Thomas Malthus

Thomas Malthus

Overview
The Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus FRS
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 (13 or 14 February 1766 – 23 or 29 December 1834) was an English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

 scholar, influential in political economy
Political economy
Political economy originally was the term for studying production, buying, and selling, and their relations with law, custom, and government, as well as with the distribution of national income and wealth, including through the budget process. Political economy originated in moral philosophy...

 and demography
Demography
Demography is the statistical study of human population. It can be a very general science that can be applied to any kind of dynamic human population, that is, one that changes over time or space...

. Malthus popularized the economic theory of rent
Economic rent
Economic rent is typically defined by economists as payment for goods and services beyond the amount needed to bring the required factors of production into a production process and sustain supply. A recipient of economic rent is a rentier....

.

Malthus has become widely known for his theories about population and its increase or decrease in response to various factors. The six editions of his An Essay on the Principle of Population
An Essay on the Principle of Population
The book An Essay on the Principle of Population was first published anonymously in 1798 through J. Johnson . The author was soon identified as The Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus. While it was not the first book on population, it has been acknowledged as the most influential work of its era...

, published from 1798 to 1826, observed that sooner or later population gets checked by famine
Famine
A famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including crop failure, overpopulation, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality. Every continent in the world has...

 and disease
Disease
A disease is an abnormal condition affecting the body of an organism. It is often construed to be a medical condition associated with specific symptoms and signs. It may be caused by external factors, such as infectious disease, or it may be caused by internal dysfunctions, such as autoimmune...

.
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Quotations

If I saw a glass of wine repeatedly presented to a man, and he took no notice of it, I should be apt to think that he was blind or uncivil. A juster philosophy might teach me rather to think that my eyes deceived me, and that the offer was not really what I conceived it to be.

The germs of existence contained in this spot of earth, with ample food, and ample room to expand in, would fill millions of worlds in the course of a few thousand years.

The perpetual tendency of the race of man to increase beyond the means of subsistence is one of the general laws of animated nature, which we can have no reason to expect to change.

The immediate cause of the increase of population is the excess of the births above deaths; and the rate of increase, or the period of doubling, depends upon the proportion which the excess of the births above the deaths bears to the population.

The main peculiarity which distinguishes man from other animals, is the means of his support, is the power which he possesses of very greatly increasing these means.

The finest minds seem to be formed rather by efforts at original thinking, by endeavours to form new combinations, and to discover new truths, than by passively receiving the impressions of other men's ideas.

Encyclopedia
The Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus FRS
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 (13 or 14 February 1766 – 23 or 29 December 1834) was an English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

 scholar, influential in political economy
Political economy
Political economy originally was the term for studying production, buying, and selling, and their relations with law, custom, and government, as well as with the distribution of national income and wealth, including through the budget process. Political economy originated in moral philosophy...

 and demography
Demography
Demography is the statistical study of human population. It can be a very general science that can be applied to any kind of dynamic human population, that is, one that changes over time or space...

. Malthus popularized the economic theory of rent
Economic rent
Economic rent is typically defined by economists as payment for goods and services beyond the amount needed to bring the required factors of production into a production process and sustain supply. A recipient of economic rent is a rentier....

.

Malthus has become widely known for his theories about population and its increase or decrease in response to various factors. The six editions of his An Essay on the Principle of Population
An Essay on the Principle of Population
The book An Essay on the Principle of Population was first published anonymously in 1798 through J. Johnson . The author was soon identified as The Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus. While it was not the first book on population, it has been acknowledged as the most influential work of its era...

, published from 1798 to 1826, observed that sooner or later population gets checked by famine
Famine
A famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including crop failure, overpopulation, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality. Every continent in the world has...

 and disease
Disease
A disease is an abnormal condition affecting the body of an organism. It is often construed to be a medical condition associated with specific symptoms and signs. It may be caused by external factors, such as infectious disease, or it may be caused by internal dysfunctions, such as autoimmune...

. He wrote in opposition to the popular view in 18th-century Europe that saw society as improving and in principle as perfectible. William Godwin
William Godwin
William Godwin was an English journalist, political philosopher and novelist. He is considered one of the first exponents of utilitarianism, and the first modern proponent of anarchism...

 and the Marquis de Condorcet
Marquis de Condorcet
Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, marquis de Condorcet , known as Nicolas de Condorcet, was a French philosopher, mathematician, and early political scientist whose Condorcet method in voting tally selects the candidate who would beat each of the other candidates in a run-off election...

, for example, believed in the possibility of almost limitless improvement of society. So, in a more complex way, did Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer of 18th-century Romanticism. His political philosophy influenced the French Revolution as well as the overall development of modern political, sociological and educational thought.His novel Émile: or, On Education is a treatise...

, whose notions centered on the goodness of man and the liberty of citizens bound only by the social contract
Social contract
The social contract is an intellectual device intended to explain the appropriate relationship between individuals and their governments. Social contract arguments assert that individuals unite into political societies by a process of mutual consent, agreeing to abide by common rules and accept...

—a form of popular sovereignty
Popular sovereignty
Popular sovereignty or the sovereignty of the people is the political principle that the legitimacy of the state is created and sustained by the will or consent of its people, who are the source of all political power. It is closely associated with Republicanism and the social contract...

.

Malthus thought that the dangers of population growth
Population growth
Population growth is the change in a population over time, and can be quantified as the change in the number of individuals of any species in a population using "per unit time" for measurement....

 would preclude endless progress towards a utopia
Utopia
Utopia is an ideal community or society possessing a perfect socio-politico-legal system. The word was imported from Greek by Sir Thomas More for his 1516 book Utopia, describing a fictional island in the Atlantic Ocean. The term has been used to describe both intentional communities that attempt...

n society: "The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man". As an Anglican clergyman, Malthus saw this situation as divinely imposed to teach virtuous behaviour. Believing that one could not change human nature, Malthus wrote:

Malthus placed the longer-term stability of the economy above short-term expediency. He criticised the Poor Laws, and (alone among important contemporary economists) supported the Corn Laws
Corn Laws
The Corn Laws were trade barriers designed to protect cereal producers in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland against competition from less expensive foreign imports between 1815 and 1846. The barriers were introduced by the Importation Act 1815 and repealed by the Importation Act 1846...

, which introduced a system of taxes on British imports of wheat. He thought these measures would encourage domestic production, and so promote long-term benefits.

Malthus became hugely influential, and controversial, in economic, political, social and scientific thought. Many of those whom subsequent centuries term evolutionary biologists read him, notably Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

 and Alfred Russel Wallace
Alfred Russel Wallace
Alfred Russel Wallace, OM, FRS was a British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist and biologist...

, for each of whom Malthusianism
Malthusianism
Malthusianism refers primarily to ideas derived from the political/economic thought of Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus, as laid out initially in his 1798 writings, An Essay on the Principle of Population, which describes how unchecked population growth is exponential while the growth of the food...

 became an intellectual stepping-stone to the idea of natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

. Malthus remains a writer of great significance and controversy.

Early life and education


The sixth of seven children of Daniel and Henrietta Malthus, Thomas Robert Malthus grew up in The Rookery, a country house near Westcott
Westcott, Surrey
Westcott is a village situated on the A25 between Dorking and Guildford in Surrey, England. Neighbouring villages include Friday Street, Wotton, Abinger Common and Abinger Hammer. It was the nearest village for the John Evelyn's Wotton Estate, and was well known by the diarist in the mid to late...

 in Surrey
Surrey
Surrey is a county in the South East of England and is one of the Home Counties. The county borders Greater London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire. The historic county town is Guildford. Surrey County Council sits at Kingston upon Thames, although this has been part of...

