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Thomas Malthus' Theory on Population

By Edited Nov 5, 2016 0 2

Malthus' Quote
Malthus was a key player in the debate over population in 1798, the year he published his essay entitled “An Essay on the Principle of Population”. This essay, essentially, stated that there was growing pressure on not only the people of the world, but on the resources with which we draw upon. These pressures were evened out by what Malthus called “positive checks”, including famine, war, and disease. These events would cause a fallout in human population.

Malthus' “Malthusian Equation”, while not much of an actual equation, stated that human population would grow exponentially as opposed to a more linear growth of the technological growth of our food supply. This is because human population builds upon itself, it rises exponentially, also said as geometrically. For example, two humans breed to create four, four breed to create eight, eight to sixteen, sixteen to thirty-two, and so on. In contrast, food production can only grow arithmetically, as in one, two, three, four, five. Food production does not build upon itself as population does, and this was what Malthus saw as a foreshadowing of population becoming overbearing. Malthus theorized many things that did not in fact come true, but the overall theory that he drew up does hold true to today. He had ideas on things ranging from population in the coming centuries and the death and birth rates, most of which were inaccurate, but not many people could predict such exponential growth over a short period of time. Malthus may have not had the time frame right, but the concepts of his thinking were indeed accurate.

If you look at it on a smaller scale, it’s clear that Malthus’ ideas are truly already coming into play. Look at Kenya. The entire nation is in disarray and disaster, while their population growth rate sits at a lofty 2.7% to show for it. Drought, poverty, and a shortage of arable land all limit food production all have become issues in Kenya due to too many people drawing on too little resources.  While many people view Malthus views as inhumane and immoral, it poses the question, is it moral to let the world become overpopulated and add to the already fifty percent of the world living in poverty? Malthus believes that to further the human species as a whole, we must end welfare and foreign aid, and keep to ourselves. While this seems heartless, it would indeed be effective in culling the population enough to create zero population growth.

Now, Malthusians do indeed have their drawbacks. One of the most prevalent is the moral code behind it. This debate is not centered around morals, however, but for the sake of the social topic, it is acceptable to point out that Malthusians do indeed seem numb to the cries of the many poor and impoverished people whom they are so readily willing to let die. In addition, Malthus’ theory fails to point out that increased poverty could increase developing countries birth rates in an attempt to garner more financial aid and make a living. This would have in inverse effect and rise population growth rates.

As for the other two prevalent theories, Marxism, and Technological Optimism (TO), they possess numerous advantages and disadvantages. Marxism, is quite frankly, communism. Sharing all things equally will indeed lead to equal distribution and prevent things such as poverty and famine and war and health issues. This, much like Malthus’ idea, could lead to inverse consequences. While it would hope to lower the birth rates, this could lead many places to increase reproduction rates simply because it is allowed. Another major drawback with Marxism is simply the fact that people won’t, participate. Statistics show that no matter how perfect a civilization can be, there will be anarchists. Trying to globally implement such as communism will certainly lead to war and famine because it is quite literally impossible to create agreeance on this ideology. Marxism restrains innovation in that it destroys competition, which leads to less diversity and more poverty when the numbers run high. On the other hand, we have the Technological Optimists. Technological Optimists argue that technology will save us, because it always has and it will continue to, so we must increase birth rate to assure we do not miss out on “the next Einstein”. While this seems like an excellent plan, it fails to take into account that technological gains in the food industry have actually slowed and are seeing less and less of an increase for the world.

While Malthus' theory seemed critical and harsh at times, he did manage to accurately predict the future of human population. Where we go from here is even harder to tell, but should the world continue to follow Malthus' equation, we could be facing dire times in the next few centuries.

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Comments

Feb 2, 2015 1:03am
HLesley
Interesting article. It is also worth noting that Malthus advocated the limitation of population growth. There was no birth control at the time, but he advocated the "postponement of marriage" in order to reduce family size.
Feb 2, 2015 7:20am
cmorr7
Very interesting indeed! Something I didn't even think to include, thanks for the comment!
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