In his 2020 tome Matthew Yglesias (formerly of Vox) asks us to dream big. Through this dream of increasing America’s population to a billion he gives us a tour of the challenges and America’s policy failures from fertility to housing. In Yglesias mind a large series of tweaks from immigration to municipal budgets is all we need to get there. We just need to choose it.
Yglesias has an engaging writing style. His years as a journalist and blogger pay off as he manages to present his argument in a way that kept me reading. If you are not a reader of Vox or his new Slow Boring substance, you’ll appreciate it. Existing fans will find the style familiar.
The magic of structuring the book around an audacious idea is you read the headline thinking it is absurd, and the author draws you a map making it feel feasible by the end. The challenges to the proposed solutions are not inscrutable, but may be insurmountable.
In politics we say that we campaign in poetry but govern in prose. Yglesias dream is interesting, but it’s not inspiring. I do not see it changing the hearts and minds of homeowners that do not want more housing. Moving federal agencies out of Washington D.C. can be good for America, but a tough sell for federal workers. This book begs for a charismatic person to take these ideas and translate them into poetry. It just won’t be Yglesias.