. Petersen describes Daniel Malthus as "a gentleman of good family and independent means... [and] a friend of David Hume
David Hume
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism. He was one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment...

 and Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer of 18th-century Romanticism. His political philosophy influenced the French Revolution as well as the overall development of modern political, sociological and educational thought.His novel Émile: or, On Education is a treatise...

". The young Malthus received his education at home in Bramcote
Bramcote
Bramcote is a settlement in the Broxtowe district of Nottinghamshire, about five miles west of Nottingham. It was a separate village but is now a suburb of Greater Nottingham. Originally one of the main roads between the cities of Nottingham and Derby passed through the village centre...

, Nottinghamshire
Nottinghamshire
Nottinghamshire is a county in the East Midlands of England, bordering South Yorkshire to the north-west, Lincolnshire to the east, Leicestershire to the south, and Derbyshire to the west...

, and then at the Dissenting
English Dissenters
English Dissenters were Christians who separated from the Church of England in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.They originally agitated for a wide reaching Protestant Reformation of the Established Church, and triumphed briefly under Oliver Cromwell....

 Warrington Academy
Warrington Academy
Warrington Academy, active as a teaching establishment from 1756 to 1782, was a prominent dissenting academy, that is, a school or college set up by those who dissented from the state church in England...

. He entered Jesus College, Cambridge
Jesus College, Cambridge
Jesus College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England.The College was founded in 1496 on the site of a Benedictine nunnery by John Alcock, then Bishop of Ely...

 in 1784. There he took prizes in English declamation, Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 and Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, and graduated with honours, Ninth Wrangler in mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

. He took the MA
Master of Arts (postgraduate)
A Master of Arts from the Latin Magister Artium, is a type of Master's degree awarded by universities in many countries. The M.A. is usually contrasted with the M.S. or M.Sc. degrees...

 degree in 1791, and was elected a Fellow
Fellow
A fellow in the broadest sense is someone who is an equal or a comrade. The term fellow is also used to describe a person, particularly by those in the upper social classes. It is most often used in an academic context: a fellow is often part of an elite group of learned people who are awarded...

 of Jesus College, Cambridge
Jesus College, Cambridge
Jesus College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England.The College was founded in 1496 on the site of a Benedictine nunnery by John Alcock, then Bishop of Ely...

 two years later. In 1797, he took orders
Ordination
In general religious use, ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated, that is, set apart as clergy to perform various religious rites and ceremonies. The process and ceremonies of ordination itself varies by religion and denomination. One who is in preparation for, or who is...


and in 1798 became an Anglican country curate
Curate
A curate is a person who is invested with the care or cure of souls of a parish. In this sense "curate" correctly means a parish priest but in English-speaking countries a curate is an assistant to the parish priest...

 at Okewood near Albury
Albury, Surrey
Albury is a village and civil parish in the borough of Guildford in Surrey, England, about south-east of Guildford town centre. The village is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Site of Special Scientific Interest....

 in Surrey
Surrey
Surrey is a county in the South East of England and is one of the Home Counties. The county borders Greater London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire. The historic county town is Guildford. Surrey County Council sits at Kingston upon Thames, although this has been part of...

.

His portrait, and descriptions by contemporaries, present him as tall and good-looking, but with a cleft lip and palate. The cleft palate affected his speech: such birth defects had occurred before amongst his relatives.
Malthus apparently refused to have his portrait
Portrait
thumb|250px|right|Portrait of [[Thomas Jefferson]] by [[Rembrandt Peale]], 1805. [[New-York Historical Society]].A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness,...

 painted until 1833 because of embarrassment over the cleft lip.

Personal life


Malthus married his cousin Harriet on 12 April 1804 and had three children: Henry, Emily and Lucy. In 1805 he became Professor of History and Political Economy at the East India Company College
East India Company College
The East India College was a college in Hertford Heath, Hertfordshire, England. It was founded in February 1806 as the training establishment for the British East India Company . At that time, the BEIC provided general and vocational education for young gentlemen of sixteen to eighteen years old,...

 (now known as Haileybury
Haileybury and Imperial Service College
Haileybury and Imperial Service College, , is a prestigious British independent school founded in 1862. The school is located at Hertford Heath, near Hertford, from central London, on of parkland occupied until 1858 by the East India College...

) in Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England. The county town is Hertford.The county is one of the Home Counties and lies inland, bordered by Greater London , Buckinghamshire , Bedfordshire , Cambridgeshire and...

. His students affectionately referred to him as "Pop" or "Population" Malthus. In 1818 Malthus became a Fellow of the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

.

Malthus's tomb is in Bath Abbey
Bath Abbey
The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Bath, commonly known as Bath Abbey, is an Anglican parish church and a former Benedictine monastery in Bath, Somerset, England...

.

An Essay on the Principle of Population



Between 1798 and 1826 Malthus published six editions of his famous treatise, An Essay on the Principle of Population
An Essay on the Principle of Population
The book An Essay on the Principle of Population was first published anonymously in 1798 through J. Johnson . The author was soon identified as The Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus. While it was not the first book on population, it has been acknowledged as the most influential work of its era...

, updating each edition to incorporate new material, to address criticism, and to convey changes in his own perspectives on the subject. He wrote the original text in reaction to the optimism of his father and his father's associates (notably Rousseau) regarding the future improvement of society. Malthus also constructed his case as a specific response to writings of William Godwin
William Godwin
William Godwin was an English journalist, political philosopher and novelist. He is considered one of the first exponents of utilitarianism, and the first modern proponent of anarchism...

 (1756–1836) and of the Marquis de Condorcet
Marquis de Condorcet
Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, marquis de Condorcet , known as Nicolas de Condorcet, was a French philosopher, mathematician, and early political scientist whose Condorcet method in voting tally selects the candidate who would beat each of the other candidates in a run-off election...

 (1743–1794).

Malthus regarded ideals of future improvement in the lot of humanity with skepticism, considering that throughout history a segment of every human population seemed relegated to poverty. He explained this phenomenon by arguing that population growth generally expanded in times and in regions of plenty until the size of the population relative to the primary resources caused distress:
Malthus also saw that societies through history had experienced at one time or another epidemics, famines, or wars: events that masked the fundamental problem of populations overstretching their resource limitations:

Proposed solutions


Malthus argued that two types of checks hold population within resource limits: positive checks, which raise the death rate; and preventive ones, which lower the birth rate. The positive checks include hunger, disease and war; the preventive checks, abortion, birth control, prostitution, postponement of marriage and celibacy. Regarding possibilities for freeing man from these limits, Malthus argued against a variety of imaginable solutions. For example, he satirically criticized the notion that agricultural improvements could expand without limit:
He also commented on the notion that Francis Galton
Francis Galton
Sir Francis Galton /ˈfrɑːnsɪs ˈgɔːltn̩/ FRS , cousin of Douglas Strutt Galton, half-cousin of Charles Darwin, was an English Victorian polymath: anthropologist, eugenicist, tropical explorer, geographer, inventor, meteorologist, proto-geneticist, psychometrician, and statistician...

 later called eugenics
Eugenics
Eugenics is the "applied science or the bio-social movement which advocates the use of practices aimed at improving the genetic composition of a population", usually referring to human populations. The origins of the concept of eugenics began with certain interpretations of Mendelian inheritance,...

