- Hardcover: 144 pages
- Publisher: BiblioLife (18 Aug. 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0554313421
- ISBN-13: 978-0554313429
- Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 1 x 15.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,552,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
An Essay on the Principle of Population Hardcover – 18 Aug 2008
|New from||Used from|
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Malthus argues that population growth has a tendency to outstrip the resources needed to sustain it. He argues that while population grows geometrically, resources only increase arithmetically. The result? Population will oustrip resources. To boot, Malthus takes a side swipe at practices which he believed could tend to increase population without the means to sustain it: In his sights was the so-called 'Old Poor Law', under which justices of the peace provided aid to the poor and unemployed, linked to the price of bread. Malthus argued that this system would increase population without any means to sustain it.
Malthus's work was highly influential. The Census (which began in 1801) seemed to confirm Malthus's conclusions that population was increasing beyond the limit of resources while the 'New Poor Law', established in the 1830s embodied many Malthusian ideas - making it far harder to gain poor relief and this only to be given in workhouses.
In recent decades, empirical historical research into population growth in Britian in the early ninetweenth century and studies in poor relief have cast much doubt on the Malthusian thesis.
This work remains essential to anyone trying to understand early nineteenth century British 'political economy'. This is a nice edition with a helpful and instructive introduction.
In addition, Malthus tells us that poverty builds character, although he does not seem to have felt the need for such enhancement in his personal life.
The reason for these grim results of helping the poor, Malthus explains, is that the human population can always increase faster than the supply of food. If food supply increases at all, it increases incrementally. The human populations, if left unchecked, can double every generation, as it was doubling in the United States when Malthus wrote.
If population growth is not curbed by moral restraint or vice, it will result in misery. By moral restraint Malthus means celibacy. By vice he means birth control. By misery he means famine, epidemics, and war.
Most people allow their likes and dislikes to influence their judgment of what is true and false. For many, inclinations determine judgments of truth and falsity. I am confident that when An Essay on the Principle of Population was published many employers found it easy to agree that the best way they could help their employees was to pay them as little as possible, while recommending to them that they practice strict celibacy throughout their lives.
In economics we frequently encounter theories that seem plausible to those who want to believe them, but the theories do not explain what is happening economically, or what has happened in the past.
The European population is many times what it was in 1798. Nevertheless, despite two world wars, the Great Depression, and the Great Recession, the standard of living of the vast majority of Europeans is far higher now than when Malthus wrote his book. What happened?
Well, to begin with, most Europeans have not shared Malthus’ aversion to “vice” (although he may have indulged in it with his wife; they only had three children.) As birth control and abortion became more practiced, birth rates declined, even though there may have been no increase in moral restraint.
The second thing that happened was the industrial revolution. Like many educated and affluent English Malthus seemed hardly aware of the spread of factories. The industrial revolution was transforming England as Malthus wrote. It would soon transform Europe and North America.
Malthus maintained that industry did not increase the standard of living of the majority of a population, because he claimed that it was devoted to producing luxuries for the rich. Factories produced inexpensive consumer goods that enhanced the life styles of those who were not rich.
An Essay on the Principle of Population inspired Charles Darwin. After reading it Darwin could see that in every generation many more animals and plants were created than could live to maturity and reproduce. He reasoned that the fittest reproduced, that the rest did not, and that characteristics that enabled the fittest to be fit would eventually become widespread in their species. Darwin still did not know about the genes that made some organisms fitter than others. The expansion of science, like the expansion of food, is an incremental process.
An Essay on the Principle of Population infuriated Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels for reasons I have indicated in the beginning of this review. It is mildly ironic that when Marxists took power in Russia they legalized birth control and abortion, and the Russian birth rate declined.
An Essay on the Principle of Population is longer than it needed to be. Malthus repeats the same arguments without actually demonstrating that the working poor were worse off when he wrote the book than they were when the English population was lower.
Malthus spent more time than he needed to refuting the arguments of William Godwin. Godwin was an English journalist and novelist who was inspired by the French Revolution. Godwin lost his mind to the French Revolution, although fortunately, not his head. He argued that government was the source of all evil and unnecessary, that benevolence could replace self love as the motive of society, that for everyone intellectual enjoyments could replace sexual pleasure, so that passion between the sexes, and the resulting population growth would no longer present problems. Godwin also maintained that physical immortality would become possible, so no one would die any more.
Seven chapters were devoted to refuting this nonsense. Nevertheless, Godwin was a popular writer during the time, so Malthus may have felt a prolonged refutation was necessary.
Malthus does agree with Godwin that farm laborers would benefit if the large land holdings were broken up into family owned farms. This would require a government with the will and power to overcome the resistance of land owing aristocrats.
Malthus also agrees with Godwin that the working poor would benefit if together they agreed to work fewer hours a day. This would again require a powerful government that agreed to shorten the work day without allowing employers to reduce weekly wages.
Malthus also attempted to refute the arguments of Caritat Marquis de Condorcet. Condorcet agreed that prosperity would lead to population growth, but he thought that technological advances would still cause a continuing advance in the average standard of living. This, as I have pointed out, is what did happen.
Nevertheless, we should not assume that this will always happen. Technological advances benefit those who are able to learn them. Since our ancestors learned how to make stone weapons there has been a tendency for scarcity to inspire technological advances that led to greater prosperity, which led to more people, and consequently more scarcity. We find it easy to understand the working of bows and arrows. That is because our ancestors were able to learn how to make and use these. Those who were not able to do this did not survive and reproduce. The same can be said of agriculture and the skills one needs to prevail in an urban civilization.
Factory work was unpleasant, and inspired the writing of Karl Marx, Fredrick Engels, and of socialists not in the Marxian tradition. Nevertheless, factory jobs became plentiful, and they were easy to learn.
Computer technology makes it possible for someone like Mark Zuckerberg to become a billionaire by the time he is thirty year old. It also reduces the kind of work most people are able to learn. ATM machines reduce the need for bank tellers. Bar codes reduce the need for cashiers. Increasingly complex websites can perform tasks previously performed by semi professionals.
Computer technology is not directly the result of population growth. It does suggest that we should not expect technology to forever counter the harmful effects of population growth.
Also, while birth rates have declined in Europe, North America, and the Far East, they have not declined significantly in the poor countries. For them modern science has increased death control without popularizing birth control. The result has been an influx of third world peoples into countries which, while comparatively affluent, are still suffering the results of the Great Recession.
A political thinker should be read for insight, rather than doctrine. The fact that the living standards of most Europeans have improved since the writing of An Essay on the Principle of Population should not prevent us from acknowledging that population growth has a depressing effect on standard of living. If the European population was still what it was in 1798 I am confident that the Europeans would be even more affluent, possibly much more.
The relationship between population and standard of living can be expressed with an equation:
(natural resources x level of technology) / human population = standard of living
In addition, population growth contributes to the growing income gap. More people mean more consumers and more job applicants. This means higher prices, lower wages, and higher profits.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent customer reviews
Thank you seller.