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Thoughts Online Magazine
Collected Articles on Culture & Politics
Malthus is Still Wrong 
30th-Jul-2007 10:36 am
Inspiration
Malthus is Still Wrong. Malthus is Still Wrong.

And for those of you addicted to the mathematical insight that food grows arithmetically but population geometrically (Yes, this is you, Niall Ferguson) and similar mathematized illogicalities, I have a one for you.

For every mouth, there are two hands to work with. Satisfied? You can even count them, unlike the famously unreliable Malthusian (or, updated, Meadows) model.

Everyone produces more than they consume.

UPDATE:Even the New York Times is starting to notice that overpopulation is not the problem. But that is the point: people are the most valuable resource in potentia, and one of the jobs of society is to use that potential.
Comments 
30th-Jul-2007 07:09 pm (UTC)
Simple practical fact proves that we are in the middle of a crisis of overproduction, not underproduction, of food. The supposedly hungry Africans get mad because they are not allowed to sell food to the Europeans; the Europeans in turn want to sell them food. Everyone is trying to sell food to everyone else and at the same time not to buy from anyone else. And the immense fields of Russia and the Ukraine are not even restored to their efficiency of old. Meanwhile, Europe is taking fields out of production because we don't need them. India, supposedly overpopulated, has been self-sufficient in food for decades. The whole notion of an Earth bound for starvation is a myth, one that would be laughed out of existence were it not that powerful ideological interests are vested in its preservation.

On the other hand, it is true that raw materials other than food are limited and will become scarcer and more expensive as economic activity in India and China explodes. (For instance, given India's swiftly growing prosperity and the Indian love of gold in all its forms, this is surely the right time to invest long-term in gold.) But that only means that human ingenuity will be called upon again. Even oil is not indispensable; it replaced coal mainly on the grounds of cost, and if it gets more expensive than coal, then the industrialized nations - most of which lie on top of mountains of unmined coal - will start using it again. It might even, one day, be commercially viable to use the technology that Germany employed in World War Two to turn coal into oil-like fuels. And of course, given that food is being so hugely overproduced, there is also the possibility of using more vegetable sources for purposes other than food. Opportunities are endless - only a certain kind of imagination seems always to be only fixated on imagined oncoming catastrophes.

(Catastrophists, by the way, rarely manage to get their catastrophes right. The Rev.Malthus certainly did not imagine that the great massacres of the nineteenth and twentieth century would all be state-organized - I include in this the complacent way in which the British government deliberately allowed millions of its own Irish subjects to starve or flee the country - and caused almost entirely by abstract intellectual doctrines.)
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