:
In the second and subsequent editions Malthus put more emphasis on moral restraint. By that he meant the postponement of marriage until people could support a family, coupled with strict celibacy
Celibacy
Celibacy is a personal commitment to avoiding sexual relations, in particular a vow from marriage. Typically celibacy involves avoiding all romantic relationships of any kind. An individual may choose celibacy for religious reasons, such as is the case for priests in some religions, for reasons of...

 (sexual abstinence
Sexual abstinence
Sexual abstinence is the practice of refraining from some or all aspects of sexual activity for medical, psychological, legal, social, philosophical or religious reasons.Common reasons for practicing sexual abstinence include:*poor health - medical celibacy...

) until that time. "He went so far as to claim that moral restraint on a wide scale was the best means—indeed, the only means—of easing the poverty of the lower classes."
This plan appeared consistent with virtue, economic gain and social improvement.

This train of thought counterpoints Malthus' stand on public assistance to the poor. He proposed the gradual abolition of poor laws by gradually reducing the number of persons qualifying for relief. Relief in dire distress would come from private charity. He reasoned that poor relief acted against the longer-term interests of the poor by raising the price of commodities and undermining the independence and resilience of the peasant. In other words, the poor laws tended to "create the poor which they maintain."

It offended Malthus that critics claimed he lacked a caring attitude toward the situation of the poor. In the 1798 edition his concern for the poor shows in passages such as the following:
In an addition to the 1817 edition he wrote:
Some, such as William Farr
William Farr
William Farr was a nineteenth-century British epidemiologist, regarded as one of the founders of medical statistics.-Early life:He was born in Kenley, Shropshire, England to poor parents...


and Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

,
argued that Malthus did not fully recognize the human capacity to increase food supply. On this subject, however, Malthus had written: "The main peculiarity which distinguishes man from other animals, in the means of his support, is the power which he possesses of very greatly increasing these means."

On religion


As a believer and a clergyman, Malthus addressed the question of how an omnipotent and caring God could permit suffering. In the First Edition of his Essay (1798) Malthus reasoned that the constant threat of poverty and starvation served to teach the virtues of hard work and virtuous behaviour. "Had population and food increased in the same ratio, it is probable that man might never have emerged from the savage state," he wrote, adding further, "Evil exists in the world not to create despair, but activity."

Nevertheless, although the threat of poverty could be understood to be a prod to motivate human industry, it was not God's will that man should suffer. Malthus wrote that mankind itself was solely to blame for human suffering:

Demographics, wages, and inflation


Malthus wrote of the relationship between population, real wages, and inflation. When the population of laborers grows faster than the production of food, then real wages fall, because the growing population causes the cost of living (i.e., the cost of food) to go up. Difficulties of raising a family eventually reduce the rate of population growth, until the falling population again leads to higher real wages:


"A circumstance which has, perhaps, more than any other, contributed to conceal this oscillation from common view, is the difference between the nominal and real price of labour. It very rarely happens that the nominal price of labour universally falls; but we well know that it frequently remains the same, while the nominal price of provisions has been gradually rising. This, indeed, will generally be the case, if the increase of manufactures and commerce be sufficient to employ the new labourers that are thrown into the market, and to prevent the increased supply from lowering the money-price.10 But an increased number of labourers receiving the same money-wages will necessarily, by their competition, increase the money-price of corn. This is, in fact, a real fall in the price of labour; and, during this period, the condition of the lower classes of the community must be gradually growing worse. But the farmers and capitalists are growing rich from the real cheapness of labour. Their increasing capitals enable them to employ a greater number of men; and, as the population had probably suffered some check from the greater difficulty of supporting a family, the demand for labour, after a certain period, would be great in proportion to the supply, and its price would of course rise, if left to find its natural level; and thus the wages of labour, and consequently the condition of the lower classes of society, might have progressive and retrograde movements, though the price of labour might never nominally fall.


In later editions of his essay, Malthus clarified his view that if society relied on human misery to limit population growth, then sources of misery (e.g., hunger, disease, and war, termed by Malthus "positive checks on population") would inevitably afflict society, as would volatile economic cycles. On the other hand, "preventive checks" to population that limited birthrates, such as later marriages, could ensure a higher standard of living for all, while also increasing economic stability.

Editions and versions

  • 1798: An Essay on the Principle of Population, as it affects the future improvement of society with remarks on the speculations of Mr. Godwin
    William Godwin
    William Godwin was an English journalist, political philosopher and novelist. He is considered one of the first exponents of utilitarianism, and the first modern proponent of anarchism...

    , M. Condorcet
    Marquis de Condorcet
    Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, marquis de Condorcet , known as Nicolas de Condorcet, was a French philosopher, mathematician, and early political scientist whose Condorcet method in voting tally selects the candidate who would beat each of the other candidates in a run-off election...

    , and other writers.
    . Anonymously published.
  • 1803: Second and much enlarged edition: An essay on the Principle of Population; or, a view of its past and present effects on human happiness; with an enquiry into our prospects respecting the future removal or mitigation of the evils which it occasions. Authorship acknowledged.
  • 1806, 1807, 1817 and 1826: editions 3–6, with relatively minor changes from the second edition.
  • 1823: Malthus contributed the article on Population to the supplement of the Encyclopædia Britannica
    Encyclopædia Britannica
    The Encyclopædia Britannica , published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., is a general knowledge English-language encyclopaedia that is available in print, as a DVD, and on the Internet. It is written and continuously updated by about 100 full-time editors and more than 4,000 expert...

    .
  • 1830: Malthus had a long extract from the 1823 article reprinted as A summary view of the Principle of Population.

1800: The present high price of provisions


In this work, his first published pamphlet, Malthus argues against the notion prevailing in his locale that the greed of intermediaries caused the high price of provisions. Instead, Malthus says that the high price stems from the Poor Laws which "increase the parish allowances in proportion to the price of corn". Thus, given a limited supply, the Poor Laws force up the price of daily necessities. Then he concludes by saying that in time of scarcity such Poor Laws, by raising the price of corn more evenly, produce a beneficial effect.

1814: Observations on the effects of the Corn Laws


Although government in Britain had regulated the prices of corn (grain in general, e.g. wheat) since the 17th century, the Corn Laws
Corn Laws
The Corn Laws were trade barriers designed to protect cereal producers in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland against competition from less expensive foreign imports between 1815 and 1846. The barriers were introduced by the Importation Act 1815 and repealed by the Importation Act 1846...

 originated in 1815. At the end of the Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

 that year, Parliament
Parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

 passed legislation banning the importation of foreign corn into Britain until domestic corn cost 80 shillings per quarter
Hundredweight
The hundredweight or centum weight is a unit of mass defined in terms of the pound . The definition used in Britain differs from that used in North America. The two are distinguished by the terms long hundredweight and short hundredweight:* The long hundredweight is defined as 112 lb, which...

. The high price caused the cost of food to increase and so caused great distress among the working classes in the towns. This led to serious rioting in London and to the "Peterloo Massacre
Peterloo Massacre
The Peterloo Massacre occurred at St Peter's Field, Manchester, England, on 16 August 1819, when cavalry charged into a crowd of 60,000–80,000 that had gathered to demand the reform of parliamentary representation....

" (1819) in Manchester
Manchester
Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England. According to the Office for National Statistics, the 2010 mid-year population estimate for Manchester was 498,800. Manchester lies within one of the UK's largest metropolitan areas, the metropolitan county of Greater...

.

In this pamphlet, printed during the parliamentary discussion, Malthus tentatively supported the free-traders. He argued that given the increasing expense of raising British corn, advantages accrued from supplementing it from cheaper foreign sources. This view he changed the following year.

