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An Essay on the Principle of Population Paperback – Jul 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 148 pages
  • Publisher: Book Jungle (July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1438500173
  • ISBN-13: 978-1438500171
  • Product Dimensions: 19.1 x 0.8 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 268 g

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About the Author

Thomas Malthus (1766-1834), was a British scholar, influential in political economy and demography. Malthus popularized the economic theory of rent. Malthus has become widely known for his analysis according to which societal improvements result in population growth. The six editions of his Principles of Population, published from 1798 to 1826, predict that sooner or later population gets checked by famine, disease, and widespread mortality. He wrote in the context of the popular view, in 18th century Europe, that saw society as improving, and in principle as perfectible. William Godwin and the Marquis de Condorcet, for example, believed in the possibility of almost limitless improvement of society. So, in a more complex way, did Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose notions centered on the goodness of man and the liberty of citizens bound only by the social contract, a form of popular sovereignty. Malthus thought that the dangers of population growth would preclude endless progress towards a utopian society: "The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man". As an Anglican clergyman, Malthus saw this situation as divinely imposed to teach virtuous behavior. Believing that one could not change human nature, and that egalitarian societies were prone to over-population], Malthus wrote in dramatic terms: "epidemics, pestilence and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and ten thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow, levels the population with the food of the world". Malthus placed the longer-term stability of the economy above short-term expediency. He criticized the Poor Laws, and (alone among important contemporary economists) supported the Corn Laws, which introduced a system of taxes on British imports of wheat. He thought these measures would encourage domestic production, and so promote long-terms of benefit. Malthus became hugely influential, and controversial, in economic, political, social and scientific thought. Many of those whom subsequent centuries sometimes term "evolutionary biologists" also read him, notably Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, for each of whom Malthusianism became an intellectual stepping-stone to the idea of natural selection. Malthus remains a writer of great significance, and debate continues as to whether his direst expectations will come about. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Amazon.com: 16 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The Reverend Malthus contends Oct. 17 2013
By Mark - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Every introductory course in economics mentions Malthus and this work, but has anyone really read the whole primary source and decided for oneself what it really means. Now is the chance. The Reverend Malthus contends that the production of food grows arithmetically, while the population grows geometrically which causes mankind’s reproduction results to outstrip its ability to feed and house itself and thus causing famine, war, and pestilence. He also claims with scattered empirical evidence that rapid population growth would ultimately lower workers’ wages to a subsistent level paving the way for Marx’s theory of the exploitation of labor. Malthus’s predicted future did not foresee that technological change could both increase the food supply and limit population growth. Nevertheless, in today’s world with unprecedented urbanization, the urban dominated societies have increasingly subordinated control of its food supply to outside supplier states. It may now be this logistics vulnerability and not the amount of food which gives some possible reverse truth to Malthus’s famous work. M. A. Kehrle
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
A Classic of Reason and A Classic for a Reason July 22 2011
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
From the Introduction: "Malthus began with two physiological assumptions: humans must have food, and the sex drive will always be a fundamental part of our make-up. (Both assumptions had been called into question, half-seriously, by Godwin.) His next assertions were less self-evident but crucial to the argument: an unchecked population grows at a 'geometric' rate, as in the series 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, and the means of subsistence can only be increased at an 'arithmetic' rate, as in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Because man's powers of reproduction so greatly exceed his powers of food production, population will always press against the available resources. Thus a substantial portion of society is condemned to live at the ragged edge of subsistence. Any significant rise in general living standards will trigger a period of earlier marriages and lower mortality, bringing faster growth of population than of food supplies. Per capita consumption, having risen temporarily above 'subsistence' level, will be forced back down to that level, or even below it. Almost as famous as this grim analysis, which prompted Thomas Carlyle to dub economics the 'dismal science', is the conceptual apparatus that supports it. Malthus argued that population was held within resource limits by two types of 'checks': positive ones, which raised the death rate, and preventative ones, which lowered the birth rate. The positive checks included hunger, disease, and war; the preventative checks, abortion, birth control, prostitution, postponement of marriage, and celibacy. All of these population retardants, without exception, led mankind into 'misery' or 'vice'. Thus commentators have mapped out four Malthusian quadrants of woe: positive of misery (disease; malnutrition) or of vice (the waging of war), and preventative checks of misery (the postponement of marriage; celibacy) or of vice (prostitution; birth control).

Let me first say, most emphatically, that Malthus was not wrong; anyone who believes that Malthus was wrong is either misguided, or simply restating something they heard another misguided person say. The fact of the matter is that Malthus has never been a popular figure (it's rumored that Charles Dickens based his character Ebenezer Scrooge on Malthus) and in today's extremely bi-partisan environment - it's a pretty safe bet to say that he would be sitting in the Republican aisle of Congress. Nevertheless, and all politics aside, much of what has been attributed to Malthus has been reverse-engineered to make him sound like a cold-hearted elitist prude, which he wasn't. I only recommend reading this book and making up your own mind.

Lastly, this is really one of my favorite polemics, so naturally I am biased; however, I can't help but see Malthus in many of my other favorite books: Jared Diamonds - Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: Revised Edition, Garrett Hardin's - Living within Limits: Ecology, Economics, and Population Taboos, Nafeez Ahmed - A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save it, or Chris Martenson's - The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future Of Our Economy, Energy, And Environment. I think the ideas of 'The Tragedy of the Commons', 'The Tyranny of Small Decisions', and even the great big theory of 'Darwinian Evolution', all have their genesis in Thomas Malthus and An Essay on the Principle of Population. This is a great book - possibly required reading even - and at about 175 pages, including the Introduction, I think everyone might want to read it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Should be required reading April 7 2014
By Harold Zellner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
What can be taken away from this troubling book is deep concern for the rise in world population, and the prospect that all hopes for an amelioration of world hunger and war will be frustrated. This is a repellent book in many ways. It may be that, like Swift in _A Modest Proposal_, Malthus did not seriously intend much of what he says. But the warning in any case is an important one, especially since the idea of zero population growth now seems to be dead.
Malthus: On Population: Kindle edition Nov. 29 2014
By Phil Scott - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an essential [often misquoted] classic work related to population limits. Although much of the volume deals with tangential subjects, the fact that Malthus still bears the brunt of vicious Fundamentalist attacks demonstrates his continuing importance.
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Inspired Charles Darwin Jan. 6 2013
By hgWhiz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Charles Darwin, from his autobiography. (1876)
"In October 1838, that is, fifteen months after I had begun my systematic inquiry, I happened to read for amusement Malthus on Population, and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on from long- continued observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The results of this would be the formation of a new species. Here, then I had at last got a theory by which to work."

H.G.Wells -"Perhaps the most 'shattering' book that ever has been or will be written."


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