What should I ask Matt Yglesias?

I will be doing a Conversation with him, based in part on his new forthcoming book One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger.  While I have not yet read it, I strongly expect it will be excellent.

And to be clear, this will be the conversation with Matt I want to have, not the one that you might think you wish to hear.

So what should I ask?


Would he feel differently about eating outside if he lived in a place with a less execrable climate?

why and how he got red pilled.

is it just the adage "if you are not a communist when young..."

but i actually like his twitter feed nowadays and he seems to be a mixture of coservative/libertarian lately.

I thought this was just me. He started out as insufferably simplistic on In the Weeds with Ezra Klein. Now I quite enjoy his centrism and respect for social science. The two almost switched ranks.

Is the purpose of increasing America's population to make it easier to elect the left and turn us into a socialist country?

1. They don't need any more people at all to accomplish that. Though of course more people (third-world migrants) will make it easier. Just sit back and watch.

2. Socialism isn't actually the worst thing they have in plan.

I would ask about the parts in the book about affordable family formation. He's clearly frustrated by how immensely expensive it is to have children in the city these days.

"How surprised were you at being instantly canceled for supporting free speech in Harper's?"

I 100% guarantee that this subject will not come up, and is why Tyler reminded us this is the conversation HE wants to have, not the one WE want him to have.

Then why is he asking our advice? "Tell me what I should say, also I'm going to say what I want, not whatever you tell me."

Yes. Exactly. What’s he looking for input for, if he is simultaneously & very prominently also reserving the right to ignore all input?

Just bad faith all around.

I'm not sure that's bad faith -- Tyler is asking for input from readers since he values our ideas, while reminding us that he will ultimately decide what he discusses, so we shouldn't be alarmed or disappointed when our favorite topic is neglected. It's his platform to curate as he sees fit, so this seems perfectly reasonable. We're all free to create our own platforms and compete in the market :)

Yup. Ezra Klein's conversation was just as disappointing. The Sam Harris hit piece went unmentioned.

How was he cancelled? Did he lose his job, lose a book deal, anything like that? It seems like people just sent tweets at him and he got called out by a coworker. People are allowed to disagree and send/be sent tweets, thats not cancellation. It seems like Vox has done a good job standing by their staff.

Exactly right. If you do/say something leftist don't like, leftists will get mad and express their disapproval -- that's just discourse. It's when cowardly bosses bend to the pressure and fire people that it becomes a problem. Props to Ezra and Vox for not caving! Ezra, despite being ideologically aligned with the cancel mob in many ways, has been a consistent defender of free speech and open discourse. In fact, he just interviewed Yascha Mounk on his podcast about this subject. I actually recommend his podcast in general, which in some ways is a left-of-center twin to Tyler's.

I discovered Ezra Klein's podcast via Tyler's, in the two episodes in which they converse with each other.

I agree with the "twin" comment: both Tyler and Ezra are about honest engagement with people from very different political views. I'd say that Ezra has an even (politically) wider range of guests, from Elizabeth Warren to Grover Norquist.

Can he talk more about the phenomenon of PC excesses spreading from colleges, where they seemed (comparatively) harmless intramural fights, to the so-called real world? If he can't speak openly about this, I understand.

Also interested in this, esp. the argument Bari Weiss put forth in the wake of the Tom Cotton piece.

how about media excess (nbc)
what part of this is not racist?
" Unanue has had no problem shunning his grandfather’s Puerto Rican migrant roots by playing up his family’s Spanish and European ones — as though the quest for white acceptance is something noble to achieve in these times."

+1, maybe with an oblique question as the entry point

Philosophy major - useful in retrospect? What’s the most useful skill or knowledge he gained.

What is the non-monetary value of being in a mainstream news organization like Vox, versus being a one-man band (a la Stratechery)? We've heard (from Ben Thompson) about the pros/cons of running a thin vertically focused newsletter. But what are the benefits of a more horizontal platform "mainstream" shaped news organization like Vox from Matt's perspective? I expect Matt would have one of the more nuanced takes here, given that he was one of the ur-bloggers.

The only journalistic “brands” I give any weight to today are individuals. It seems to me that Vox was conceived for a previous age. Thoughts?

Can't tell if Arjun knows Matt was muzzled by his bosses last week

I'll take that as a complement.!

Overrated or Underrated: Revolutionary Communist Party Chairman Bob Avakian

Why is Maine a great vacation destination?

And what did John Hodeman get right or wrong in "Vacationland?"

Simple: it's not full of a billion people.

Ask if he thinks Canada's or Singapore's successful incorporation of large immigrant populations has anything to do with carefully screening immigrants for marketable skills.

I thought the success was more due to their selecting immigrants according to demographic quotas, to maintain the relative percentages of their founding (at least from the colonial era) populations: Chinese, Malay, and Indian. They do take in others, but at very low numbers and selected for wealth or skill.

My response was specifically about Singapore, as you'd have surmised.

Since it's the conversation Cowen wants to have, please, please refrain from questions about the Harpers letter. Please. My question: how has Matt made such great strides in his writing (I'm referring to how, not what). Anyone who has followed Matt since his early days knows what I am referring to. It matters. Writing as craft must be important to Matt (given who his father is).

are you in your words "afraid, very afraid"
of facing the obvious implications & bad consequences of the harpers lettter & cancel culture?