1815: The Nature of Rent


Rent
Renting
Renting is an agreement where a payment is made for the temporary use of a good, service or property owned by another. A gross lease is when the tenant pays a flat rental amount and the landlord pays for all property charges regularly incurred by the ownership from landowners...

 constitutes a major concept in economics. David Ricardo
David Ricardo
David Ricardo was an English political economist, often credited with systematising economics, and was one of the most influential of the classical economists, along with Thomas Malthus, Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill. He was also a member of Parliament, businessman, financier and speculator,...

, Malthus' contemporary and friendly rival, defined a theory of rent in his Principles of Political Economy (1817). Ricardo regarded rent as value in excess of real production—something caused by incident of ownership rather than by fundamental economic value imparted by free and equal trade. For Ricardo, rent represented a kind of negative money that landlords could pull out of the production of the land by measure of land's scarcity.

Contrary to this concept of rent, Malthus states that rent cannot exist except in the case of surplus. Also he says that rent, once accumulated, becomes subsequently a source of capital re-investment, causing positive effects through the growth and accumulation of productive wealth. He proposes rent to be a kind of surplus.

1815: The policy of restricting the importation of Grain


Malthus emerged as the only economist of note to support customs
Customs
Customs is an authority or agency in a country responsible for collecting and safeguarding customs duties and for controlling the flow of goods including animals, transports, personal effects and hazardous items in and out of a country...

 duty
Duty (economics)
In economics, a duty is a kind of tax, often associated with customs, a payment due to the revenue of a state, levied by force of law. It is a tax on certain items purchased abroad...

 on imported grain.

He had changed his mind from the previous year, siding now with the protectionists. Foreign laws, he noted, often prohibit or raise taxes on the export of corn in lean times, which meant that the British food supply could become captive to foreign politics. By encouraging domestic production, Malthus argued, the Corn Laws would guarantee British self-sufficiency
Self-sufficiency
Self-sufficiency refers to the state of not requiring any outside aid, support, or interaction, for survival; it is therefore a type of personal or collective autonomy...

 in food.

1820: Principles of political economy


1836: Second edition, posthumously published.

Malthus intended this work to rival Ricardo's Principles (1817). It, and his 1827 Definitions in political economy (below), defend Sismondi
Jean Charles Léonard de Sismondi
Jean Charles Léonard de Sismondi , whose real name was Simonde, was a writer born at Geneva. He is best known for his works on French and Italian history, and his economic ideas.-Early life:...

's views on general glut
General glut
In macroeconomics, a general glut is when supply exceeds demand, specifically, when there is more production in all fields of production in comparison with what resources are available to consume said production....

 as against Say's Law
Say's law
Say's law, or the law of market, is an economic principle of classical economics named after the French businessman and economist Jean-Baptiste Say , who stated that "products are paid for with products" and "a glut can take place only when there are too many means of production applied to one kind...

. Say's Law states, "there can be no general glut". A general glut falls under the general category of what one might term Malthus's "Surplus Theory", as opposed to his "main", and earlier, body of work, which presents a "Scarcity Theory".

1827: Definitions in political economy

"The question of a glut is exclusively whether it may be general, as well as particular, and not whether it may be permanent as well as temporary...[The] tendency, in the natural course of things, to cure a glut or scarcity, is no more a proof that such evils have never existed, than the tendency of the healing processes of nature to cure some disorders without assistance from man, is a proof that such disorders never existed."

Other publications

  • 1807. A letter to Samuel Whitbread, Esq. M.P. on his proposed Bill for the Amendment of the Poor Laws. Johnson and Hatchard, London.
  • 1808. Spence on Commerce. Edinburgh Review 11, January, 429-448.
  • 1808. Newneham and others on the state of Ireland. Edinburgh Review 12, July, 336-355.
  • 1809. Newneham on the state of Ireland, Edinburgh Review 14 April, 151-170.
  • 1811. Depreciation of paper currency. Edinburgh Review 17, February, 340-372.
  • 1812. Pamphlets on the bullion question. Edinburgh Review 18, August, 448-470.
  • 1813. A letter to the Rt. Hon. Lord Grenville. Johnson, London.
  • 1817. Statement respecting the East-India College. Murray, London.
  • 1821. Godwin on Malthus. Edinburgh Review 35, July, 362-377.
  • 1823. Tooke – On high and low prices. Quarterly Review, 29 (57), April, 214-239.
  • 1824. Political economy. Quarterly Review 30 (60), January, 297-334.
  • 1829. On the measure of the conditions necessary to the supply of commodities. Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature of the United Kingdom. 1, 171-180. John Murray, London.
  • 1829. On the meaning which is most usually and most correctly attached to the term Value of a Commodity. Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature of the United Kingdom. 2, 74-81. John Murray, \

Surplus theory


Whereas Malthus's main body of work presents a theory of irremediable, if not untreatable, scarcity
Scarcity
Scarcity is the fundamental economic problem of having humans who have unlimited wants and needs in a world of limited resources. It states that society has insufficient productive resources to fulfill all human wants and needs. Alternatively, scarcity implies that not all of society's goals can be...

, three of his other works present a theory of surplus
Surplus economics
Surplus economics is the study of economics based upon the concept that economies operate on the basis of the production of a surplus over basic needs.-Economic Surplus:...

: The Nature of Rent, Principles of political economy, and Definitions in Political Economy.

The Nature of Rent proposes rent as a kind of surplus, whereas the previous general definition of rent portrayed it as a societal economic loss caused by personal financial gain derived from land scarcity.

Principles of Political Economy and Definitions in Political Economy defend the concept of the general glut, a theory that surplus value can present a problem. Rent as surplus, and a glut or surplus of goods as problems differ somewhat or stand in contradistinction to Malthus's earlier scarcity theory of The Principle of Population.

Reactions to his ideas


Malthus became subject to extreme personal criticism. People who knew nothing about his private life criticised him both for having no children and for having too many. In 1819, Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets and is critically regarded as among the finest lyric poets in the English language. Shelley was famous for his association with John Keats and Lord Byron...

, berating Malthus as a priest, called him "a eunuch and a tyrant" (though the Church of England does not require celibacy, and Malthus had married in 1804).
Marx repeated the lie, adding that Malthus had taken the vow of celibacy, and called him "superficial", "a professional plagiarist", "the agent of the landed aristocracy", "a paid advocate" and "the principal enemy of the people."
In the 20th century an editor of the Everyman edition of Malthus claimed that Malthus had practised population control by begetting eleven girls.
(In fact, Malthus fathered two daughters and one son.) Garrett Hardin
Garrett Hardin
Garrett James Hardin was an American ecologist who warned of the dangers of overpopulation and whose concept of the tragedy of the commons brought attention to "the damage that innocent actions by individuals can inflict on the environment"...

 provides an overview of these personal insults.

Early responses


William Godwin
William Godwin
William Godwin was an English journalist, political philosopher and novelist. He is considered one of the first exponents of utilitarianism, and the first modern proponent of anarchism...

 criticized Malthus's criticisms of his own arguments in his book On Population (1820).

Other theoretical and political critiques of Malthus and Malthusian thinking emerged soon after the publication of the first Essay on Population, most notably in the work of the reformist industrialist Robert Owen
Robert Owen
Robert Owen was a Welsh social reformer and one of the founders of utopian socialism and the cooperative movement.Owen's philosophy was based on three intellectual pillars:...

