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An Essay on the Principle of Population [Paperback]

Thomas Malthus

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Book Description

July 2008
The following Essay owes its origin to a conversation with a friend, on the subject of Mr Godwin's essay on avarice and profusion, in his Enquirer. The discussion started the general question of the future improvement of society, and the Author at first sat down with an intention of merely stating his thoughts to his friend, upon paper, in a clearer manner than he thought he could do in conversation. But as the subject opened upon him, some ideas occurred, which he did not recollect to have met with before; and as he conceived that every least light, on a topic so generally interesting, might be received with candour, he determined to put his thoughts in a form for publication

Product Details

  • Paperback: 148 pages
  • Publisher: Book Jungle (July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1438500173
  • ISBN-13: 978-1438500171
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 19 x 0.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 268 g

Product Description

About the Author

Thomas Robert 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 theories concerning population and its increase or decrease in response to various factors. The six editions of his An Essay on the Principle of Population, published from 1798 to 1826, observed that sooner or later population gets checked by famine and disease. He wrote in opposition to 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 socia1 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. 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-term benefits. Malthus became hugely influential, and controversial, in economic, political, social and scientific thought. Many of those whom subsequent centuries term evolutionary biologists 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 controversy. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read for Anyone Interested In Economic Theory Jan. 17 2010
By T. Morris - Published on
This essay lays out Malthus's dire predictions for the future of mankind at a time when few else speculated on the future of industrialization with such gloom. It is an excellent read for anyone interested in economic THEORY...

The gentleman below gave this only one star. A glance at his review reveals it is because he prefers Marx and only Marx. My recommendation to him is to give the work a fair review and not bash it due to his own preference for one train of thought. In short, his opinion sucks...
5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Know the root of all evil... Nov. 2 2010
By Faustino Mendonça - Published on
I am giving this a 5 because it is an important book. Honestly, Malthus is completely evil. Even his name sounds horribly villainous. And, for the record, I hate this man.

On the book. Well, if you didn't know, Malthus is kind of like...(this is debatable, but many other great scholars believe this to be true) the very first 'economist.'

Basically, if you want to know where all the horrible dictators of the world got their crazy ideas, or hell, even where the current Tea Party people in the US get their's, its all right here in black and white. Eugenics, enclosures, sterilization, you name it, it surfaces here like the worst possible skin of sludge on the top of a vast lake of sewage.

good read.

CreateSpace did a nice job on this classic. Good design and layout of the text.
12 of 35 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars One of the ugliest and most wrong-headed books ever written June 5 2009
By not a natural - Published on
When Marx was writing The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, he was fond of quoting or closely paraphrasing mainstream political economists who were influential in his day. Ricardo, Smith, and Jean-Baptite Say were obvious choices, and so was Thomas Malthus. Marx's objective was to show that his understanding of capitalism was invariably quite similar to that of the influential main-streamers. It's as if he'd point to a particularly egregious, but ostensibly inescapable characteristic of capitalism and say, "They said it, I didn't." One huge difference between Marx and the main-streamers was that Marx thought a different, much more humane system was possible.

One of Marx's favorite targets was Thomas Malthus, a protestant clergyman as well as a political economist. Here is a typical passage from the first version of Malthus' Essay on Population: "If we dread the too frequent visitation of the horrid form of famine, we should sedulously encourage the other forms of destruction which we compel nature to use. Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits. In our towns we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into houses, and court the return of the plague. In the country we should build our villages near stagnant pools, and particularly encourage settlements in all marshy and unwholesome situations. But above all we should [reject] specific remedies for various diseases ..." (That such conditions came to prevail for most is well known to anyone who has read Engels' The Condition of the Working Class in England, published in 1844. Malthus got his wish, and then some!)

This is an extremely ugly statement even by 19th century Dickensian standards, but Malthus enjoyed the admiration of many learned men of his time, including Thomas Jefferson. Malthus' claim that food production naturally and inevitably increases additively or arithmetically, while population naturally and inevitably increases geometrically, was and is without foundation. Malthus acknowledges as much in the thoroughly revised edition of this volume published later. Furthermore, if one were looking for an 18th century variant on victim blaming, this would be it: famine and attendant horrors are due entirely to the unbridled, undisciplined, unrestrained recklessness with which members of the working class and peasantry indulge their sexual appetites. Were they prudent, workers and peasants would restrain themselves to conform to the claims and constraints of nascent capitalism.

A thoughtful and well-written comment from a reader who has a favorable view of Malthus prompted me to remember why I found his book so objectionable when I read it for a course in demography forty years ago. As a protestant clergyman, a New Testament Christian, it's disconcerting to realize that Malthus, without substantiation, would attribute to his God such gratuitous cruelty in the way he made the world. Today, however, I'm an atheist and the parallels between Malthus' assertions-without-analyses bring to mind the unequivocal proclamations of right-wing talk show hosts and neo-conservative ideologues.

The same reader made the point that Malthus was not a malicious, splenetic ogre. His portraits invariably display a cheerful smile. Having read Malthus, one has to wonder just what this man was smiling about -- God is in his heaven and the world is rife with misery ... ?

Rejecting Malthus' ill-conceived notions as to the consequences of population growth does not imply endorsement of the idea that growth can continue unabated forever without adverse consequences. Rejecting Malthus means that he failed to acknowledge that the consequences of growth may vary markedly depending on the way that a specific social system is organized. This is a crucial issue that Malthus, an intellectual prisoner of the status quo, did not see.

Why read this horrible book today? Well, we do have folks in policy making positions who are called Neo-Malthusians. What can they be up to?

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