Just let the Harper's letter be what it is, virtue signaling, and move on. Don't waste limited time interviewing someone as interesting as Matt with a debate over who is more committed to the First Amendment. I oppose much of what's known as cancel culture, but I have no interest in watching two smart people, Matt and Cowen, engage in a virtue signaling contest.

you just conflated the 1st ammendment with virtue signaling.
sheer silliness

+1 for this. I trust Tyler to ask one or two interesting questions about Vox ideology without turning it into a tiresome culture war podcast.

Nothing better on the web than having your cake and eating it too.

Does he still think American democracy is doomed? If so, why? What does the collapse look like, a bang or a series of whimpers? Is it fast approaching? Does he expect to see it within his lifetime? What does he anticipate will come after American democracy? Competitive authoritarianism? Some other despotic model? Or something possibly more hopeful?

Ask him about employers having the ability to contract (implicitly or explicitly) with employees over their speech. Do such contracts afford efficiency gains? Are there externalities?

Why folks in Vox (Matt & Ezra) avoid talking with or about Noam Chomsky

Matt cofounded a successful startup. What is the managerial role of the founders at vox.com, is this different from similar ventures, and was this always their strategy?

That is an Ezra question. Matt has said in the past he had 0 involvement and it was Klein who was the management and hiring before stepping back.

Will the quality of life of the average American be compromised by tripling the current population? Has quality of life been degraded in any way as the population of the U.S. went from 200 million in 1970 to 330 million now?

Maybe to be more specific, how do we do the C-B analysis of different levels of immigration. What is the importance of GDP supremacy over China?

I like where this is going. To try to get his framing:

1) In a world where China liberalizes tomorrow, do you still believe the USA should have 1 billion people? If it doesn’t affect your actual decision matrix...why not?

2) realistically we will build net 1 million houses a year. Taking that as a given what should the yearly inflow be?

The billion-dollar question, of course. The answer which Yglesias won't breathe a word of is that a billion minions is that much more wealth and power for the Ruling Class. Said class are notoriously effective at walling themselves off from the dark hordes they manipulate.

So are you basically suggesting that dark-skinned people cannot think for themselves?

Before increasing legal immigration, should the federal government such as Immigration and Custom Enforcement or just DHS prepare a systemic Environmental Impact Statement where they have to document the benefits and costs of implementing immigration policy and document how the physical environment will be negatively impacted and how those harms will be offset.


The negative impact on the environment and daily livability of the built environment from the last doubling of US population is profound. I see no reason not to expect the next doubling to be much worse.

The problem is that Harper's letters or cancel culture is smaller and easier for people to understand that the environmental, cultural, economic impacts of tripling the population of the U.S.

Economist Knut Wicksell: We may argue about what constitutes the optimum level of human population, but there is no arguing that the maximum sustainable population is by definition the worst.

How about requiring every immigrant to acquire lifetime immigration insurance, too. The policy would pay out full compensation to victims of immigrant crime or to the government whenever immigrants get welfare and public benefits.

That would be considered a mitigation policy. Another could be adopting anit-fertility policy for the poorest Americans but that has too many bad connotations.

Did he get the idea from Lyman Stone.

BTW Lyman would be an interesting interview, also Kevin Folta would be another interesting interview.

How is one supposed to have one billion Americans while also combating climate change? Is the idea to drastically reduce the carbon emissions of the average American? How achievable would this be by public policy?

Shifting people from where their productivity is lower to were it is higher increases world GDP and makes investments in reversing the increase in CO2 accumulation more affordable.

As far as I understand it the idea isn't merely to shift people through immigration though but also to increase the birth rate of Americans. I doubt 1 billion Americans would be possible by immigration alone with a declining birth rate.

Why not? We've gone from 200MM to 335MM with a declining and below replacement birth rate in just 45 years. We've already turned Americans into a minority in our own country; more immigration can make us a much smaller minority, too.

Americans are a minority in most of North America since the last 200 years... sorry but you White Americans don't get to keep the land you stole from the natives for yourself!

-does he concur with aoc that the current violent crime rate is due
to people shoplifting bread?
-can he spot aoc's 3 bigly tells?

Economists, including the one interviewing you, downplay the role culture plays in the success of a society. Be it black men resisting arrest, police officers protecting each other when someone dies in their custody and especially evident in the resistance of a large part of the US population that refuses to take simple steps to slow the spread of COVID.

Your signing of the Harpers letter showed that you at least acknowledge cultural differences. Have you been ignoring the importance of culture when proscribing technocratic solutions to human behavior problems? What has the Harpers letter backlash taught you about the people you politically allied with in the past? Should intellectuals that ignore culture when comparing populations be taken seriously?

What if it's the opposite? Maybe culture gets too much attention... after all culture isn't real. It is an imagined reality...

How in God's name does he seem to know everything about everything? He's not a smarty pants (usually), but he has a thought-through opinion on all substantive policy issues, backed up by data. I can barely remember my kids names.

Increasing the number of Americans to one billion + will necessarily significantly increase inequality. How does he plan to deal with the negative issues that follow from large increases in inequality?

Bringing one billion highly productive people who will pay a progressive consumption tax will lower the average cost of transfers to low income people.

So the plan is to find 1 billion productive slaves and somehow expect them to not take political power or at least be willing to fork it over for the current crop of low productivity people en perpetuity. Great plan, stan.

Always nice, a foseti sighting.

Obviously you have slavery on your mind. Why?

