Samuels Portrait Collection" alt="Thomas Robert Malthus"

The class of "no technical solution problems" hasmembers. My thesis is that the "population problem," asconventionally conceived, is a member of this class. How it isconventionally conceived needs some comment. It is fair to saythat most people who anguish over the population problem aretrying to find a way to avoid the evils of overpopulation withoutrelinquishing any of the privileges they now enjoy. They thinkthat farming the seas or developing new strains of wheat willsolve the problem -- technologically. I try to show here that thesolution they seek cannot be found. The population problem cannotbe solved in a technical way, any more than can the problem ofwinning the game of tick-tack-toe.

 However, the question of the maximum growth rate of a human population was somewhat more obscure.

The ultimate check to population appears then to be a want of food, arising necessarily from the different ratios according to which population and food increase. But this ultimate check is never the immediate check, except in cases of actual famine.


An Essay on the Principle of Population - Wikipedia

Malthus' proof of the growth of the food supply in an arithmetic ratio was even less supported.

In the northern states of America, where the means of subsistence have been more ample, the manners of the people more pure, and the checks to early marriages fewer, than in any of the modern states of Europe, the population has been found to double itself, for above a century and a half successively, in less than twenty-five years. Yet, even during these periods, in some of the towns, the deaths exceeded the births, a circumstance which clearly proves that, in those parts of the country which supplied this deficiency, the increase must have been much more rapid than the general average.


An Essay on the Principle of Population by Thomas Malthus

Accepting Malthus' ideas of the relative growth rates of the population and the food supply, the next, and perhaps more important stage of his argument is the analysis of the consequences of this hypothesis.

Malthus and the Principle of Population | Foreign Affairs

Thomas Malthus (1766-1834)
English political economist
Was concerned with what he saw as the decline of living conditions in England
Published "An Essay on the Principle of Population" in 1798
This work earned economics the title of "the dismal science"
What did Malthus observe?
Outlaid a simple proposition with a dire and seemingly inescapable outcome (Goodstein, 2011 p119):
that food supply grows arithmetically; and
that population grows geometrically
Eventually, population outstrips food supply.

"This implies a strong and constantly operating check on population from the difficulty of subsistence.

An Essay on the Principle of Population Quotes by …

We can make little progress in working toward optimumpopulation size until we explicitly exorcise the spirit of AdamSmith in the field of practical demography. In economic affairs, (1776) popularized the "invisiblehand," the idea that an individual who "intends onlyhis own gain," is, as it were, "led by an invisiblehand to promote the public interest." Adam Smith did not assert that this was invariably true, andperhaps neither did any of his followers. But he contributed to adominant tendency of thought that has ever since interfered withpositive action based on rational analysis, namely, the tendencyto assume that decisions reached individually will, in fact, bethe best decisions for an entire society. If this assumption iscorrect it justifies the continuance of our present policy of in reproduction. If it is correct we can assume thatmen will control their individual fecundity so as to produce theoptimum population. If the assumption is not correct, we need toreexamine our individual freedoms to see which ones aredefensible.