The Drying of the American Southwest or the Art of Scare-Mongering

From guest blogger Santiago J. Valenzuela

A study by the Center for Immigration Studies, a "non-partisan" political group that advocates the lowering of the amount of immigrants allowed in the country legally, brings more fear-mongering into the playground of immigration:

The looming water crisis in the American Southwest – and the role of immigration-driven population growth – is the topic of a paper published this month by the Center for Immigration Studies and authored by New Mexico journalist Kathleene Parker.

The paper, "Population, Immigration, and the Drying of the American Southwest," online at, explores the link between the possibility of the potentially catastrophic economic and environmental water crisis and the fact that the Southwest is the fastest-growing region of the world's fourth-fastest-growing nation – a growth rate earlier cautioned against by various presidential commissions. It also looks at how that growth rate is driven by historically unprecedented immigration – legal and illegal – into the United States, the world's third-most-populous nation after China and India. Immigration is responsible for more than half of the population growth in the Southwest this past decade, and nearly all of the growth in the largest southwest state, California.

Such high immigration has happened absent discussion or acknowledgement of its impacts on population or limited resources, such as water. Parker presents evidence that indicates there is insufficient water for the region's current population, much less the larger future populations that will result if immigration continues at its present high rate.

While it deserves a longer treatment for all the fallacies, omissions and downright falsehoods pushed onto the reader as fact, my focus here is that it’s an evil fallacy to claim that without immigration controls, a given piece of land will somehow "overpopulate" and the strained resources of mother earth will simply give out.

Free markets are famous for being far more efficient than a government bureaucrat at determining scarcity.  Free markets do something else even better though.  Rather than government forbidding the consumption of dwindling resources, free markets simply makes the resource more expensive. This brings in the great engine of capitalism, profit.

As prices rise, more people will seek to find and sell other sources of water for these areas. If the population continues to grow, the cost of what water is available will rise, increasing the cost of living. Thus, it will leave men free to decide whether they wish to move to the Southwest and pay a sizable water bill. Quickly, these two pressures would cause whatever population the arid environment can hold at any given level of technology to equal or be close to the population living there.

Unlike a government edict, free markets allow people to make choices about what is most valuable to them. Instead, the Center for Immigration Studies recommends choice should be limited by government edict, a favorite tactic of statists.

Also, we see a repeat of the old fallacy that the United States is "overcrowded" at 83 people per square mile. Never mind that Singapore (with a small, efficient government and a prosperous, vibrant economy) is supporting over 18,000 people per square mile without much difficulty, and many more still wanting to move there!

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