Because Democrats want to enslave us

He literally said that we could bring over people to produce so that we might transfer the resultant wealth to.ourselves. What what would you call that

Some think that the integrity of the individual not do participate in awful acts is what prevents society to go evil when the social forces gets in a tailspin. What does he think about the role of individual integrity, and does that in any way affect how he lives?

In the very long run, is cultural globalisation kind of inevitable? It hasn't completely panned out that way on a global scale yet, but if you look at the level of provinces and city states, basically the ones that achieved military supremacy expanded and ended up ruling the nations that contained their previous rivals. And we have only been truly information-globalised for about a decade or two (it is only just with widespread broadband that average citizens of poor nations in different continents can culturally directly compete and collaborate).

If we apply this on a global scale, then in the very long run, if one continent is much more advanced than another, they will end up dominating it culturally and eventually politically, even if not through overt large scale traditional military conflict. The US slowly does this in south and central America, China does it in Africa, and eventually, on say a ten generation timeline, don't the US and China begin to either culturally homogenize or actually fight it out? I don't think this leads to a less rich culture overall, but it is no longer so geographically contingent.

I think the right kind of globalism is the right kind of countefactual to "one billion Americans."

To make that into a question for Yglesias, "does it matter if a student in an MIT MOOC is in Pakistan or Arizona? Either way, they are buying into the MIT framework."

Yes, nice question. I suppose this is also kind of what Deleuze's "deterritorialization" is about. Underrated/Overrated: Deleuze?

Why does he continue to feel shame over having been the victim of a polar bear hunt?

He probably meant 'more numerous' rather than 'bigger'. We've already got way too many obese people.

Is "anti-intellectualism" a factor? (Open ended, a factor in anything.)

I doubt he understands economies of scale and value chains enough to support his thesis.

I would like to hear about The Matthew Yglesias Productivity Function. Matt has always produce a lot of content and he is very good at researching a novel topic and being able to explain the underlying structure quickly. What are his writing habits? Does he read primary sources in detail -- say a politician's housing plan -- or does he skim and use secondary sources? How much does he rely on conversations with experts? When and where does he read?

Did you think Tyler would somehow forget to have this be his final question?

+1. A common question by Tyler but worth explicitly recommending.

Why does Vox not allow comments on its "Explainers?"

A related question: Why did Vox abandon its original concept and turn into a more conventional webzine?

Another Ezra question to be honest where he said it was just market demand that drove their form. It is a business and clicks matter.

1. Who is the best writer in your extended family?
2. What is the biggest obstacle to a Georgist LVT in San Francisco?
3. Overrated or underrated: neoliberalism

Do “new media” have a responsibility to ensure that “old media” (read: local newspapers) remain a going concern? And if they do, how might they effectuate that responsibility aside from the transfer of a small part of their profits?

I don’t want to live in a densely populated country with a billion people. Why would Americans vote to have worse traffic jams, more pollution, crowded national parks and beaches, bigger slums, more cultural conflict, and more inequality?

Curious to know if the new book addresses how infrastructure could expand to allow for good transportation and sewage treatment and such for more people. How do growing cities do it? Would it be easier to start a charter city than to double an existing city?

If you're in NYC, move upstate. If you're in Boston, move to western MA. If you're in LA, move to Julian or Frazier Park.

The states with the most egalitarian income distributions (and I suspect they've had fewer riots than most other states) are Utah, Alaska, New Hampshire, and Wyoming, also places that have small metro areas except for Salt Lake City (which also has or at least had plenty of air pollution, but most of the state doesn't).

An American who wants to avoid crowds, congestion, pollution, etc. has, what, probably 80%-90% of the American land mass to choose from.

If you don't like New York City in 2020, well it had higher crime and worse pollution in the 1970s and 1980s, and worse poverty and crowding in the 1920s.

The way to avoid crowds and traffic jams has always been to move to a place near say the Adirondacks. And those places are uncrowded still and will remain so even if the US population reaches a billion. China has more than that many people in a land area not that much larger than the US's, and has tons of open space.

China is an ecological disaster and not worthy of emulation in any way, shape, or form. And any plan which says: 'go wreck what's left of the natural landscape' is also a disaster.

The 'uncrowded parts of Utah and Wyoming are already 10x more crowded than they were 50 years ago. And they were already too crowded back then.

America needs a national policy of keeping the population below 200MM. We should be paying immigrants to leave (and for free birth control) until we return to a reasonable number.

Matt Yglesias, what do you think of Caplan's claim that a large surge of immigration and diversity will result in reduced national solidarity. And that since national solidarity undermines the welfare state, reduced solidarity will reduce support for the welfare state and pave the way for free market reforms?

Is AirBnB good for housing or bad for housing?

what's an issue around zoning that no one is talking about but is really important?

Which country has the best housing policy?

Which US cities have the best housing policy?

If you had to state a ballpark dollar cost to the US’s current housing policy, what would it be? How do you arrive at that number.

Given he is a proponent of population growth in America does he think the continuation of factory farming is the inevitable answer to the demand for cheap meat of an expanding population living an American lifestyle? If not what does he think should be the alternative and how would you incentivise alternatives to cheap meat?

I'd ask:

Yglesias challenges everyone to "think bigger" and lists affordable housing and transit as two areas that need help.

He then asserts that we need one billion people to make it happen.

1) How does tripling our population help the demand and supply side of housing and transit?

