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Explain and evaluate critically malthus population theory

Explain and Evaluate Critically Malthus's Population Theory.

In 1798 Thomas Robert Malthus, a British clergyman and professor, wrote

an essay showing the way to modern demography. In 1824 he wrote a shorter final

version, the article on population for that year's Encyclopedia Britannica.

Malthus has been criticized for his lack of scientific foresight—he did not

foresee modern advances leading to increased life expectancy, food production

and birth control. He has been criticized for his politics—he thought welfare

immorally increased population and hunger. He has been criticized for pessimism—

the adjective Malthusian is associated with a gloomy outlook for humanity. But

he showed the way for the study of human population.

People. To learn how fast people might reproduce, Malthus examined the

United States census. Conveniently, that count was required each decade,

starting in 1790, by the Constitution of the former British colonies. Land was

so fertile and uncrowded that food production seemed not to limit population

growth. Immigration counts were available to subtract from natural rates of

population growth, thus revealing net reproductive growth. Malthus observed

that under such ideal conditions, during each 25 years the human population

tends to double. So if world population is represented by 1, then after each 25

years it would be 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 and so on, provided there were no limits on

such "natural" rates of population increase.

Food. To learn how fast people might produce food, Malthus examined

agriculture in several countries, and made a rough estimate: all food produced

could increase each 25 years by at most the prior 25 years' increase. So if

food production is represented by 1, then after each 25 years it would be 2, 3,

4, 5, 6, and so on. In other words, food could only increase arithmetically,

whereas the population if otherwise left unfettered would tend to increase


Checks on Population. Malthus concluded that, since food is necessary

to human life, world population will necessarily grow slower than its natural

trend. Malthus postulated two types of checks on human population growth---

positive and negative. Positive checks are increases in the death rate as a

result of wars, famines, disease, and similar disasters. A negative check is

the lowering of the birth rate, which is best accomplished by the postponement

of marriage. However, given his moral code, Malthus was forced to conclude that

the postponement of marriage could only result in vice, misery, and degradation

of character, because premarital sexual relations would occur.

In other words, his core conclusion was that unless people stopped

multiplying, there would not be enough food, regardless of how hard they worked

to produce it.

Maltus's fearful prediction has not yet been fulfilled world wide,

although it is a reasonable description so some countries, past and present.

Although the world's population has continued to increase at a phenomenal rate,

the overall food supply generally has kept pace. Scientists in many disciplines

and a sizable proportion of the general public have identified the "population

explosion" and the "ecological crisis" as critical problems requiring immediate

attention. Some have suggested, and these views have been well received, that

population size is "causing" the ecological imbalance. But the impact of human

population growth on the problems mentioned above depends upon a vast number of

factors, including the level of technology in a society, the nature of its

social organization, its power relative to other human societies, its marital

and reproductive practices, and its institutions of socialization.

Economists point to four stages in the "demographic transition." In

preindustrial societies high death rates balance high birthrates, ensuring

steady population. In the second stage---early industrial development---better

health lowers death rates, so birthrates appear excessive, and population spurts

upward. Since Malthus collected his data in such an era, he did not and

probably could not have seen what would come next. In the third stage, the

security derived from urbanization, education, and affluence persuade many

people to have fewer children. Thus the death rate continues falling but so

does the birthrate, which flattens the population curve. Finally, in a mature

society, with successful birth control and often with both spouses gainfully

employed, couples seem to desire between one and three children, and the

population stabilizes.

Another "fact" accepted without question in many quarters is that high

human density is bad. A few animal studies on crowding (of questionable

generality for other animal species, let alone for human population) are quoted

repeated to make the point that overcrowding produces pathological behavior.

Nevertheless, people crowd to the cities, because on balance they find life

there more rewarding than in other locales. In fact, there is evidence that

from a number of points of view, urban life–high density living–is good for


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