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January 2016 Policy Study, Number 16-1


Doom and Gloom = 0, Human Ingenuity = 10

The World Hasn't Ended Yet!


Malthusian Catastrophe Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus (1776 – 1834) was English and is known for his work on political economy and demography, most famously for the “Essay on the Principle of Population.”[6]  In it he theorized that the population of the earth will, sooner or later, be held in check by both famine and disease.  The reason?  Primarily the overproduction of children, resulting in a lack of resources to feed and raise them, and the irresponsibility of the lower classes in having these children.  The solution?  Controlling the family size of the poor.[7]  This, of course, is being done today in China and other places and is encouraged by the U.S. government in a wide variety of ways.  Most famous is the provision of free birth control within the U.S. as part of Obamacare, abortion on demand (which is primarily used by these same “lower classes” as a method of birth control), and support for major birth control expansion efforts in foreign countries.


Malthus said, "The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.”[8] This has come to be called the “Malthusian catastrophe.”  Though there are still hungry people in the world today and short-term famines have caused loss of lives in many countries, the Earth supports vastly many more people than 200 years ago and modern agriculture enables us to produce huge quantities of food.  So much that in many countries obesity, not starvation, is the problem.  In areas with food shortages, the lack of food is not the primary problem, but instead the timely distribution of food to those who need it.  Population growth has slowed, but not because of any lack in the earth’s ability to produce subsistence.


Specifically, since the mid-1800s, and before Malthus could know and analyze it, the Industrial Revolution exponentially increased the production of food and goods for all people.  Purchasing power parity, an economic measure used to measure the goods and services people are able to purchase no matter what country they live in, has radically increased since the 1800s while the population growth has only slowly increased.[9]  Predictions that the world population would explode in the 20th century, while at the same time large numbers of people starved to death, were simply untrue.  The world only reached seven billion people in 2013, not in the 20th century, and declining populations are a significant problem for many countries, including Japan, China, and most of the European Union countries.


As just one example of innovation and technology assisting the earth in producing enough food for all, the amount of wheat produced in developing countries alone has increased from a yield of 750 kilograms per hectare in 1950 to almost 2,750 kilograms per hectare in 2004, and even more in the 10 years since then.[10]


Others who have more recently issued prophecies about the “end of the world” because of population and food imbalances include various learned professors and organizations they support.  Much of this began in 1970 and was part of the “global cooling” prophecy. 




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