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An Essay on the Principle of Population Paperback – Jul 12 2008

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Paperback, Jul 12 2008
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks (July 12 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199540454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199540457
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 1.8 x 12.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 136 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #229,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

About the Author

He is also the author of many articles on Malthus, the Poor Law, and the Welfare State. He is currently researching a book on Malthus and poverty.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xb2d8aabc) out of 5 stars 12 reviews
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb246cf54) out of 5 stars A Classic of Reason and A Classic for a Reason July 22 2011
By Amazon Customer - Published on
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.
HASH(0xb246f24c) out of 5 stars Koyaanisquatsi July 10 2016
By Greg Afuso - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Don't make the mistake of reading this book as text book for possible consequences of human overpopulation but read it as a remarkable essay based on a Christian sermon given in circa 1790 postulating the future of the world upon the advent of the great quantum leap of human development which was the Industrial Revolution. I think that Malthus' basic self-evident postulate of, "(A) population cannot increase without the means of subsistence", seems so simple as to be moronic but given the real possibility of the human population today as potentially acting as an evasive species upon the entire planet, the ramifications of this simple statement seem as relevant as ever. I don't think Malthus in his wildest imagination could have predicted that the scientific and industrial revolution that began in 1800 would enable the human population to go from just under 1 billion people at the time of the writing of his book to 8 billion people in a span of only a little over 200 years, (Incidentally it would take 300 years for an individual to just count to 8 billion!). So Hey! As someone who has worked on a farm and have also tried to live off of hunting and gathering, I have always been very skeptical of the prospect of the planet Earth NEVER reaching a saturation in terms of its potential for production of calories for human existence. And then one day, while researching the Milankovitch theory for a speech I was going to make on Human Migration, I accidentally find tucked away in some obscure report that the U.N. has indicated that we have reached the peak production of many grains, produce and other plant based foodstuffs and will never be able to increase production. While doing the research I also stumbled upon the Maltusian Theory and heck I recommend this little book of ideas to be read by anyone who feels like me, that there is something is funny about the world but can't quite figure out what it is. And what is that nagging feeling of doom? Don't read any further if you want to read Malthus for yourself...otherwise here it is: Malthus indicates that man's need for perpetual prosperity is indeed the ultimate mark of hubris which will eventually lead to the fall of mankind and that there is a divine, natural cycle for man which has been exercised for the previous 1 million years, (And needs to be once more)...Sustainability.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb246f210) out of 5 stars The World Would Be A Better Place If We Had Paid Attention To Thomas Malthus July 9 2015
By Victor L. Phelps - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This material should be mandatory school cariculum world wide. The problems Malthus outlined have been plaguing humanity since before fe wrote this essay. We did not listen and we are paying the price.
6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb246f504) out of 5 stars Should be Standard Reading for all entering Freshmen Jan. 7 2011
By ExistentialistRoberts - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book should be stapled to every freshman entering a College of Arts and Sciences, as some write it off as out dated, I would say it holds true more than ever! Even though the industrial revolution changed some of the ways we think, it never changed how we breed or how the classes still operate!
6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb246f564) out of 5 stars A Must Read for Anyone Interested In Economic Theory Jan. 17 2010
By T. Morris - Published on
Format: Paperback
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...