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What Is Meant Be a ’malthusian Population Regime’?

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Essay title: What Is Meant Be a ’malthusian Population Regime’?

What is meant by a �Malthusian population regime’?

This Malthusian problem was first recognised by a Reverend named Thomas Robert Malthus in 1798. It was then that Malthus published his work, entitled, An Essay on the Principle of Population as It Affects the Future Improvement of Society.

The 1790’s was a bitter time. In 1793, revolutionaries guillotined Louis XVI and the French Republic declared war on England. Enduring times like these made way for writers and preachers to declare their visions of Utopia and to stress an optimistic future for the world. One in particular was William Godwin who could foresee better times. He saw a world were there was �no war, no crime, no administration of justice, no government, no disease, anguish, melancholy or resentment.’ (Heilbroner, 1986) Malthus disagreed with Godwin’s vision of the future. Instead, Malthus’ vision was that �population growth rate would inevitably outstrip the rate at which food could be produced.’(Floud & McCloskey, 2000)

To explain further, Malthus saw that society was caught in a trap were human reproductive urge, inevitably, would steer humanity to the edge of existence. Society would watch as humanity lost the struggle between multiplying mouths and insufficient food supply. Malthus thought that the population tends to double every twenty-five years. He concluded the human population grew at a geometric ratio and food grew at an arithmetic ratio. To provide an example, if humans increase by 1,2,4,8,16,32,64,128,256, then food would grow by 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9. Basically Malthus sought after means to reduce the population and so reduce the chances of poverty.

If the population growth continued, food prices would rise and real wages would likely decline along with the standard of living. This would lead to overcrowding, malnourishment, starvation and death. In these circumstances, Malthus stated that positive checks should be used to eradicate the problem of overpopulation. This would mean checks that would raise the death rate such as �war, famine and plagues’ (Buchholz, 1999). Malthus decided to publish a revision of his essay in 1803.

In this revision he saw the possibility of morally acceptable �preventative’ checks on population. The purpose of these �preventative’ checks was to lower the birth rate in ways such as; fewer marriages, postponed marriages, sexual continence, and strict adherence to sexual morality. If population growth increased food prices and standard of living fell, more people would delay marriage or never marry. This would decrease the level of fertility and so decrease the rate of population growth to the point where it does not exceed food supply. Reducing the population growth rate below the rate of increase in the food supply so that prices would fall and standard of living would begin to rise. Therefore, when times were more difficult, fewer people married or waited longer to do so. Also, Malthus thought that the �preventative’ checks through marriage would take affect very slowly, therefore there would be long periods of population growth and standard of living, or the opposite. He saw �self-restraint’ as the only solution for the working classes to reduce their population growth. Other possible options which were ruled out on moral grounds were; prostitution and birth control.

Despite his pessimism Malthus was logical in his reasoning. �He defended small-pox, slavery and child-murder, denounced soup kitchens, early marriages and parish allowances...he urged the abolition of poor relief and opposed housing projects for the working class.’(Heilbroner, 1986)

At these times, Malthus, along with others, changed the viewpoint of their age from optimism to pessimism. This led others to take notice of the problems that could arise from rapid population growth. Over the years the Malthusian problem developed as it as known today. It is stated as �the fear that economists have, that per capita incomes would be driven down to subsistence level by the tendency for population to grow faster than output’.(Black,1997)

To what extent did Malthus’s �dismal’ predictions fail to materialise?

In the 1960’s and 70’s it appeared that Malthus’s predictions were right, as population growth peaks in 1960 (World Population Growth Statistical Table), at least in the less developed parts of the world such as sub-Saharan Africa, this will be discussed later. During the 17th century, the population of England was at a standstill (World Population Growth Statistical Table). A century later however, it �was growing faster than any other period

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