This suggestion was unmistakably outrageous given the moralitiesof the times (and would doubtless be most controversialtoday).
The Essay on the Principles of Population and other writingsencouraged the first systematic demographic studies and also hada significant influence in several ways:-
In Economics David Ricardo's, "iron law of wages" and theoryof distribution of wealth contain some elements of Malthus'theory.
Of far more dramatic significance is the fact that bothCharles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace admitted that the foodscarcities regarded as being normal by Malthus had been ofKEY influence on their seperate development of theories ofthe evolutionary Origin of Species.
From 1805 until his death Thomas Malthus was Professor ofModern History and Political Economy at the newly establishedcollege of the East India Company at Haileybury.
This is the 6th expanded edition of the work. There are two versions of Thomas Robert Malthus’s Essay on the Principle of Population. The first, published anonymously in 1798, was so successful that Malthus soon elaborated on it under his real name. The rewrite, culminating in the sixth edition of 1826, was a scholarly expansion and generalization of the first. In this work Malthus argues that there is a disparity between the rate of growth of population (which increases geometrically) and the rate of growth of agriculture (which increases only arithmetically). He then explores how populations have historically been kept in check.
A slight acquaintance with numbers will showthe immensity of the first power compared to thesecond".
The essay thus anticipated that this propensity could only leadto real distress:-" The number of labourers also beingabove the proportion of work in the market, the price of labormust tend towards a decrease; while the price of provisions wouldat the same time tend to rise".
This theory of the effective inevitability of poverty anddistress contradicted the optimistic belief prevailing in theearly 19th century, that a society's fertility would lead toeconomic progress and helped to give Economics, then morefrequently known as "Political Economy" the alternative name of"The Dismal Science."
Earlier that year the British statesman William Pitt hadproposed that poor relief should give special consideration tothe encouragement of large families as In the eventMalthus's theory was often used as an argument against efforts tobetter the condition of the poor.
Malthus later went so far as to suggest that, for thelessening of the probability of a miserable existence for thepoor, it was advisable to seek to cut the birth rate in society.
If not, what will occur to restore the balance?
At what cost?
Beating the Malthusian prediction has come at a cost
Consider the negative externalities of industrialised food production: emissions from agriculture and meat production, degradation of arable land, water usage and contamination through irrigation run-off, health implications from use of fertilisers and the change in our eating habits (high calorie, low nutrition, over processed)
The global food system, from fertiliser manufacture to food storage and packaging, is responsible for up to one-third of all human-caused greenhouse-gas emissions (Nature 2012)
Population concerns giving way to impacts of affluence; higher consumption levels, and in particular higher consumption of meat are putting great strain on the food supply/ecology relationship (Goodstein 2011, p121)
It takes up to 13 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of meat (PETA 2014) - lots of grain in, little food out = highly inefficient use of limited resources
What does this all mean to us?
Malthus could not have imagined the many developments that have both challenged and reinforced his ideas (he was, like ecologicals, a technological pessimist)
He was the true forerunner of ecological economists (Goodstein 2011 p 121).
Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population | …
He pointed out the direct link between limited natural capital and unsustainable development
The question of sustainability has evolved from a simple population vs food equation
Ecological economists extend Malthus' observations and apply it to many situations where limited or fixed natural resources are being continually stretched to sustain population and growing CONSUMPTION - think food, oil, coal, water, land, clean air
While the market managed to beat Malthus' original predictions (technology and markets evolved to increase food supply), this resolution fails to account for the true cost of the food production - Negative externalities - and so the whole system is an unsustainable cycle
Ecologicals would suggest that intervention is required.
An Essay on the Principle of Population
The different ratios in which population and food increase—Thenecessary effects of these different ratios of increase—Oscillation produced by them in the condition of the lowerclasses of society—Reasons why this oscillation has not been somuch observed as might be expected—Three propositions on whichthe general argument of the essay depends—The different statesin which mankind have been known to exist proposed to be examinedwith reference to these three propositions.
Learn more about malthus' theory of population growth in the ..
There are literally dozens of other examples of population- control programs which have been implemented throughout our world by modern-day "Malthusians" in their effort to ensure that the world population is dramatically curtailed.
An Essay on the Principle of Population by Thomas MalthusThomas Malthus (1766-1834)
English political economist
Was concerned with what he saw as the decline of living conditions in England
Published "An Essay on the Principle of Population" in 1798
This work earned economics the title of "the dismal science"
What did Malthus observe?
Outlaid a simple proposition with a dire and seemingly inescapable outcome (Goodstein, 2011 p119):
that food supply grows arithmetically; and
that population grows geometrically
Eventually, population outstrips food supply.
"This implies a strong and constantly operating check on population from the difficulty of subsistence.
An Essay on the Principle of Population, 2 volsdevelopment of more resilient and higher yielding crops, more efficient farming methods and increasing mobility and globalisation of food.
Problem solved right?
We're not out of the woods yet...
Food production beginning to show diminishing returns since the Green Revolution (Goodstein 2011, p120) - has food production begun to plateau?
The world will need 70 per cent more food, as measured by calories, to feed a global population of 9.6 billion in 2050, and must achieve this through improvements in the way people produce and consume (United Nations 2014)
Malthusian trap has been beaten by developed nations, but does it still exist?
Malthus wrote An Essay on the ..
Question stated—Little prospect of a determination of it, fromthe enmity of the opposing parties—The principal argumentagainst the perfectibility of man and of society has never beenfairly answered—Nature of the difficulty arising frompopulation—Outline of the principal argument of the essay