'An Essay on the Principle of Population and A Summary View of the Principle of Population'
By Thomas Robert Malthus (Author), Antony Flew (Editor, Introduction)
The provocative historical work on social economy, demography, and population control.
Malthus' life's work on human population and its dependency on food production and the environment was highly controversial on publication in 1798. He predicted what is known as the Malthusian catastrophe, in which humans would disregard the limits of natural resources and the world would be plagued by famine and disease. He significantly influenced the thinking of Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace and his theories continue to raise important questions today in the fields of social theory, economics and the environment.
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The Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus FRS was an English cleric and scholar, influential in the fields of political economy and demography. Malthus himself used only his middle name Robert.
His An Essay on the Principle of Population observed that sooner or later population will be checked by famine and disease, leading to what is known as a Malthusian catastrophe. He wrote in opposition to the popular view in 18th-century Europe that saw society as improving and in principle as perfectible. He thought that the dangers of population growth precluded progress towards a utopian society: "The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man". As an Anglican cleric, Malthus saw this situation as divinely imposed to teach virtuous behaviour. Malthus wrote:
That the increase of population is necessarily limited by the means of subsistence,
That population does invariably increase when the means of subsistence increase, and,
That the superior power of population is repressed, and the actual population kept equal to the means of subsistence, by misery and vice.
Malthus placed the longer-term stability of the economy above short-term expediency. He criticized the Poor Laws, and (alone among important contemporary economists) supported the Corn Laws, which introduced a system of taxes on British imports of wheat. His views became influential, and controversial, across economic, political, social and scientific thought. Pioneers of evolutionary biology read him, notably Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. He remains a much-debated writer.