Thomas Malthus (1798) An Essay on the Principle of Population

the year following his publication of An Essay on the Principle of Population, Malthus ..

Essay on Thomas Malthus and the Principle of Population - 1


Malthus made his groundbreaking economic arguments by treating human beings in a groundbreaking way. Rather than focusing on the individual, he looked at humans as groups of individuals, all of whom were subject to the same basic laws of behavior. He used the same principles that an ecologist would use studying a population of animals or plants. And indeed, Malthus pointed out that the same forces of fertility and starvation that shaped the human race were also at work on animals and plants. If flies went unchecked in their maggot-making, the world would soon be knee-deep in them. Most flies (and most members of any species you choose) must die without having any offspring. And thus when adapted Malthus’ ideas to his theory of evolution, it was clear to him that humans must evolve like any other animal.

Malthus put forth his ideas in six editions of his famous treatise, 'An Essay on the Principle of Population'.

Thomas Malthus biography essay on the principles of population

It was during his initial period as a rural clergyman that Malthus composed his first published work: published in 1798. This anonymous work was originally intended to cast doubt on the doctrine of human perfectibility. By invoking a well-established principle, that population always expands in response to improvements in the supply of subsistence goods, Malthus showed that any attempt to create an ideal society in which altruism and common property rights prevailed would be undermined by its inability to cope with the resulting population pressure. In a context dominated by the hopes aroused by the French Revolution, this amounted to an assertion of the greater power of bioeconomic factors over human agency.

Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) publishedhis theory of population (

Malthus's second edition of the finally appeared in June 1803, much revised and expanded. Malthusconcentrated on bringing the empirical evidence gathered from his travels to bear. He also introducedthe possibility of "moral restraint" (voluntary abstinence which leadsto neither misery nor vice) bringing the unchecked population growth rate downto a point where the tendency is gone. In practical policy terms, thismeant inculcating the lower classes with middle-class virtues, which he believedwas to be primarily done by urging and preaching to the poor to change their improvident habits. He also conjectured the of the proletariatcould be furthered along with the introduction of universal suffrage, state-runeducation for the poor and, more controversially, the elimination of the PoorLaws and the establishment of an unfettered nation-wide labor market, so that the poor would fear falling and aspire to rise. Malthusalso tentatively suggested that once the poor had "a taste for the comforts and conveniences of life", then they would demand ahigher standard of living for themselves before starting a family. Thus,although seemingly contradictory, Malthus is already suggesting the kernel of the possibility of a"demographic transition", i.e. that sufficiently high incomes may beenough by themselves to reduce fertility.

Essay on Thomas Malthus and the Principle of Population 1503 Words | 7 Pages


of his Essay on the Principle of Population, ..

To enter fully into this question, and to enumerate all the causes that have hitherto influenced human improvement, would be much beyond the power of an individual. The principal object of the present essay is to examine the effects of one great cause intimately united with the very nature of man; which, though it has been constantly and powerfully operating since the commencement of society, has been little noticed by the writers who have treated this subject. The facts which establish the existence of this cause have, indeed, been repeatedly stated and acknowledged; but its natural and necessary effects have been almost totally overlooked; though probably among these effects may be reckoned a very considerable portion of that vice and misery, and of that unequal distribution of the bounties of nature, which it has been the unceasing object of the enlightened philanthropist in all ages to correct.

The six editions of his An Essay on the Principle of Population, ..

Malthus saw his main policy goal - the reform of the Poor Laws - finally accomplished by parliament in early 1834. But he did not live long enough to witness the empirical verdict on his theory. Malthus died on December 23, 1834, while still in the process of editing a second edition of the (which came out posthumously in 1836). Quetelet, who had been intrigued enough to give Malthus's hypothesis a shot, published his inconclusive results in 1836 (although one of his students, Pierre-François Verhulst, looked into it more closely and came up with his famous "logistical curve"). But it was J.R.'s monumental 1837 compilation of data from the British census that put the empirical nail in the coffin of the Malthusian hypothesis. McCulloch showed that birth rates had remained virtually unchanged, even declined a little in the late 1790s, that the explosion in population growth Malthus had attributed to rising birth rates was in fact due to steeply declining death rates. The debate was not altogether over - the Malthusian hypothesis was resumed again a decade later, and would continue to be discussed again at least until the turn of the century, and intermittently in the 20th Century. The Malthus hypothesis was finally integrated with the Senior hypothesis as two phases of a single model of "demographic transition".

Thomas Robert Malthus - Wikipedia

Throughout the whole of the present work I have so far differed in principle from the former, as to suppose the action of another check to population which does not come under the head either of vice or misery; and, in the latter part I have endeavoured to soften some of the harshest conclusions of the first Essay. In doing this, I hope that I have not violated the principles of just reasoning; nor expressed any opinion respecting the probable improvement of society, in which I am not borne out by the experience of the past. To those who still think that any check to population whatever would be worse than the evils which it would relieve, the conclusions of the former Essay will remain in full force; and if we adopt this opinion we shall be compelled to acknowledge, that the poverty and misery which prevail among the lower classes of society are absolutely irremediable.