Malthus was Right
DISCLAIMER: I HAVE NOT READ ANYTHING
Thomas Malthus is generally laughed at today. He is known for writing a great big nerdy book about how population was limited just before people invented ways to make lots and lots of food which meant the population shot up and left him looking rather silly. This is obviously a dumb criticism. At its most basic, Malthus’s argument was that you could only make so much food, an amount limited by the amount of cultivatable land, and therefore there could only be so many people.
The fun version of the argument is that the population would go up and eventually it would get too much as people would either starve, go to war over food or die of plague. This is is one of Malthus’s explanations for population limits, he calls it the positive check. The other half is the precautionary check, which has to do with growth slowing as the population increases and approaches the limit that society can bear. As the population grows, demand for food grows and thus its price increases, as a consequence real wages shrink because the same money buys less food, this means that people end up marrying later because they can’t afford to start a new household. Later marriages mean fewer children because women become less fertile. The result is slower population growth, which avoids famine and war and such things.
So, what does Malthus have to say about the modern world? We have a shitload of food, yet we have low population growth, at least in the developed world. Well, the answer is that the preventative check is still functioning, it’s just based on a different set of limited resources. Food is cheap, but houses are expensive and therefore so is marriage, or cohabiting, which I’m told the kids are doing.
If it’s expensive to start a family then people do it later and therefore have fewer kids. I think Malthus even wrote about contraception but idk, i haven’t read it.
So, stop being mean to my friend Mr. Malthus, he had some good points and they still apply today, even if food is cheap, preventative checks can limit the population in other ways.