Let’s consider the political goals of righteous Americans today:
- higher wages for the average person
- an improved environment with less human impact on the land
- less concentration of wealth in the hands of real property owners
- more affordable housing for the working class
While listening to An Economic History of the World since 1400 by Professor Donald J. Harreld, I learned that all of the above goals were achieved in the 14th century via the Black Death, which reduced the European population by approximately one third.
- wages for workers, including unskilled agricultural workers, increased as much as 40-50 percent
- food prices fell
- land and housing prices fell
- the least productive farmland was allowed to return to natural forest (contrast to conditions before, from the course notes: “By about 1300, Europeans had just about all arable land under cultivation, including marginal and poorly producing lands, to sustain the growing population”)
Is it fair to think of immigration as the reverse of the Black Death? We’re dramatically growing our population via immigrants and children of immigrants (see “Modern Immigration Wave Brings 59 Million to U.S., Driving Population Growth and Change Through 2065” (Pew)).
What seems surprising, then, is that the people who say that they want to see all of the economic results of the Black Death simultaneously say that they want to adjust U.S. demographics in precisely the opposite direction of the Black Death.
Is the apparent inconsistency resolved because only about 2 percent of U.S. workers are directly employed in agriculture?