2) It costs $250K to educate 2 K12 students. If we import a family of 4 that is a median earner (~$58K) smack in the center of the middle quintile, they pay an effective income tax rate of 3%, or $1700/year in federal taxes, and perhaps another $2-3K in state and local taxes (income tax, sales tax). They will never pay for just the K12 services they consume, let alone roads, infrastructure and other services they consume (mostly health care later in life). How many of these median income earners that will be a net drain on our balance sheet can we take, and how does the math work out? In other words, isn't it a true assertion that the only people that "make us richer" as a nation are those we import that consume less services than they pay for (eg software engineer making $150K/year)?

3) The EU imposes crushing taxes on the working poor. Yes, the EU gives you "free" health care, but the disposable income of the working poor in the EU and US is very different, with the US working poor having much more disposable income even after paying for health care. How can we pay for EU-style services without EU-style taxes levied on our working poor and middle class? For both the working poor and middle class in the US this means a big increase in taxes.

"the disposable income of the working poor in the EU and US is very different, with the US working poor having much more disposable income even after paying for health care."

What country, age and health status do you have in mind? It's believable if we compare healthy 25-year-olds between the U.S. and the Netherlands. Not necessarily believable if we compare 50-year-olds with chronic heart trouble and diabetes.

> Not necessarily believable if we compare 50-year-olds with chronic heart trouble and diabetes.

Additional premiums aren't allowed for those with diabetes and most other pre-existing conditions. And employers have generally never charged employees a premium for very expensive care, because it's part of a pool--a pool where less common diseases are factored in. Top tier employers in the US won't even blink at $1M in hospital charges for a brutal disease.

In the Netherlands, you have a "tax freedom day" for your average earner of 3-July. So, just over 50% of all income is paid to the gov. In the US, "tax freedom day" is is -16-Apr, or just 29.3%.

Median income in the US is $47K (PPP, 2015), so that means your average earner takes home $32.9K. Median income in the Netherlands is US$30.4K, which means you take you home $15K.

Now, in the US, if you are earning median wage, you'll get your health insurance subsidized A LOT in most states. Buying a plan for your family in most states will probably cost $4-$5K. If there's no subsidy (phased out around $90K) then you are looking at $12K.

In short, let me keep the money and I'll buy what makes the most sense for me. Giving it to the gov so they can skim 50% off the top for their retirement is a bad use of my $.



In the US, 66% of bankruptcies are from medical debt or job loss due to illness (source: American Journal of Public Health. 2019).

In the Netherlands, near nil.

Maine: Overrated or Underrated?

Or whatever Maine-related question you want to ask him.

Ask him simply if there are any opinions or observations he no longer feels he can publicly share or discuss. He wouldn't even need to mention the topics or subjects - a simple yes or no answer would be enough.

Would ending the war on drugs (i.e., full legalization and tax/regulate similar to alcohol) significantly improve the problem of police harassment of black communities? If the answer is "yes" but you oppose ending the war on drugs, please explain your reasoning.

The answer is 'no', because there is no 'police harassment of black communities' of any significance.

Have you interviewed the other Matt, Stoller? You two would have much to discuss about economic and cultural matters.

Which is most likely to happen first?

1 billion Canadians
1 billion Americans
1 billion Indonesians

Would be interested in his probability estimates

Ask him to comment on the world of Twitter compared to the heyday of blogging ~15 years ago. Would he go back to those days if he could? How does the quality of discourse compare?

‪What’s interesting about Quine’s “Word and Object”? How would he redesign twitter? Should/will the next 700 million Americans live in existing big cities, new big cities, or not in big cities?

How do you plan to get to one billion Americans? Would completely open immigration be sufficient? We see that even when there is completely open immigration between areas with significantly different levels of economic development (say between East Germany and West Germany, Eastern European parts of the EU and Western European parts of the EU more generally, or even poor and rich parts of the US), the vast majority of people stay in their home countries/regions. More generally, if we did have completely open immigration, how many people would you expect would move to America?

Why doesn’t his Vox affiliation appear next to his signature on the Harper’s letter? What does he think about “guilt via co-signers”? Should signature be judged solely on the content of the letter he is signing? The co-signer’s opinions on other matters seem irrelevant. Am I right?

I think the answer to that one is straightforward. Vox is a private entity and, like almost all private entities out there, it would not allow its employees to attach its name to anything without first getting approval from management and legal. That's the way the private sector works. Academics and politicians can mention their title and affiliation in anything they write, most other people cannot. Fareed Zakaria and Bari Weiss also do not mention their employers' names.

On the other hand, Dahlia Lithwick's Slate affiliation is mentioned.

Since that vast majority of immigrants will automatically vote for the Democratic part once they become citizens and their children will also automatically vote for the Democratic Party, will the U.S. still be considered a democracy when the general election is moot and the only time a new candidate is elect is to replace a dead or retired incumbent?

Maybe the better question is: "Would you support the unlimited immigration you are proposing if it guaranteed more presidents like Trump?"

And the answer is clearly "no"

Why not ask the direct question: Do you support more immigration because it will make the Democratic Party unbeatable in the general election?

A phrasing of your question that makes its assumptions clearer: Do you support immigration because you believe the Republican party will refuse to court immigrants?

Even if Matt's master plan is to destroy the Republican party with immigration, it's a plan that could easily be countered by being more (small d) democratic, no?

It is more than just courting newly minted immigrants. It is trying to appeal to them while not alienating the current Republican voters and while trying to not violate conservative principles.

Since all of the immigrants will insist upon support for racial/ethnic based set asides, there is no hope that any conservative party can survivie having most of the voters in the U.S. being immigrants.

