issue.
The Tantons endure these charges even while pointing out that our
under-privileged minorities are first in the line of discrimination by the
unprecedented wave of immigration now flooding the nation‘s borders. This
wave is not undercutting the wages of the editorial board of the Wall Street
Journal. Rather, our minorities are being jostled to the back of the job
line. There is a sad reality to American politics: We are loathe to change
course when only those without a voice are negatively impacted.
Readers of the biography, and participants in the debate, should decide
whether it is permissible for U.S. citizens to still be concerned about
becoming good ancestors. Must everyone concerned about congestion suffer
The Tantons have often pointed out that our cherished principles of freedom
and liberty are impacted by population pressures. In other words, one person
‘s freedom to kick up their heels is limited by the proximity of the next
person‘s kneecap. More people means more kneecaps. Stiff laws are required
in congested places. That, in a nutshell, summarizes our legal history.
Melzer could meaningfully advance this dialogue by identifying an optimum
population for the United States. In other words, how many people would be
needed to provide an adequate work base for economic security without
overburdening our natural resources and cherished freedoms? If she suggests
that we should set the stage to double or quadruple the U.S. population,
then Melzer should tell us where our water is too pure, where the air is too
fresh, where there is too much open space, not enough urban sprawl, too few
toxins in the air, not enough contamination, too few visitors to our
national parks, not enough highway congestion, too little road rage, and too
much wild habitat.
We are at a unique point in history. The demographic destiny of a nation can
now be responsibly addressed. The Tantons would be the first to propose that
we must act with compassion and dignity toward the underprivileged around
the globe. This often means not luring the best and brightest to our shores.
Like our forebears, we can still become good ancestors. Hopefully, these
issues can be discussed in a meaningful dialogue where words become tools
for advancing, rather than suppressing, the dialogue.
John F. Rohe
John Tanton responds:
Re: “Greening Hate“ by Eartha Melzer, April 18 issue.
Eartha Melzer‘s article “Greening Hate“ might have more appropriately been
subtitled “Hating Green?“
I met her recently and learned she was at work on an article on immigration.
I sent her a packet of materials on the consequences of population growth
for resources and the environment, whether from natural increase or
immigration. Apparently she didn‘t read any of it - or perhaps she had
simply pre-judged the issue.
Prejudice. Noun. To form an opinion before
the facts are known; a preconceived idea, usually unfavorable. Am. Heritage
She didn‘t call to check any of her “facts.“ This would have saved her and
your readers from a number of errors.
There are three great questions in the immigration policy debate:
1. How many people should we admit, and what is the
basis for picking a number? Our side holds that the main criteria should be
environmental: How adequate is our resource base to support people; what is
our “Carrying Capacity“? After studying this, we have recommended 200,000
per year be admitted. This is more than the average admitted 1925-65 and
more than any other nation admits for permanent residence. (Legal plus
illegal immigration now totals about 1.5 million per year.)
2. Who should get the visas? Tens, perhaps hundreds of
millions would like to come. There are six thousand million people in the
world to choose from. We recommend admitting just the spouses and
dependent, minor, never-married children of US citizens. This would come to
about 200,000 a year. We recommend ending the brain drain, so these bright
and motivated people can help fix problems at home - not just run away from
them. To her credit, Ms. Melzer mentions some of the source country
problems that need attention.
3. How can the rules agreed upon be enforced? What
combination of better visa checking, entrance and exit controls, board
patrolling, and interior enforcement, etc, is needed? We have made detailed
recommendations on these topics, too long to cover here.
What are Ms. Melzer‘s recommendations on these three points? She
apparently dislikes our policy recommendations, but won‘t put her own on the
table for debate and critique.
Happily, Ms. Melzer and I do agree on a number of points she mentions: the
deleterious effect of NAFTA, the consumptive habits of American Consumers
(like Ms. Melzer and me - we both of us rode in an automobile to our
meeting), and some of the shoddy policies of government and industry, both
domestic and foreign. We invite her to join us in trying to actually do
something about some of these many problems. Writing about them is fine and
needed, but at some point we all should leave the spectators‘ seats and get
down on the playing field, and take part in the rough and tumble game.
If Northern Express readers would like to know more about the population and
immigration issues, please be in touch with me c/o the foundation I run,
called US. We‘re at 445 E. Mitchell, Petoskey, Michigan 49770-2623. Or
call: 231-347-1171. I promise you solid facts and hard numbers so you can
make up your own mind.
P.S. If you would like the scoop on the Southern Poverty Law Center on which
Ms. Melzer relies, send me a stamped, self-addressed business sized envelope
and I‘ll mail you the Harper‘s Magazine November 2000 expose on this
formerly reputable group.