"Malthus" redirects here. For the demon, see Malthus (demon).
Thomas Robert MalthusFRS (; 13 February 1766 – 23 December 1834) was an English cleric and scholar, influential in the fields of political economy and demography. Malthus himself used only his middle name, Robert.
In his 1798 book An Essay on the Principle of Population, Malthus observed that an increase in a nation's food production improved the well-being of the populace, but the improvement was temporary because it led to population growth, which in turn restored the original per capita production level. In other words, mankind had a propensity to utilize abundance for population growth rather than for maintaining a high standard of living, a view that has become known as the "Malthusian trap" or the "Malthusian spectre". Populations had a tendency to grow until the lower class suffered hardship and want and greater susceptibility to famine and disease, a view that is sometimes referred to as a Malthusian catastrophe. Malthus wrote in opposition to the popular view in 18th-century Europe that saw society as improving and in principle as perfectible. He saw population growth as being inevitable whenever conditions improved, thereby precluding real 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 cleric, Malthus saw this situation as divinely imposed to teach virtuous behaviour. Malthus wrote:
That the increase of population is necessarily limited by the means of subsistence,
That population does invariably increase when the means of subsistence increase, and,
That the superior power of population is repressed by moral restraint, vice and misery.
Malthus criticized the Poor Laws for leading to inflation rather than improving the well-being of the poor. He supported taxes on grain imports (the Corn Laws), because food security was more important than maximizing wealth. His views became influential, and controversial, across economic, political, social and scientific thought. Pioneers of evolutionary biology read him, notably Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. He remains a much-debated writer.
Early life and education
The seventh child of Henrietta Catherine (Graham) and Daniel Malthus, Robert Malthus grew up in The Rookery, a country house in Westcott, near Dorking in Surrey. Petersen describes Daniel Malthus as "a gentleman of good family and independent means... [and] a friend of David Hume and Jean-Jacques Rousseau". The young Malthus received his education at home in Bramcote, Nottinghamshire, and then at the Warrington Academy from 1782. Warrington was a dissenting academy, then at the end of its existence, and it closed in 1783; Malthus continued for a period to be tutored by Gilbert Wakefield who had taught him there.
Malthus entered Jesus College, Cambridge in 1784. There he took prizes in English declamation, Latin and Greek, and graduated with honours, Ninth Wrangler in mathematics. His tutor was William Frend. He took the MA degree in 1791, and was elected a Fellow of Jesus College two years later. In 1789, he took orders in the Church of England, and became a curate at Oakwood Chapel (also Okewood) in the parish of Wotton, Surrey.
Further information: Malthusian catastrophe
Malthus came to prominence for his 1798 essay on population growth. In it, he argued that population multiplies geometrically and food arithmetically; therefore, whenever the food supply increases, population will rapidly grow to eliminate the abundance. Between 1798 and 1826 he published six editions of An Essay on the Principle of Population, updating each edition to incorporate new material, to address criticism, and to convey changes in his own perspectives on the subject. He wrote the original text in reaction to the optimism of his father and his father's associates (notably Rousseau) regarding the future improvement of society. Malthus also constructed his case as a specific response to writings of William Godwin (1756–1836) and of the Marquis de Condorcet (1743–1794).
The Essay gave rise to the Malthusian controversy during the next decades. The content saw an emphasis on the birth rate and marriage rates. The neo-Malthusian controversy, or related debates of many years later, has seen a similar central role assigned to the numbers of children born.
In 1799 Malthus made a European tour with William Otter, a close college friend, travelling part of the way with Edward Daniel Clarke and John Marten Cripps, visiting Germany, Scandinavia and Russia. Malthus used the trip to gather population data. Otter later wrote a Memoir of Malthus for the second (1836) edition of his Principles of Political Economy. During the Peace of Amiens of 1802 he travelled to France and Switzerland, in a party that included his relation and future wife Harriet. In 1803 he became rector of Walesby, Lincolnshire.
In 1805 Malthus became Professor of History and Political Economy at the East India Company College in Hertfordshire. His students affectionately referred to him as "Pop" or "Population" Malthus.
At the end of 1816 the proposed appointment of Graves Champney Haughton to the College was made a pretext by Randle Jackson and Joseph Hume to launch an attempt to close it down. Malthus wrote a pamphlet defending the College, which was reprieved by the East India Company in 1817. In 1818 Malthus became a Fellow of the Royal Society.
Malthus–Ricardo debate on political economy
During the 1820s there took place a setpiece intellectual discussion within the proponents of political economy, often called the "Malthus–Ricardo debate", after the leading figures of Malthus and David Ricardo, a theorist of free trade, both of whom had written books with the title Principles of Political Economy. Under examination were the nature and methods of political economy itself, while it was simultaneously under attack from others. The roots of the debate were in the previous decade. In The Nature of Rent (1815), Malthus had dealt with economic rent, a major concept in classical economics. Ricardo defined a theory of rent in his Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (1817): he regarded rent as value in excess of real production—something caused by ownership rather than by free trade. Rent therefore represented a kind of negative money that landlords could pull out of the production of the land, by means of its scarcity. Contrary to this concept, Malthus proposed rent to be a kind of economic surplus.
The debate developed over the economic concept of a general glut, and the possibility of failure of Say's Law. Malthus laid importance on economic development and the persistence of disequilibrium. The context was the post-war depression; Malthus had a supporter in William Blake, in denying that capital accumulation (saving) was always good in such circumstances, and John Stuart Mill attacked Blake on the fringes of the debate.