Alright, with that in mind, is it fair to say that you're more concerned with importing a shift in public opinion rather than the US no longer being a democracy?

This is getting a bit outside the original post (though maybe this could still inform a question for Matt), but what do you make of the idea that within Democratic voters, whites tend to be the least conservative? I'm admittedly not well versed in the specifics of this, but that suggests to me that there is something Republicans could do to court some non-whites, including immigrants, which wouldn't violate conservative principles.

I should clarify that I do see how the tactic of directly changing the makeup of the electorate could be considered a cheap move, even if, strictly speaking, the US would still be a democracy.

Ethnic monolithic voting makes the U.S. less Democratic. Look at Elijah Cummings who recently died. He was originally elected in a special election with less than 35% of the vote and then stay in Congress for the next 24 years while never facing a serious opponent in either the primary or the general election. Now some people, like Matt Yglesias would probably say that such conditions are the perfect case of democracy. I would say that having incumbent who have zero concern with every being voted out of office are a sign of a failed democracy.

If you really think that the Republicans can really appeal to immigrant voters while not losing more middle class white voters while doing it, you can sell the idea to the RNC. They have never gotten close to figuring out how to do it.

I think we're in agreement that it's a shame conservatism and non-white people are politically so separate, even though they aren't in the abstract. Bringing it back to Matt or other pro-immigration people, at worst, they'd be exploiting that fact but not causing it in the first place (which I read your initial question as suggesting).

Has coronavirus caused him to rethink his preference for eating inside? Which is really a preference for the indoors in general?

How can someone not love Matt? I'm now going to open a window with the AC on as a special treat.

1. Ask him if he thinks there would be more housing development if people had to compensate folks for blocking development on their land.

2. Ask him about a Land Tax.

Has he had any major new insights about housing policy since writing "The Rent is Too Damn High"? (Maybe I'll just have to read the next book)

In his view, is there a maximally ethical housing choice for well-off white Americans? Personal needs and preferences obviously affect the end result, too. Could be answered under current policies or under his ideal policies.

Why have you and I drifted apart intellectually?

Probably because you got smarter.

1. Is quality of journalism in the US as a whole worse, better, the same compared to 10 years before?

2. Does Matt place himself somewhere of left-right spectrum and did it change in the last 10 years?

3. Did you view of Obama’s presidency changed since he left the office? How?

4. Did Trump do anything positive in the Office?

5. Among Trump and his entourage who is the best, say if you’d need to hire one? Or, is Trump better than his entourage?

6. If Matt agrees that US is now in decline trajectory, when he thinks trend reverses?

what has he learned from running an AirBnB for a few years?

Why doesn't he write about basketball any more?

Would love if you discussed his review of your book, Average is Over. https://slate.com/business/2013/09/average-is-over-the-new-book-from-tyler-cowen.html

In his review, he states that you propose a good agenda for policy reform that will keep America dynamic into the future, but that you are pessimistic it is achievable because it is not on the radar of either party. How does he view the prospects for this kind of reform 7 years later? Which political party is more likely to embrace this kind of agenda?

Looking forward to this conversation.

Does your desire for 1 billion Americans mean we should shut down Planned Parenthood, or otherwise make abortions less common?

What single work of art (novel, poem, film, etc.) has most shaped his political and/or economic views?

1. How does he square his view that climate change is the biggest or one of the biggest threats to the planet and we must do almost everything possible to mitigate it with his cosmopolitan conviction that we should massively increase immigration to the US and Europe which would result in the mass migration of people from low-per capita carbon consumption countries to high per-capita carbon consuming West and negate large amounts of carbon savings or not exceed the savings?

2. Why is the ethnic majority not wanting to massively change the demographic composition and the identity of the nation through immigration racist or socially unacceptable? Should black Africans in an African nation be allowed to express disapproval rhetorically or through voting if say it was on track to become minority black in just a few decades when it was 90% black just a few decades ago.

If not, then why is this standard only applied to whites?

Why is it okay for blacks and the Left to empathize with them in lamenting the change of their neighborhood's identity through gentrification?

If it is acceptable and moral for European whites to stop or slow down immigration to halt or decelerate the demographic transformation of European nations what makes the ethical case for the US different from Europe?

3. Why does it feel like the Left thinks the solution to a populist backlash against mass immigration is not to give in an inch but to crush it with faster demographic and the consequent political transformation. Has Yglesias ever thought about making a single minor concession to the populist right on identity and immigration?

4. Despite many of the good arguments for wanting it, one of the main reasons if not the main reasons why he and others on the Left want to grant statehood for DC and PR is that they would vote Democrat. If that is not unethical why is it immoral or unethical for Republicans to not want to increase legal immigration and consent to accelerating their own politically unviablity?

5. Even if the answer for (4) is they should want policies that would benefit the country regardless of their political futures and then compete for legal immigrant votes and change policies accordingly would it apply for illegal immigrants? Why is it ethically or morally imperative for Republicans to give a pathway to citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants?

6. At what point would he put concerns of wage suppression from legal immigration above his cosmopolitan vision of ever-increasing immigration?

