Fascinating essay by Tim Black on the real motivations behind Malthus’ Essay on the Principle of Population.
First, Malthus was simply wrong that population expands geometrically as “subsistence” expands arithmetically. Historical evidence bears that out.
Second is the great irony in all of this: Malthus was motivated entirely out of a will to ossify structural inequality and to forever shield the aristocracy from the laboring class. Marx called the theory a “libel against the human race.”
Yet it’s left-wing thinkers today, inspired by environmentalist dogma of impending resource depletion doom and destructive overcrowding, that have taken up his banner.
Malthus’s aim should be clear enough. He was always seeking to justify the late-eighteenth-century status quo by transforming a historically determinate society into a fact of nature. Society was as it ought to be and could be no other way. For the ‘race of labourers’, as Malthus tellingly refers to the working class, to raise themselves up to the material level of, presumably, the ‘race of proprietors’, would be to exceed natural limits.
Succinctly, from the man himself:
‘The principal argument of this Essay only goes to prove the necessity of a class of proprietors, and a class of labourers.’
There’s also tons of great stuff on how Malthus helped revise the poor laws to ensure even worse misery for England’s poor. Go read it and be sick.
This enforces what a lot of people on the right are saying, to much erroneous disdain, about the utter lack of humanity in left-thinking about resources. It’s just that the contemporary West and the Rest have assumed the roles of Mathus’ aristocrat and laborer.
Comfortable academics sit in cozy offices in ivory towers devising ways of limiting population growth and resource consumption when one of the greatest gifts we could bestow on the developing world is energy. I don’t mean windmills, I mean hydrocarbons to replace the burning of wood that is less energy dense and leads to death by smoke inhalation (yes, it’s a huge problem).
At least we’re generous about sending food.
I should disclaim that I’m not saying there’s no chance we run out of oil and climate change kills billions in the near future. I’m saying I discount it greatly. Why? Because the ideology is built on foundations of sand (articulated above) and because subsequent predictions in the proceeding centuries have all proven false.
So faced with giving those living in squalor a chance at life and prosperity, or hoarding resources, I’m willing to expend the energy.