Class Notes (810,488)
United States (314,224)
Boston College (3,520)
Economics (206)
ECON 2233 (6)
Greene (6)

EC233 Malthus_Notes.pdf

2 Pages
Unlock Document

Boston College
ECON 2233

Notes on the Population Theory of Thomas Robert Malthus As the end of the 18 thcentury England was faced with a growing and increasingly urbanized population. Consequently the poverty of the lower classes had become more noticeable. England found it necessary to begin to import food. Daniel Malthus, the father of the economist and clergyman, Thomas Robert Malthus [1766-1834], was both attracted to and sympathetic with the Utopian thought of such men as William Godwin and the Marquis de Condorcet. Their view, reflecting the thesis set forth by Rousseau in his Discourse on the Origins of Inequality was that human beings are shaped by their environment. Thus, the poverty around them was the result of social and economic institutions. See the recent book by Thomas Sowell, Constrained Visions, in which Sowell classifies thinkers into those with constrained and those with unconstrained visions. Rousseau, Daniel Malthus, Godwin, and Condorcet fit into Sowell’s category of thinkers with unconstrained visions. For such thinkers social problems can be eliminated by the choice of the right social policy, and by the design of the right social and economic institutions. Thomas Robert disagreed with their optimistic analysis. He argued with his father over the causes of growing poverty. In his opinion, the poverty was rooted in hard and intractable facts about the natural world. Poverty, he maintained, arose because of the relation between the population and the food supply. He presented his argument in his Essay on Population. In the first edition published in 1798 his thesis was not buttressed by statistical evidence. Neither was it based on any elaborate theoretical argument. It followed simply from two basic aspects of nature. Firstly, that food is necessary for human existence. And, secondly, that the passion between the sexes is necessary for the existence and the continuation of the species. He then argued as follows. The amount of arable land on the face of the globe is in the limit fixed. He evidently thought also that there was a fairly low ceiling on the possible potential increase in the productivity of a unit of land. He concluded that food supply would grow at best arithmetically, that is in the ratio of 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6 etc. He then maintained that in the absence of checks on population growth, the passion between the sexes implies a geometric rate of increase of population in the ratio 2: 4: 6: 8: 16: 32: 64 etc. The consequence of these two different rates of increase is obvious. Population growth tend to outstrip the growth of the food supply, and the consequence is a steady decline in the material standard of living of the mass of the people, especially the laboring poor. But, population growth cannot outstrip continuously the growth of food supply continuously, and it can be checked in only two ways. Either the birth rate can decline or the death rate increase. He called factors that would decrease the birth rate negative checks. Malthus was not optimistic about the possibilities of checking population growth through a decline in the birth rate without increasing human misery. The negative check he considered was a postponement of the age of marriage. But he thought that that would lead to an increase in sexual relations outside of marriage, and thus an increase in vice, misery, and degradation. Malthus called factors such as war, famine, and disease that would increase the death rate positi
More Less

Related notes for ECON 2233

Log In


Don't have an account?

Join OneClass

Access over 10 million pages of study
documents for 1.3 million courses.

Sign up

Join to view


By registering, I agree to the Terms and Privacy Policies
Already have an account?
Just a few more details

So we can recommend you notes for your school.

Reset Password

Please enter below the email address you registered with and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Add your courses

Get notes from the top students in your class.