Ok let me answer you as an European who lives in Canada..(just my opinion but I believe it's still more valuable than that of an American or Canadian conservative).
1: because White Americans produce more co2 than almost anybody else on the planet. But developing nations (particularly in Africa and Asia) are more affected by global warming than are developed nations, for the most part. The US and Canada have 18 million square kilometres of land, with a population of only 370 million people. Obviously not all of it is inhabitable but let's say half of it is. Thus, if the US had a population density of the EU, then it could support ca. 1 billion people easily... just because you White Americans are so egoistic doesn't mean that you should be! Just lower your co2 emissions to the EU level, and then let in more immigrants.
2: for the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well as Argentina and Uruguay, that's an easy answer: these countries only had a "white" majority for the last 200 years or less. After all the European settlers and immigrants in these countries basically took the land from the ethnic majority there. For Europe it's a bit more complicated - most people in European countries have roots there going back much further, and thus may have more legitimate claims to "their" countries, at least from a nativist perspective. The same goes for African countries. Also, the population density is higher in Europe than in the US and Canada, thus there is simply less space for more immigration. Also, the US and Canada have historically proven to better assimilate and integrate immigrants than most European countries did, thus making it more favourable as a destination for immigration.

3: so you are basically saying the "left" should appease American racists? Do basically Chamberlain was right? Ok maybe you really are a Nazi then?

4: obviously what is and isn't ethical is subjective. I'd say that White American conservatives are egoistic and therefore should not be given much voice here, since it isn't contributing productively to the development of the world. If everyone were conservative throughout human history we would all still be living in caves.
5: because most of the"illegal" immigrants to the US, at least from Latin America are indigenous and/or mestizo. This means there ancestors lived in the north American continent for 10000+ years while White Americans only did so for at most 500+ years...
Anyway I guess that this will not go over well with the alt-right blokes here, but I still believe this is among the most logical answers to the questions asked here...

How does it feel to launch a rational-center left news analysis website only to watch it become co opted by Bolshevik-sociology-woke-young millennial-Gen Z types?

Any plans to control Frankenstein’s monster or is it simply game over?

Should the federal government sell some of its land? Perhaps after imposing a land tax? Or should federal land be made more useful in other ways?

Can we reclaim a few acres for humans from the cows, and yet also keep the best benefits of inspiring national parks?

You can ask the Michael Lind Question: what will happen to politics in the U.S. when you have a large population of citizens who do not work but live on UBI but have a large number of green card holders who pay a high rate of taxes but cannot vote.

This is a tough one - Yglesias is an intellectual without a "big idea" or thick base of specialist knowledge, and who moreover tweets voluminously enough that what he believes on more or less anything is already a known quantity (or he aint talkin).

So questions here all fall into:

1) "Mr Yglesias, what do you feel about being a public intellectual in America today?"

2) "My Yglesias what do you think about (objection to his book, that if he hasn't already covered in more nuance in the book, it's a rubbish book)?"

Would he support returning most of DC to Maryland, save for a federal enclave around the mall? Given the precedent of Alexandria being returned to Virginia, this would seem to be the most constitutionally safe way to provide congressional representation for DC inhabitants while avoiding creating a possibly non-viable new state.

Why leave anything? The concerns which motivated the creation of the District are now quaint.

DC, btw, already has congressional representation. All six territories have seats on House committees, where the work gets done. They have floor privileges, but no floor vote. Puerto Rico is the only one shortchanged.

The real problem around Washington is that jurisdictional fragmentation has made for ineffective urban planning and traffic engineering.

Very interested in this new book!
What demographics in America are having the most children? Will these subcultures be major players in 30 years or will they assimilate into a new brew?

What are the chief difficulties in having 3 or more children today?

Are there any pronatal policies that are more effective than religious conviction?

What does it take to assimilate large numbers of immigrants very quickly? Were the immigrant neighborhoods of the 19th and early 20th century a problem for local government function?

Does population density matter more than total population for output? Are cities spread over large geographic areas more pleasant for families?

Does public school funding through local real estate taxes incentivize NIMBYism?

I don't think you could put it so directly, but "Why are you so attracted to writing hot takes?" I remember several pretty egregious hot take articles from back in his Slate days, and it's only persisted / increased into his Vox work.

I think framing this tactfully would be very difficult, but I'm curious if there's a way to dig deeper into it

ask him to recite his daily anti-racist affirmation

Where should the EU build its free megacity? If I'm allowed to think big I would say East Frisia. Excellent port and road infrastructure, lots of space, few pesky locals in the way.

Harpers letter.

ask him
to ask Dr. Cowen why our daily diversity training approved
anti-racist affirmation got deleted yesterday?

I would like to see where the strain of your education argument might be picked up within the context of the book.

If we really want to address the needs of his "1 billion americans," how can dividing them along racial lines (as we are currently doing) possibly help the cause? Strikes me that we really need these people to act as a cohesive voting bloc for any real progress.

A while ago on Twitter, Matt was listing some unpopular opinions he had. One of them was something along the lines of "vegetarianism is the result of sloppy moral thinking". Does he still believe that and is so, why?

1. How will NYC differ in March 2030 vs. March 2020?
2. Should I leave the United States if I care about the liberty and economic security of my future children?
3. What are the most impactful ways individuals can contribute to a better future for America?

