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Thomas robert malthus essay on the principle of population

Aug 10, 2015 Neil Collins rated it it was ok I read this book because it has been recommended as one of the influences for the modern capitalist system. Adam smith is regarded as the founding father of our current economic system and the ideas of Malthus which are presented in this book serve as a solidifying justification to further support the capitalist class system.

An Essay on the Principle of Population by Thomas Malthus

As much as I detest the inhumane and completely debunked conclusions of this book, I did give it 2 stars, rather than thomas robert malthus essay on the principle of population. This is because i do think the book is important a I read this book because it has been recommended as one of the influences for the modern capitalist system. This is because i do think the book is important as a way of peering deeply into the severely flawed mechanics and ideology which supports our modern system.

A very good example of a bad example, so to speak. The basic idea of the book is that if humans all had their basic needs met, then they would reproduce exponentially, covering the Earth and destroying the habitat. Therefore the majority, the poor and working classes must always live in poverty, starvation and disease, in order to keep their numbers in check. Almost any attempt to create a more equal society, to lift the lower classes up out of poverty or feed them, runs against nature and would be harmful to the whole, to the survival and fitness of the "race".

He goes on further to explain how the higher classes are exempt from this rule because of their "christianly" well-breeding and self restraint. In short, he justifies a world where the few live in luxury, ease and plenty while the masses of humanity toil for them, largely starving and dying off to keep population in check.

All the while he claims that these views are actually the findings of reason and science. To support his claims of scientific evidence, he uses a long list of outdated assumptions, truncated examples, biased hypothetical scenarios and religious rhetoric.

  1. Chapter XIX The sorrows of life necessary to soften and humanize the heart — The excitements of social sympathy often produce characters of a higher order than the mere possessors of talents — More evil probably necessary to the production of moral excellence — Excitements from intellectual wants continually kept up by the infinite variety of nature, and the obscurity that involves metaphysical subjects — The difficulties in Revelation to be accounted for upon this principle — The degree of evidence which the scriptures contain, probably, best suited to the improvement of the human faculties, and the moral amelioration of mankind — The idea that mind is created by excitements seems to account for the existence of natural and moral evil. Unfortunately, belief systems are slow to adjust to new information and there is a dangerous 'culture-lag'.
  2. Women in poor countries tend to have less children as they are able to receive proper nutrition, clean drinking water, education, etc... Not only have the ideas been thoroughly disproved from many angles, but we actually are actually still living in a system which was founded on and supports these beliefs.
  3. Mr Godwin's conjecture concerning the indefinite prolongation of human life - Improper inference drawn from the effects of mental stimulants on the human frame, illustrated in various instances - Conjectures not founded on any indications in the past not to be considered as philosophical conjectures - Mr Godwin's and Mr Condorcet's conjecture respecting the approach of man towards immortality on earth, a curious instance of the inconsistency of scepticism. To support his claims of scientific evidence, he uses a long list of outdated assumptions, truncated examples, biased hypothetical scenarios and religious rhetoric.

One particularly absurd claim I can remember is when he said such and such is true "because, as science has proven, the Earth is 5,000 or 6,000 years old. I wonder what scientific text he researched in order to come up with that figure. Anyway, I think this book is very important, not only as an amusing peek into the past when people believed absurd notions for lack of more accurate data.

It is important because such a dangerous amount of people still believe the basic idea today, in spite of the vast information, research and data which has long since disproved his ideas.

Not only have the ideas been thoroughly disproved from many angles, but we actually are actually still living in a system which was founded on and supports these beliefs. First of all, is his main premise, that if humans have enough of the basic necessities of life and are not controlled by poverty and starvation, then they will multiply at an exponential rate, causing overpopulation.

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It has been shown that this is actually the opposite of what has been later observed in our world. Women in poor countries tend to have less children as they are able to receive proper nutrition, clean drinking water, education, etc. Women also have less children when basic medical treatment is available. It has been shown that in situations where there is a high infant mortality rate, there is also an even higher birth rate.

I won't pick apart every one of Malthus' numerous incorrect assumptions here but I will say that I think the mistake ultimately lies with his incorrect beliefs as to what "human nature" is.

  1. Chapter XVII Question of the proper definition of the wealth of a state — Reason given by the French economists for considering all manufacturers as unproductive labourers, not the true reason — The labour of artificers and manufacturers sufficiently productive to individuals, though not to the state — A remarkable passage in Dr. I wonder what scientific text he researched in order to come up with that figure.
  2. It is influenced by the environment, not from within. Price in attributin the happiness and rapid population of America, chiefly, to its peculiar state of civilization — No advantage can be expected from shutting our eyes to the difficulties in the way to the improvement of society.
  3. Price in attributin the happiness and rapid population of America, chiefly, to its peculiar state of civilization — No advantage can be expected from shutting our eyes to the difficulties in the way to the improvement of society. Adam Smith in representing every increase of the revenue or stock of a society as an increase in the funds for the maintenance of labour — Instances where an increase of wealth can have no tendency to better the condition of the labouring poor — England has increased in riches without a proportional increase in the funds for the maintenance of labour — The state of the poor in China would not be improved by an increase of wealth from manufactures.

This is very common and seems to be a root issue especially then, and even now. Unfortunately, belief systems are slow to adjust to new information and there is a dangerous 'culture-lag'. Human nature has long been thought of as an force that comes from within the person and cannot be changed, only managed.

It was assumed that human nature is selfish, greedy, aggressive and competitive. In ancient times, this view was supported by religions especially Malthus' own obviously Christian bias.

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Later, psychology took the same view, except in its own language with people like Frued, and finally came the study genetics which further seemed as if "human nature" comes from within, deciding how we will be and behave. It turns out that very little of behavior is programmed by the actual genes. The genes merely give options for traits that can be expressed.

It is eventually the social environment that decides which traits do become expressed.

An Essay on the Principle of Population

Robert Sapolsky of Stanford University is one of many biologists who show that human behavior is very adaptable, not fixed. It is influenced by the environment, not from within.