, of the essayist William Hazlitt
William Hazlitt
William Hazlitt was an English writer, remembered for his humanistic essays and literary criticism, and as a grammarian and philosopher. He is now considered one of the great critics and essayists of the English language, placed in the company of Samuel Johnson and George Orwell. Yet his work is...

 (1807)
and of the economist Nassau William Senior
Nassau William Senior
Nassau William Senior , English economist, was born at Compton, Berkshire, the eldest son of the Rev. JR Senior, vicar of Durnford, Wiltshire.-Biography:...

,
and moralist William Cobbett
William Cobbett
William Cobbett was an English pamphleteer, farmer and journalist, who was born in Farnham, Surrey. He believed that reforming Parliament and abolishing the rotten boroughs would help to end the poverty of farm labourers, and he attacked the borough-mongers, sinecurists and "tax-eaters" relentlessly...

. Note also True Law of Population (1845) by politician Thomas Doubleday
Thomas Doubleday
Thomas Doubleday was an English politician and author born in Newcastle-on-Tyne.In early life he adopted the views of William Cobbett, and was active in promoting the agitation which resulted in the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832...

, an adherent of Cobbett's views.

John Stuart Mill strongly defended the ideas of Malthus in his 1848 work, Principles of Political Economy (Book II, Chapters 11-13). Mill considered the criticisms of Malthus made thus far to have been superficial.

The American economist Henry Charles Carey
Henry Charles Carey
Henry Charles Carey , a leading 19th century economist of the American School of capitalism. He is now best known for the book The Harmony of Interests, to compare and contrast what he called the "British System" of laissez faire free trade capitalism with the "American System" of developmental...

 rejected Malthus's argument in his magnum opus of 1858-59, The Principles of Social Science. Carey maintained that the only situation in which the means of subsistence will determine population growth is one in which a given society is not introducing new technologies or not adopting forward-thinking governmental policy, and that population regulated itself in every well-governed society, but its pressure on subsistence characterized the lower stages of civilization.

Marxist views


Another strand of opposition to Malthus's ideas started in the middle of the 19th century with the writings of Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels was a German industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research...

 (Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy, 1844) and Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

 (Capital, 1867). Engels and Marx argued that what Malthus saw as the problem of the pressure of population on the means of production actually represented the pressure of the means of production on population. They thus viewed it in terms of their concept of the reserve army of labour
Reserve army of labour
Reserve army of labour is a concept in Karl Marx's critique of political economy. It refers basically to the unemployed in capitalist society. It is synonymous with "industrial reserve army" or "relative surplus population", except that the unemployed can be defined as those actually looking for...

. In other words, the seeming excess of population that Malthus attributed to the seemingly innate disposition of the poor to reproduce beyond their means actually emerged as a product of the very dynamic of capitalist
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 economy.

Engels called Malthus's hypothesis "...the crudest, most barbarous theory that ever existed, a system of despair which struck down all those beautiful phrases about love thy neighbour and world citizenship." Engels also predicted that science would solve the problem of an adequate food supply.

In the Marxist tradition, Lenin
Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and communist politician who led the October Revolution of 1917. As leader of the Bolsheviks, he headed the Soviet state during its initial years , as it fought to establish control of Russia in the Russian Civil War and worked to create a...

 sharply criticized Malthusian theory and its neo-Malthusian version,
calling it a "reactionary doctrine" and "an attempt on the part of bourgeois ideologists to exonerate capitalism and to prove the inevitability of privation and misery for the working class under any social system".

Other dissenters


Some 19th-century economist
Economist
An economist is a professional in the social science discipline of economics. The individual may also study, develop, and apply theories and concepts from economics and write about economic policy...

s believed that improvements in finance, manufacturing and science rendered some of Malthus's warnings implausible. They had in mind the division
Division of labour
Division of labour is the specialisation of cooperative labour in specific, circumscribed tasks and likeroles. Historically an increasingly complex division of labour is closely associated with the growth of total output and trade, the rise of capitalism, and of the complexity of industrialisation...

 and specialization
Specialization (functional)
Specialization is the separation of tasks within a system. In a multicellular creature, cells are specialized for functions such as bone construction or oxygen transport. In capitalist societies, individual workers specialize for functions such as building construction or gasoline transport...

 of labour, increased capital investment, and increased productivity of the land
Agricultural productivity
Agricultural productivity is measured as the ratio of agricultural outputs to agricultural inputs. While individual products are usually measured by weight, their varying densities make measuring overall agricultural output difficult...

 due to the introduction of science into agriculture (note the experiments of Justus Liebig and of Sir John Bennet Lawes
John Bennet Lawes
Sir John Bennet Lawes, 1st Baronet FRS was an English entrepreneur and agricultural scientist. He founded an experimental farm at Rothamsted, where he developed a superphosphate that would mark the beginnings of the chemical fertilizer industry.John Bennet Lawes was born at Rothamsted in...

). Even in the absence of improvement in technology
Technology
Technology is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, and procedures. The word technology comes ;...

 or of increase of capital equipment, an increased supply of labour may have a synergistic effect on productivity
Productivity
Productivity is a measure of the efficiency of production. Productivity is a ratio of what is produced to what is required to produce it. Usually this ratio is in the form of an average, expressing the total output divided by the total input...

 that overcomes the law of diminishing returns. As American land-economist Henry George
Henry George
Henry George was an American writer, politician and political economist, who was the most influential proponent of the land value tax, also known as the "single tax" on land...

 observed with characteristic piquancy in dismissing Malthus: "Both the jayhawk and the man eat chickens; but the more jayhawks, the fewer chickens, while the more men, the more chickens." In the 20th century, those who regarded Malthus as a failed prophet of doom included an editor of Nature
Nature (journal)
Nature, first published on 4 November 1869, is ranked the world's most cited interdisciplinary scientific journal by the Science Edition of the 2010 Journal Citation Reports...

, John Maddox
John Maddox
Sir John Royden Maddox, FRS was a British science writer. He was an editor of Nature for 22 years, from 1966–1973 and 1980-1995.-Career:...

.

Economist Julian Lincoln Simon
Julian Lincoln Simon
Julian Lincoln Simon was a professor of business administration at the University of Maryland and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute at the time of his death, after previously serving as a longtime business professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.Simon wrote many books and...

 has criticised Malthus's conclusions. He notes that despite the predictions of Malthus and of the Neo-Malthusians, massive geometric
Geometric progression
In mathematics, a geometric progression, also known as a geometric sequence, is a sequence of numbers where each term after the first is found by multiplying the previous one by a fixed non-zero number called the common ratio. For example, the sequence 2, 6, 18, 54, ... is a geometric progression...

 population
Population
A population is all the organisms that both belong to the same group or species and live in the same geographical area. The area that is used to define a sexual population is such that inter-breeding is possible between any pair within the area and more probable than cross-breeding with individuals...

 growth in the 20th century did not result in a Malthusian catastrophe
Malthusian catastrophe
A Malthusian catastrophe was originally foreseen to be a forced return to subsistence-level conditions once population growth had outpaced agricultural production...

. Many factors may have contributed: general improvements in farming methods (industrial agriculture
Industrial agriculture
Industrial farming is a form of modern farming that refers to the industrialized production of livestock, poultry, fish, and crops. The methods of industrial agriculture are technoscientific, economic, and political...

), mechanization of work (tractors), the introduction of high-yield varieties of wheat
Wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

 and other plants (Green Revolution
Green Revolution
Green Revolution refers to a series of research, development, and technology transfer initiatives, occurring between the 1940s and the late 1970s, that increased agriculture production around the world, beginning most markedly in the late 1960s....