I'm glad you're interviewing him again and I look forward to this one. Is it easier to support policies promoting urban density if you grew up in a city? Could NIMBY just reflect that Twain was right about "good fences make good neighbors" and maybe also that no one has ever lived in a multi-family unit that actually offers much privacy, quiet, and autonomy? It's odd to me that people who ride cars and buses both really lag in happiness in surveys relative to cyclists--what's going on there? Is irony overrated--what are the limits of irony when communicating and under what circumstances is it best used? Is "this blew my mind" an overrated/ cliche reaction from liberals? If the USA's federal institutions reflect an ongoing conservative bias, will Democrats focus more on states' rights? I'm surprised, given his family background and policy interests, that he never seems to want to write sci-fi novels--why not? Does he see himself as a generalist or a specialist? (I see him as doing one thing on multiple topics.) What is the primary difference between thinking on an individual scale and on a policy scale? Does it ever pay/ backfire to apply one approach in the other context? Social media seems so awful to me, and yet he seems to love it--what am I missing? Has podcasting allowed his audience to mostly understand him better or has it been alienating in some ways? West coast best coast seems obviously correct to me, but he seems to love the Atlantic--just b/c his family is there or is it in some way great? Does he miss the older blogosphere or does he feel the industry has evolved in mostly admirable directions? How much influence does one's start in an industry have over one's career? It seems like the trajectory of his career is easy to see from his start, though this may just be hindsight. Good luck and I hope this helps.

Some more. To what extent should we broadly think of homelessness as a mental health issue? How many storeys high should buildings be built? TWE do singletons (Klinenberg) and a desire for larger homes drive up housing costs? His colleague, Dave Roberts, has written about superblocks; I'm not sure Matt has ever commented on this idea but he's gotta have an opinion. Do other countries produce cities, or things within those cities, that he prefers relative to American cities? What does he think about KSR's 2140, if he's read it? How substantive are the ideas of urban designers in producing better cities? Does he have any opinions on urban fantasy? (So far as I know, he does not but that seems odd to me.) He seems to feel many societies often worry too much about debt--but where does he stand on individual debt worries? If he could, which metrics and indices would he amplify?

M.Y. once wrote an article for Slate on the best crew members from Star Trek. I would be OK with almost every overrated/ underrated question just being these characters, but I'm especially curious about Riker (I agree he is underrated) and Hoshi (maybe underrated, but I'm not sure by much).

What did he learn from the 2020 Dem primary?

Ask him what he thinks of the movie The Grey.

Ask him -

(1) Which of late Prof. James M. Buchanan's contributions does Matt Yglesias think of as overrated ?
(2) Which of late Prof. James M. Buchanan's contributions does Matt Yglesias think of as meaningful, substantive ?

What's the biggest change he's seen since writing The Rent Is Too Damn High? Does he interact directly with any politicians on the subject of housing restrictions? Tangentially, I see the results of current housing policy in my own work: https://seliger.com/2017/08/30/l-digs-hole-slowly-economics-fills-back-proposition-hhh-facilities-program/

Could any rural areas see really rapid development if they removed common building restrictions? What's standing in their way? Culture?

What novel in the last 20 years best represents, literally or metaphorically, American life?

What's journalism's biggest strength in the social-media age? We see many criticisms, many justified (in my view), but what are the strengths? Why?

Have any reader emails substantially changed his views? Why? How? What made a particular reader email stand out? This is similar to the "journalism's strengths" question in some ways.

Request: more time on recent political culture trends than usual. His opinions are likely to be novel and genuinely interesting on this topic, in contrast with most other guests.

I don't disagree, but do you think a conversation with Tyler on this will add significant value beyond Matt's other public work that covers this quite a lot?

Would he support getting to 1 billion by first shutting down all immigration venues except for highly-skilled immigration? So, no more refugees, family resettlement, people staying permanently after working low-wage jobs, tolerance/amnesty for illegal immigrants, etc?

Knowing that Facebook is not going to shutdown despite his hopes, should we regulate algorithms?

One of the all time most popular posts Yglesais did at Slate (in 2013) was about inside being better than outside.

We need a follow up! During lockdown, is inside still better? Or has he changed his mind (temporarily just for the pandemic) about outside. Super important topic. His public wants to know!

It finishes as below:
So it’s not so much that I need to persuade people that inside > outside as that I need to persuade people to admit what we all know: Inside is great, and humanity has struggled for tens of thousands of years to spend as much time as possible there.

Subject to sociopolitical constraints, what are the most effective channels to increase the number of Americans?
Legally: Much more immigration?
Economics: Much more family assistance?
Culturally: Religion to increase fertility?
Biologically: Genetic engineering/hormone therapy to increase sperm count?

You should at least ask him about any reappraisals of the Star Trek canon, since there are new entries to consider.

How does Matt think about the heterogeneity of current, and potentially future 1 billion - US residents? Rural and suburban residents do not really want more subways, high rise buildings, etc. Should they?

Ask him if he's read Maximum Canada: Toward a Country of 100 Million by Doug Saunders and what he thinks the commonalities and distinctions might be.

And some questions about land use, development, and transport, please!


Where can YIMBYism find a political home: with the Democrats, the post-Trump GOP, or must it remain an independent grass-roots group?

I think Matt's book sounds awesome. The US and the world could greatly benefit from a movement of people from areas of low economic (and personal/political) freedom to a place of higher economic freedom where they will become more productive. We have to blow away restrictive zoning to make such immigration practical.

[Note: I've had dinner with Matt and lunch with Tyler way before they both blew up, which were both great experiences.]

Based on the reviews it appears he advocates population growth as a solution, but are there conditions need to be met (such as coherent health care) that need to be met for such a population increase to be practical?

One of Matt's arguments for population growth is increasing the size of the US economy relative to China's. How does he think about how this interacts with the Thucydides trap and the risk of US-China war? Population growth might not ensure US superiority but rather lengthen and delay the process of China catching up to the US. Could that be more dangerous than a quick transition to Chinese hegemony?

