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As we stare across the barricaded border and watch as natural, epidemiological and political disasters unfold, we’re probably not thinking: There ought to be three times more Americans.

Yet that idea is now part of the U.S. policy dialogue. And I owe it to you to check it out, since I am at least somewhat responsible for its appearance.

Last year, I published the second edition of Maximum Canada: Toward a Country of 100 Million, which analyzes Canada’s history of underpopulation and proposes an eventual tripling of the population. This week, U.S. journalist Matthew Yglesias, a founder and editor of the news site Vox, is publishing One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger, which proposes an eventual tripling of the U.S. population.

The similarity is not coincidental: Mr. Yglesias has described his book as “Maximum Canada, but for America."

Which is both flattering and slightly alarming, if you take it at face value. But it’s also kind of impossible.

You see, Maximum Canada is about the lasting effects of the country’s foundational flaw, which is that during most of the century before the 1950s, and during the huge migration of Europeans to the New World, Canada was so ill-governed that it lost more people from emigration than it gained from immigration. And most of those people departed for the United States, leaving Canada with comparatively paltry markets, audiences and institutions.

There’s no way to make that case for the United States. It didn’t lose most of its population to a larger country and can’t as easily be said to be underpopulated. So One Billion Americans is not going to be a copycat of my book.

But I had a clue to its more likely argument, since I’d enjoyed the author’s previous book, The Rent Is Too Damn High. It examined the crisis of housing affordability, accurately attributing it to restrictive policies that forbid multi-unit housing and thus force urban neighbourhoods into cripplingly low population densities (Canada has the same problem). Absolute population was less likely to be its main subject as the need for population density in the right places.

What I didn’t consider was that this is an American book – one being published before an election. Therefore, it opens with a lot of stuff about the Need to Restore American Greatness. “Rapid ongoing economic growth in India and especially China is leading to the relative decline of the United States of America as a great power and threatens to eclipse it as the world’s number one state in the not-too-distant future,” Mr. Yglesias begins.

I’m not persuaded that China’s and India’s huge populations are central to their economic success. Nor am I convinced that a country needs to be No. 1 to achieve a high standard of living. I’m Canadian that way: It’s more important to be good than to be Great.

Luckily, this is mostly an opening feint – a framing device in what is largely a pleasantly nerdy book about the policy flaws that have made the United States a troubled country in terms of health care, housing, transportation, education, child care and energy. He roots many of these problems not in a lack of population but in a lack of population growth.

America’s slow population growth, like Canada’s, is unevenly distributed. Most of the United States, including all but a few of its top 20 cities, is currently suffering from population declines. One of Mr. Yglesias’s more intriguing policy ideas is what he calls “National Renewal Visas,” which would allow highly skilled immigrants to settle permanently if they promise to live in a declining city for the first five years.

The United States doesn’t really need a billion people; it just needs its people to be less sprawling, more urban, more distributed, more educated. Because they’re not, the country gets things like Donald Trump’s presidency. But the point, Mr. Yglesias concludes, is that more people wouldn’t hurt: “One billion Americans won’t make us overcrowded – we’re extremely undercrowded today – and significant parts of the country are depopulating.”

For our part, we needn’t worry about our neighbours suddenly tripling in number. One big difference between our books is that Maximum Canada’s population target has been part of Canadian government thinking for five decades (and is puny compared with Wilfrid Laurier’s population goals). People in both the Liberal and Conservative parties have embraced its ideas, which have in good part been adopted in expanded immigration policies. One Billion Americans will have a harder time influencing U.S. policy for the better, given the obsessions of its policymakers – and, given that difficulty, you can hardly blame the author for trying to attract their attention with a big number.