Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 75.djvu/213

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY

 

SEPTEMBER, 1909




CAPACITY OF THE UNITED STATES FOR POPULATION
By Professor ALBERT PERRY BRIGHAM

COLGATE UNIVERSITY

IF any reader of these pages thinks, with a recent writer, that "population is a vast and wandering theme," we shall have no quarrel with him. No doubt the problem has a keener interest in such a country as Great Britain or France, where population approaches capacity or is perhaps beyond the permanent limit of resources. But we are maturing, the frontier stage is past, our land is filling and fertile quarter sections are no more free. We have thus our own social problems, sharpening their quest for solution, and, moreover, being Americans, we now and then become enthusiastic and break into prophecy.

We may well sober our inquiry with the preliminary question—is a great population desirable? Not so, surely, for us, from the military point of view. We have men enough to send to the front and men enough to keep in the shop and field, to meet any emergency of war which lies within the horizon of reasonable conjecture. Perhaps, in view of our general influence in the world, we might be glad to have several hundred millions of people, but only if we are so conditioned that our influence would be a boon to other lands. This indeed in itself implies a limit, for we must not be too many to live with freedom and with worthy standards.

We may take ourselves out of the ranks of the enthusiast with a second preliminary question—is a great population probable? Our list of prophets is distinguished. Mr. 0. P. Austin thinks there is no good reason for our failing of three hundred million people in the year 2000. Mr. James J. Hill expects an increase to two hundred million in less than fifty years, and Mr. Andrew Carnegie a few years ago thought five hundred million a proper figure. Mr. Justin Winsor allows two hundred million for the Mississippi Valley. Mr. F. A. Ogg raises the figure