February 13, 2016
If you’ve ever taken an economics or ecology class, you’ll surely remember the name of Thomas Malthus, the English minister, economist and demographer & good friend of Jean Jacques Rosseau and David Hume.
Malthus was born in Surrey England on February 13/14, 1766, and this weekend marks the 250th anniversary of his birth.
For many modern ecologists, Malthus’s ideas, first published in 1798 in An Essay on the Principle of Population often serve as the starting point for understanding the limits of the environment.
Malthus thought that the dangers of population growth precluded progress towards a utopian society: “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man”
So, the good reverend felt, that population increases will continue until they are checked by resource limitations (which appear as famine, war, and ill health), and population decreases can only be brought about through contraception, misery, and sexual self-restraint .
Will Malthus’s apocalyptic future come to pass? It remains to be seen. Certainly, more of Earth’s resources have been recruited to support an ever-rising human population, but the population checks and crashes Malthus predicted have been few, because of significant advances in nutrition, hygiene, agriculture, & medical care.
Although Earth’s human population has skyrocketed from 1.65 billion to roughly 7.4 billion between 1900 and 2016, the annual rate of growth has slowed from 2% in 1960 to a little more than 1% today. Demographically speaking though there are no signs that humans will again multiply like they did during the 20th century and politicians all ove rthe planet are unhappy.
Recently, a new Nobel prize winner, Angus Deaton, has made some interesting colloaries to
Malthusian Theory directly attacking Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, that all his chartiable works. The Calgary Sun has a record over here. Gates of course, vehemnently disagreed. So with Malthus’s birthday today is a good time to discover Deagan and his works or click above and read the Malthusian original.