), the use of pesticides to control crop pests. Each played a role.
The enviro-sceptic
The Skeptical Environmentalist
The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World is a book by Danish environmentalist author Bjørn Lomborg, controversial for its claims that overpopulation, declining energy resources, deforestation, species loss, water shortages, certain aspects of global warming, and an...

 Bjørn Lomborg
Bjørn Lomborg
Bjørn Lomborg is a Danish author, academic, and environmental writer. He is an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre and a former director of the Environmental Assessment Institute in Copenhagen...

 presents data showing that the environment
Biosphere
The biosphere is the global sum of all ecosystems. It can also be called the zone of life on Earth, a closed and self-regulating system...

 has actually improved.
Calories produced per day per capita globally went up 23% between 1960 and 2000, despite the world population
World population
The world population is the total number of living humans on the planet Earth. As of today, it is estimated to be  billion by the United States Census Bureau...

 doubling during that period. Anthropologist Eric Ross depicts Malthus's work as a rationalization of the social inequities produced by the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

, anti-immigration movements, the eugenics movement and the various international development movements.

Early influence


Malthus belonged amongst a group of high-quality intellectuals employed by the British East India Company
British East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

. They included both James Mill
James Mill
James Mill was a Scottish historian, economist, political theorist, and philosopher. He was a founder of classical economics, together with David Ricardo, and the father of influential philosopher of classical liberalism, John Stuart Mill.-Life:Mill was born at Northwater Bridge, in the parish of...

 and his son, John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill was a British philosopher, economist and civil servant. An influential contributor to social theory, political theory, and political economy, his conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state control. He was a proponent of...

; Jeremy Bentham
Jeremy Bentham
Jeremy Bentham was an English jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer. He became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism...

 had a major influence on the policy of the company, though not as an employee. Malthus became a respected member of this elite group, and his position as professor at the Haileybury training college, which he held until his death in 1834, gave his theories some influence over Britain's administration of India. As an indication of the group's influence, note Lord William Bentinck
Lord William Bentinck
Lieutenant-General Lord William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck GCB, GCH, PC , known as Lord William Bentinck, was a British soldier and statesman...

's remark to James Mill at a farewell dinner before he left to take up the post of Governor-General
Governor-General
A Governor-General, is a vice-regal person of a monarch in an independent realm or a major colonial circonscription. Depending on the political arrangement of the territory, a Governor General can be a governor of high rank, or a principal governor ranking above "ordinary" governors.- Current uses...

 of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 (in office: 1828-1835): "It is you that will be Governor-General".

According to Malthus's biographer William Peterson, British Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger
William Pitt the Younger
William Pitt the Younger was a British politician of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He became the youngest Prime Minister in 1783 at the age of 24 . He left office in 1801, but was Prime Minister again from 1804 until his death in 1806...

 (in office: 1783–1801 and 1804–1806), upon reading the work of Malthus, withdrew a Bill he had introduced that called for the extension of Poor Relief
Poor relief
Poor Relief refers to any actions taken by either governmental or ecclesiastical bodies to relieve poverty experienced by a population. More specifically, the term poor relief is often used to discuss how European countries dealt with poverty from the time just around the end of the medieval era to...

. Concerns about Malthus's theory helped promote the idea of a national population census
Census
A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common...

 in the UK. Government official John Rickman
John Rickman
John Rickman was an English government official and statistician of the early nineteenth century.He was born in Newburn, Northumberland, son of the Rev Thomas Rickman and educated at Guildford Grammar School, Magdalen Hall, Oxford and Lincoln College, Oxford...

 became instrumental in the carrying out of the first modern British census
Census
A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common...

 in 1801, under Pitt's administration. In the 1830s Malthus's writings strongly influenced Whig
British Whig Party
The Whigs were a party in the Parliament of England, Parliament of Great Britain, and Parliament of the United Kingdom, who contested power with the rival Tories from the 1680s to the 1850s. The Whigs' origin lay in constitutional monarchism and opposition to absolute rule...

 reforms which overturned Tory
Tory
Toryism is a traditionalist and conservative political philosophy which grew out of the Cavalier faction in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It is a prominent ideology in the politics of the United Kingdom, but also features in parts of The Commonwealth, particularly in Canada...

 paternalism and brought in the Poor Law Amendment Act
Poor Law
The English Poor Laws were a system of poor relief which existed in England and Wales that developed out of late-medieval and Tudor-era laws before being codified in 1587–98...

 of 1834.

Before Malthus, commentators had regarded high fertility as an economic advantage, because it increased the number of workers available to the economy
Economy
An economy consists of the economic system of a country or other area; the labor, capital and land resources; and the manufacturing, trade, distribution, and consumption of goods and services of that area...

. Malthus, however, looked at fertility from a new perspective and convinced most economists that even though high fertility might increase the gross output
Gross Output
Gross output is an economic concept used in national accounts such as the United Nations System of National Accounts and the US National Income and Product Accounts...

, it tended to reduce output per capita. A number of other notable economists, such as David Ricardo
David Ricardo
David Ricardo was an English political economist, often credited with systematising economics, and was one of the most influential of the classical economists, along with Thomas Malthus, Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill. He was also a member of Parliament, businessman, financier and speculator,...

 (whom Malthus knew personally) and Alfred Marshall
Alfred Marshall
Alfred Marshall was an Englishman and one of the most influential economists of his time. His book, Principles of Economics , was the dominant economic textbook in England for many years...

 admired Malthus and/or came under his influence. Malthus took pride in the fact that some of the earliest converts to his population theory included Archdeacon William Paley
William Paley
William Paley was a British Christian apologist, philosopher, and utilitarian. He is best known for his exposition of the teleological argument for the existence of God in his work Natural Theology, which made use of the watchmaker analogy .-Life:Paley was Born in Peterborough, England, and was...

, whose Natural Theology first appeared in 1802. Ironically, given Malthus's own opposition to contraception
Contraception
Contraception is the prevention of the fusion of gametes during or after sexual activity. The term contraception is a contraction of contra, which means against, and the word conception, meaning fertilization...

, his work exercised a strong influence on Francis Place
Francis Place
Francis Place was an English social reformer.-Early career and influence:Born in the debtor's prison which his father oversaw near Drury Lane, Place was schooled for ten years before being apprenticed to a leather-breeches maker. At eighteen he was an independent journeyman, and in 1790 was...

 (1771–1854), whose neo-Malthusian movement became the first to advocate contraception. Place published his Illustrations and Proofs of the Principles of Population in 1822.

Later influence


At Haileybury, Malthus developed a theory of demand-supply mismatches which he called glut
Glut
Glut or GLUT may refer to:* Glut: Mastering Information Through The Ages, a book by Alex Wright* Glucose transporter , a family of membrane proteins in biology* OpenGL Utility Toolkit , a computer program library...

s. Considered ridiculous at the time, his theory foreshadowed later theories about the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

 of the 1930s, and the works of economist and Malthus-admirer John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes, Baron Keynes of Tilton, CB FBA , was a British economist whose ideas have profoundly affected the theory and practice of modern macroeconomics, as well as the economic policies of governments...

 (1883–1946).

