Conclusions, Part 5 to the Life & Works of
Thomas Robert Malthus
Two hundred years have now passed since the prophetic Malthus set forth his proposition, essentially, that the human population would grow to a point so as to outstrip the world's resources needed to support it. So far, while problematic in parts of the world, we are yet OK. Malthus did not foresee the scientific advances that affected both of the two parts of his proposition. World population had grown slowly until the industrial revolution, when, advances in sanitation, technology, and food distribution brought declining death rates. Mechanized farmers are now getting more food out of an acre of arable land than ever Malthus could have imagined. It is true, however, unlike its industrialized parts, non-industrialized parts of our world today are experiencing high birth rates and decreasing death rates. Birth control, with absolutely no thanks to the Catholic church, has, particularly in the world's industrialized parts, contributed to a decrease in the rate of growth of the total world population. The population problem may yet be beaten. The goal has to be zero population growth; and, many demographers foresee that this goal might be achieved within the next 100 years. While the predictions of the experts vary widely as to if and when we will be able to get our population levels under control, most agree that unforeseeable events make forecasts based on current trends highly suspect.
The storm that started over the theory expressed by Malthus in 1798 has yet to subside. It is not so much over the increasing difficulties which an increasing population will bring about. The storm of argument is over what if anything is to be done about it. Mostly, those who railed and raged at the Malthusian doctrine failed, and continue to fail -- and, thus, I put in my two cents worth -- to appreciate that the nature of man cannot be changed in less time then it took to evolve. Not only can it not be changed, but great harm comes in a compulsory effort to try to change it. So it is, that argumentation about Malthus brings one beyond the dire effects of an increasing population to the dire effects of a bad philosophy.
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Biographical Sketches: The Thinkers
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