+1. A "Second Order Effects" question of unintended consequences in changes in IR behaviour is a fairly great question that seems novel enough here.

(To not detract from this, in perhaps similar spirit, also what generally does a "Make America Great (In Relative Popuation Size ) Again" do for others countries aspirations for their population size? What are the counterreactions going to be, to being threatened by an economy that literally seek to grow itself larger through sheer population growth than its competitors?).

1. Where does he stand on the broader issues of enlightenment values, beyond the consensus presented in the Harper's letter?

2. Where does he stand on post-modernest "values" regarding the devaluing of objective reality and truth? Here I'm thinking of the purported disconnect between language and reality (e.g., as asserted by Rorty and Baudrillard) and the assertion that language ("discourse," as well as truth) is primarily a vehicle for asserting power (e.g., as in Foucault)?

3. What role do these post-modernist teachings play in what is now going on in society?

Not exactly a question but, on more philosophical level, isn't this sort of proposal where individual ideas of how people wish to live are ultimately subordinated to wonkish notions of a Civ-esque "Grand Strategy" to maintain dominance as a nation or civilization (growing population massive to maintain position), just deeply philosophically illiberal?

(And this does seem the intent of Yglesias book. Romer - “One Billion Americans points to the practical changes that the United States can make in order to earn back its inherited position as the leader on the path toward universal freedom and dignity.").

"Open Borders" advocacy I can understand on the basis of liberal rights advocacy - more rights to individuals to live where they choose to live. I reject on a conservative basis as more likely to damage the people and things I care about of course (and generally just everything), and think that's not only defensible in sentiment but also on a rational basis.

But I understand why "Open Borders" is fundamentally a philosophically liberal position.

The thinking of simply moving people about the world as if on a grand chessboard to facilitate strategic concerns though, seems very deeply at odds with the spirit of liberalism, for governance to step back from radical and managerial manipulations of human society and allow it to go where it will. I find it hard to think of any single idea *more* deeply at odds with the spirit of liberalism.

(If our view of human society is one that is OK with radical and managerial powers invested in the state to direct society as a whole, why not simply back the Chinese Communist Party and leave it at that?).

"What should I ask Matt Yglesias?"

"And to be clear, this will be the conversation with Matt I want to have, not the one that you might think you wish to hear."


Does he think his book might be politically counterproductive by confirming fears that liberals just want to have unlimited immigration?

Are "glib" policy proposals underrated relative to "detailed" (or "serious") policy proposals?

Does it amuse you that CNN and the WaPoo have horned in on the territory once occupied by Daily Kos and what we used to call the nutroots?

How does Yglesias deal with the effects of increased cultural diversity on trust in a society? Putnam identifies a trade-off between trust and diversity in society. I take it that many of the social programs Yglesias prefers would work best in a high trust society, but this is in tension with the expansion of the society. How can we reach 1 billion Americans while preserving or encouraging trust?

While we know elites are self-entitled and don't like to lose power but why are the elites so dumb and hysterical now, is this availability bias, elite inflation, something else?

"The Texas Rangers’ team name must go"


Why is he willing to continue working at Vox after the management censored him?

It isn't clear that that's what happened. Really easy to go down the rabbit hole on Twitter. Getting pulled back, reminded of the point of what you do, seems to be a quite regular pattern.

Maybe it's worse, but my impression is that he was getting pulled into unproductive avenues in the middle school politics which it represents,

its not middle school politics
it is lefty marxist politics
he got censored because signing a letter that was also signed by
j.k. rowling made someone feel "unsafe"

Ask him about the Vox controversy about the Harper's Letter and his thoughts on cancel culture

Overrated or underrated: Robert Moses

I like that Tyler specified "not the one you think you might think you wish to hear" instead of "not the one you want me to have", because the actual convos tend to be much better than what I think I want to hear at first.

Why is most of the energy in our political media preoccupied with extrapolitical detritus, typically to the exclusion of more focused efforts to discern what specifically is wrong and the best means to confront it?

More generally, I'd like you to ask about his philosophical roots and what political value he sees in "big ideas", since his focus has tended to rest on a hodgepodge of narrow but important issues (local zoning! build more stuff!) while any threw line is something like pragmatic naturalism or liberal utilitarianism.

Parish the thought, but there is something conservative in his approach; a "roads and water works" kind of progressivism

Ask him what he thinks about journalism's role in the support of free speech and open discourse.

And ask him how Vox and Ezra Klein are doing on that front.

Here is something I have always wondered about Yglesias's career:

Did he just wake up one morning age 30 and decide to become an economist?

As far as I can tell, he rarely wrote about economic topics before joining Slate. But by the time he left, he was well regarded in the economics blogosphere for his commentary.

So was that a deliberate move? And what does it say about the porousness and/or standards of the economic profession at large?

Ask about the decision making process that goes into censorship of certain scientific topics.


How does he feel about Boris Johnson offering citizenship to 3 million Hong Kong residents just a month after he proposed America doing the same?


0. If 1 billion Americans is better than 300 million: what's the optimal number of humans?

1. Was the movement of bloggers from indy websites to institutional settings a good thing, at the collective level?

2. Why did he decide to stop editing?

3. In 2015 (pre-Trump!), Yglesias predicted the collapse of American democracy. Given Trump, given the Covid pandemic, what's his updated view on this take?

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