Malthusian ideas continue to have considerable influence. Paul R. Ehrlich
Paul R. Ehrlich
Paul Ralph Ehrlich is an American biologist and educator who is the Bing Professor of Population Studies in the department of Biological Sciences at Stanford University and president of Stanford's Center for Conservation Biology. By training he is an entomologist specializing in Lepidoptera , but...

 has written several books predicting famine as a result of population increase: The Population Bomb
The Population Bomb
The Population Bomb was a best-selling book written by Paul R. Ehrlich and his wife, Anne Ehrlich , in 1968. It warned of the mass starvation of humans in the 1970s and 1980s due to overpopulation, as well as other major societal upheavals, and advocated immediate action to limit population growth...

(1968); Population, resources, environment: issues in human ecology (1970, with Anne Ehrlich); The end of affluence (1974, with Anne Ehrlich); The population explosion (1990, with Anne Ehrlich). In the late 1960s Ehrlich predicted that hundreds of millions would die from a coming overpopulation-crisis in the 1970s. Other examples of applied Malthusianism include the 1972 book The Limits to Growth (published by the Club of Rome
Club of Rome
The Club of Rome is a global think tank that deals with a variety of international political issues. Founded in 1968 at Accademia dei Lincei in Rome, Italy, the CoR describes itself as "a group of world citizens, sharing a common concern for the future of humanity." It consists of current and...

) and the Global 2000
The Global 2000 Report to the President
The Global 2000 Report to the President was released in 1980 by the Council on Environmental Quality and the United States Department of State. It was commissioned by President Jimmy Carter on May 23, 1977, and was directed by Gerald O. Barney. It was based on data collected by different institutions...

 report to the then President of the United States of America Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. is an American politician who served as the 39th President of the United States and was the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, the only U.S. President to have received the Prize after leaving office...

. Science-fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 author Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov was an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000...

 issued many appeals for population-control reflecting the perspective articulated by people from Robert Malthus through Paul R. Ehrlich
Paul R. Ehrlich
Paul Ralph Ehrlich is an American biologist and educator who is the Bing Professor of Population Studies in the department of Biological Sciences at Stanford University and president of Stanford's Center for Conservation Biology. By training he is an entomologist specializing in Lepidoptera , but...

.

More , a school of "neo-Malthusian" scholars has begun to link population and economics to a third variable, political change and political violence, and to show how the variables interact. In the early 1980s, James Goldstone
James Goldstone
James Goldstone was an American director of both television and theatrical films during the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s....

 linked population variables to the English Revolution
English Revolution
"English Revolution" has been used to describe two different events in English history. The first to be so called—by Whig historians—was the Glorious Revolution of 1688, whereby James II was replaced by William III and Mary II as monarch and a constitutional monarchy was established.In the...

 of 1640-1660 and David Lempert devised a model of demographics, economics, and political change in the multi-ethnic country of Mauritius
Mauritius
Mauritius , officially the Republic of Mauritius is an island nation off the southeast coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean, about east of Madagascar...

. Goldstone has since modeled other revolutions by looking at demographics and economics and Lempert has explained Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

's purges
Great Purge
The Great Purge was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin from 1936 to 1938...

 and the Russian Revolution of 1917
Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...

 in terms of demographic factors that drive political economy. Ted Robert Gurr
Ted Robert Gurr
Ted Robert Gurr is one of the world’s leading authorities on political conflict and instability. His book Why Men Rebel emphasized the importance of social psychological factors and ideology as root sources of political violence...

 has also modeled political violence, such as in the Palestinian territories
Palestinian territories
The Palestinian territories comprise the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Since the Palestinian Declaration of Independence in 1988, the region is today recognized by three-quarters of the world's countries as the State of Palestine or simply Palestine, although this status is not recognized by the...

 and in Rwanda
Rwanda
Rwanda or , officially the Republic of Rwanda , is a country in central and eastern Africa with a population of approximately 11.4 million . Rwanda is located a few degrees south of the Equator, and is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo...

/Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a state located in Central Africa. It is the second largest country in Africa by area and the eleventh largest in the world...

 (two of the world's regions of most rapidly growing population) using similar variables in several comparative cases. These approaches suggest that political ideology follows demographic forces.

Malthus, sometimes regarded as the founding father of modern demography,
continues to inspire and influence futuristic visions, such as those of K Eric Drexler relating to space advocacy
Space advocacy
Space advocacy can be described as the general position supporting, pleading or arguing for the idea or cause of space exploration and settlements...

 and molecular nanotechnology
Molecular nanotechnology
Molecular nanotechnology is a technology based on the ability to build structures to complex, atomic specifications by means of mechanosynthesis. This is distinct from nanoscale materials...

. As Drexler put it in Engines of Creation
Engines of Creation
Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology is a 1986 molecular nanotechnology book written by K. Eric Drexler with a foreword by Marvin Minsky. An updated version was released in 2007...

(1986): "In a sense, opening space will burst our limits to growth, since we know of no end to the universe. Nevertheless, Malthus was essentially right."

The Malthusian growth model
Malthusian growth model
The Malthusian growth model, sometimes called the simple exponential growth model, is essentially exponential growth based on a constant rate of compound interest...

 now bears Malthus's name. The logistic function
Logistic function
A logistic function or logistic curve is a common sigmoid curve, given its name in 1844 or 1845 by Pierre François Verhulst who studied it in relation to population growth. It can model the "S-shaped" curve of growth of some population P...

 of Pierre Francois Verhulst
Pierre François Verhulst
Pierre François Verhulst was a mathematician and a doctor in number theory from the University of Ghent in 1825...

 (1804–1849) results in the S-curve. Verhulst developed the logistic growth model favored by so many critics of the Malthusian growth model in 1838 only after reading Malthus's essay. Malthus has also inspired retired physics professor, Albert Bartlett
Albert Bartlett
Albert Allen Bartlett is an emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder, USA. Professor Bartlett has lectured over 1,600 times since September, 1969 on Arithmetic, Population, and Energy...

, to lecture over 1,500 times on "Arithmetic, Population, and Energy", promoting sustainable living
Sustainable living
Sustainable living is a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual's or society's use of the Earth's natural resources and his/her own resources. Practitioners of sustainable living often attempt to reduce their carbon footprint by altering methods of transportation, energy consumption and diet...

 and explaining the mathematics of overpopulation
Overpopulation
Overpopulation is a condition where an organism's numbers exceed the carrying capacity of its habitat. The term often refers to the relationship between the human population and its environment, the Earth...

.
  • [Malthus] became the best-abused man of the age
  • There is hardly a cherished ideology, left or right, that is not brought into question by the principle of population.
  • One of the 100 most influential people of all time.

Social theory


Despite use of the term "Malthusian catastrophe" by detractors such as economist Julian Simon
Julian Lincoln Simon
Julian Lincoln Simon was a professor of business administration at the University of Maryland and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute at the time of his death, after previously serving as a longtime business professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.Simon wrote many books and...

 (1932–1998), Malthus himself did not write that mankind faced an inevitable future catastrophe. Rather, he offered an evolutionary social theory of population dynamics as it had acted steadily throughout all previous history. Eight major points regarding population dynamics appear in the 1798 Essay:
  1. subsistence severely limits population-level
  2. when the means of subsistence increases, population increases
  3. population-pressures stimulate increases in productivity
  4. increases in productivity stimulate further population-growth
  5. because productivity increases cannot maintain the potential rate of population growth, population requires strong checks to keep parity with the carrying-capacity
  6. individual cost/benefit decisions regarding sex, work, and children determine the expansion or contraction of population and production
  7. checks will come into operation as population exceeds subsistence-level
  8. the nature of these checks will have significant effect on the larger sociocultural system—Malthus points specifically to misery, vice, and poverty


Malthusian social theory influenced Herbert Spencer
Herbert Spencer
Herbert Spencer was an English philosopher, biologist, sociologist, and prominent classical liberal political theorist of the Victorian era....

's idea of the survival of the fittest
Survival of the fittest
"Survival of the fittest" is a phrase originating in evolutionary theory, as an alternative description of Natural selection. The phrase is today commonly used in contexts that are incompatible with the original meaning as intended by its first two proponents: British polymath philosopher Herbert...

, and the modern ecological-evolutionary social theory of Gerhard Lenski
Gerhard Lenski
Gerhard Emmanuel Lenski is an American sociologist known for contributions to the sociology of religion, social inequality, and ecological-evolutionary social theory...

 and Marvin Harris
Marvin Harris
Marvin Harris was an American anthropologist. He was born in Brooklyn, New York. A prolific writer, he was highly influential in the development of cultural materialism...

. Malthusian ideas have thus contributed to the canon of socioeconomic theory
Socioeconomics
Socioeconomics or socio-economics or social economics is an umbrella term with different usages. 'Social economics' may refer broadly to the "use of economics in the study of society." More narrowly, contemporary practice considers behavioral interactions of individuals and groups through social...

.

The first Director-General of UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

, Julian Huxley
Julian Huxley
Sir Julian Sorell Huxley FRS was an English evolutionary biologist, humanist and internationalist. He was a proponent of natural selection, and a leading figure in the mid-twentieth century evolutionary synthesis...

, wrote of The crowded world in his Evolutionary Humanism (1964), calling for a world population policy. Huxley openly criticised communist and Roman Catholic attitudes to birth control
Birth control
Birth control is an umbrella term for several techniques and methods used to prevent fertilization or to interrupt pregnancy at various stages. Birth control techniques and methods include contraception , contragestion and abortion...

, population control
Population control
Human population control is the practice of artificially altering the rate of growth of a human population.Historically, human population control has been implemented by limiting the population's birth rate, usually by government mandate, and has been undertaken as a response to factors including...

 and overpopulation
Overpopulation
Overpopulation is a condition where an organism's numbers exceed the carrying capacity of its habitat. The term often refers to the relationship between the human population and its environment, the Earth...

.

Biology


Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

 and Alfred Russel Wallace
Alfred Russel Wallace
Alfred Russel Wallace, OM, FRS was a British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist and biologist...

 each read and acknowledged the role played by Malthus in the development of their own ideas. Darwin referred to Malthus as "that great philosopher", and said: "This is the doctrine of Malthus, applied with manifold force to the animal and vegetable kingdoms, for in this case there can be no artificial increase of food, and no prudential restraint from marriage".
Darwin also wrote:
Wallace stated:
Ronald Fisher
Ronald Fisher
Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher FRS was an English statistician, evolutionary biologist, eugenicist and geneticist. Among other things, Fisher is well known for his contributions to statistics by creating Fisher's exact test and Fisher's equation...

 commented sceptically on Malthusianism as a basis for a theory of natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

.
Fisher did not deny Malthus's basic premises, but emphasised the role of fecundity
Fecundity
Fecundity, derived from the word fecund, generally refers to the ability to reproduce. In demography, fecundity is the potential reproductive capacity of an individual or population. In biology, the definition is more equivalent to fertility, or the actual reproductive rate of an organism or...

.
John Maynard Smith
John Maynard Smith
John Maynard Smith,His surname was Maynard Smith, not Smith, nor was it hyphenated. F.R.S. was a British theoretical evolutionary biologist and geneticist. Originally an aeronautical engineer during the Second World War, he took a second degree in genetics under the well-known biologist J.B.S....

 doubted that famine functioned as the great leveller, as portrayed by Malthus, but he also accepted the basic premises:

Epitaph


The epitaph of Malthus in Bath Abbey reads:

See also


  • Cornucopian
    Cornucopian
    A cornucopian is a futurist who believes that continued progress and provision of material items for mankind can be met by similarly continued advances in technology...

    ism: a counter-Malthusian school of thought
  • Food Race
    Food Race
    The Food Race refers to the relationship between food supply and human population postulated by Daniel Quinn. Quinn advocates the view that human population, like all other animals, is controlled by food supply. Thus, larger populations are the result of more abundant food supplies...

    , a related idea from Daniel Quinn
    Daniel Quinn
    Daniel Quinn is an American writer described as an environmentalist. He is best known for his book Ishmael , which won the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship Award in 1991....

  • The Limits to Growth, from the Club of Rome
    Club of Rome
    The Club of Rome is a global think tank that deals with a variety of international political issues. Founded in 1968 at Accademia dei Lincei in Rome, Italy, the CoR describes itself as "a group of world citizens, sharing a common concern for the future of humanity." It consists of current and...

  • Hong Liangji
    Hong Liangji
    Hong Liangji , courtesy names Junzhi and Zhicun , was a Chinese scholar, statesman, political theorist, and philosopher. He was most famous for his critical essay to the Jiaqing Emperor, which resulted in his banishment to Yili in Xinjiang...

    , China's "Malthus"
  • Malthusian trap
    Malthusian trap
    The Malthusian trap, named after political economist Thomas Robert Malthus, suggests that for most of human history, income was largely stagnant because technological advances and discoveries only resulted in more people, rather than improvements in the standard of living...

  • Malthusian catastrophe
    Malthusian catastrophe
    A Malthusian catastrophe was originally foreseen to be a forced return to subsistence-level conditions once population growth had outpaced agricultural production...

  • Malthusian growth model
    Malthusian growth model
    The Malthusian growth model, sometimes called the simple exponential growth model, is essentially exponential growth based on a constant rate of compound interest...

  • Malthusian equilibrium
    Malthusian equilibrium
    A population is in Malthusian equilibrium when all of its production is used only for subsistence. Malthusian equilibrium is a locally stable and a dynamic equilibrium.-See also:*Thomas Malthus — See this article for further exposition....

  • Malthusianism
    Malthusianism
    Malthusianism refers primarily to ideas derived from the political/economic thought of Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus, as laid out initially in his 1798 writings, An Essay on the Principle of Population, which describes how unchecked population growth is exponential while the growth of the food...

  • National Security Study Memorandum 200
    National Security Study Memorandum 200
    National Security Study Memorandum 200: Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests was completed on December 10, 1974 by the United States National Security Council under the direction of Henry Kissinger....

  • Overpopulation
    Overpopulation
    Overpopulation is a condition where an organism's numbers exceed the carrying capacity of its habitat. The term often refers to the relationship between the human population and its environment, the Earth...

  • World population
    World population
    The world population is the total number of living humans on the planet Earth. As of today, it is estimated to be  billion by the United States Census Bureau...


Further reading

  • Negative Population Growth organization: a collection of essays for the Malthus Bicentenary
  • National Academics Forum, Australia: a collection of essays for the Malthus Bicentenary Conference, 1998
  • Conceptual origins of Malthus's Essay on Population, facsimile reprint of 8 Books in 6 volumes, edited by Yoshinobu Nanagita (ISBN 978-4-902454-14-7) www.aplink.co.jp/ep/4-902454-14-9.htm
  • The Worldly Philosophers – the lives, times, and ideas of the great economic thinkers. Robert L. Heilbroner.
  • Elwell, Frank W. 2001. A Commentary on Malthus' 1798 Essay on Population as social theory E. Mellen Press, Lewiston, NY. ISBN 0-7734-7669-5.
  • National Geographic Magazine, June 2009 article, "The Global Food Crisis,"http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/06/cheap-food/bourne-text/4

External links