Ricardo corresponded with Malthus from 1817 and his Principles. He was drawn into considering political economy in a less restricted sense, which might be adapted to legislation and its multiple objectives, by the thought of Malthus. In his own work Principles of Political Economy (1820), and elsewhere, Malthus addressed the tension, amounting to conflict, he saw between a narrow view of political economy, and the broader moral and political plane.Leslie Stephen wrote:
If Malthus and Ricardo differed, it was a difference of men who accepted the same first principles. They both professed to interpret Adam Smith as the true prophet, and represented different shades of opinion rather than diverging sects.
After Ricardo's death in 1823, Malthus became isolated among the younger British political economists, who tended to think he had lost the debate.It is now considered that the different purposes seen by Malthus and Ricardo for political economy affected their technical discussion, and contributed to the lack of compatible definitions. For example, Jean-Baptiste Say used a definition of production based on goods and services and so queried the restriction of Malthus to "goods" alone.
In terms of public policy, Malthus was a supporter of the protectionist Corn Laws from the end of the Napoleonic Wars. He emerged as the only economist of note to support duties on imported grain. He changed his mind after 1814. By encouraging domestic production, Malthus argued, the Corn Laws would guarantee British self-sufficiency in food.
Malthus was a founding member of the Political Economy Club in 1821; there John Cazenove tended to be his ally, against Ricardo and Mill. He was elected in the beginning of 1824 as one of the ten royal associates of the Royal Society of Literature. He was also one of the first fellows of the Statistical Society, founded in March 1834. In 1827 he gave evidence to a committee of the House of Commons on emigration.
In 1827, he published Definitions in Political Economy, preceded by an inquiry into the rules which ought to guide political economists in the definition and use of their terms; with remarks on the deviation from these rules in their writings. The first chapter put forth "Rules for the Definition and Application of Terms in Political Economy". In chapter 10, the penultimate chapter, he presented 60 numbered paragraphs putting forth terms and their definitions that he proposed, following those rules, should be used in discussing political economy. This collection of terms and definitions is remarkable for two reasons: first, Malthus was the first economist to explicitly organize, define, and publish his terms as a coherent glossary of defined terms; and second, his definitions were, for the most part, well-formed definitional statements. Between these chapters, he criticized several contemporary economists—Jean-Baptiste Say, David Ricardo, James Mill, John Ramsay McCulloch, and Samuel Bailey—for sloppiness in choosing, attaching meaning to, and using their technical terms.
McCulloch was the editor of The Scotsman of Edinburgh; he replied cuttingly in a review printed on the front page of his newspaper in March, 1827. He implied that Malthus wanted to dictate terms and theories to other economists. McCulloch clearly felt his ox gored, and his review of Definitions is largely a bitter defence of his own Principles of Political Economy, and his counter-attack "does little credit to his reputation", being largely "personal derogation" of Malthus. The purpose of Malthus's Definitions was terminological clarity, and Malthus discussed appropriate terms, their definitions, and their use by himself and his contemporaries. This motivation of Malthus's work was disregarded by McCulloch, who responded that there was nothing to be gained "by carping at definitions, and quibbling about the meaning to be attached to" words. Given that statement, it is not surprising that McCulloch's review failed to address the rules of chapter 1 and did not discuss the definitions of chapter 10; he also barely mentioned Malthus's critiques of other writers.
In spite of this, in the wake of McCulloch's scathing review, the reputation of Malthus as economist dropped away, for the rest of his life. On the other hand, Malthus did have supporters: Thomas Chalmers, some of the Oriel Noetics, Richard Jones and William Whewell from Cambridge.
Malthus died suddenly of heart disease on 23 December 1834, at his father-in-law's house. He was buried in Bath Abbey. His portrait, and descriptions by contemporaries, present him as tall and good-looking, but with a cleft lip and palate. The cleft palate affected his speech: such birth defects had occurred before amongst his relatives.
On 13 March 1804, Malthus married Harriet, daughter of John Eckersall of Claverton House, near Bath. They had a son and two daughters. His firstborn, son Henry, became vicar of Effingham, Surrey, in 1835, and of Donnington, Sussex, in 1837; he married Sofia Otter (1807–1889), daughter of Bishop William Otter, and died in August 1882, aged 76. His middle child, Emily, died in 1885, outliving her parents and siblings. The youngest, Lucille, died unmarried and childless in 1825, months before her 18th birthday.
An Essay on the Principle of Population
Main article: An Essay on the Principle of Population
Malthus argued in his Essay (1798) that population growth generally expanded in times and in regions of plenty until the size of the population relative to the primary resources caused distress:
"Yet in all societies, even those that are most vicious, the tendency to a virtuous attachment is so strong that there is a constant effort towards an increase of population. This constant effort as constantly tends to subject the lower classes of the society to distress and to prevent any great permanent amelioration of their condition".
— Malthus, T. R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Chapter II, p. 18 in Oxford World's Classics reprint.
Malthus argued that two types of checks hold population within resource limits: positive checks, which raise the death rate; and preventive ones, which lower the birth rate. The positive checks include hunger, disease and war; the preventive checks: abortion, birth control, prostitution, postponement of marriage and celibacy.
The rapid increase in the global population of the past century exemplifies Malthus's predicted population patterns; it also appears to describe socio-demographic dynamics of complex pre-industrial societies. These findings are the basis for neo-malthusian modern mathematical models of long-term historical dynamics.
Malthus wrote that in a period of resource abundance, a population could double in 25 years. However, the margin of abundance could not be sustained as population grew, leading to checks on population growth:
If the subsistence for man that the earth affords was to be increased every twenty-five years by a quantity equal to what the whole world at present produces, this would allow the power of production in the earth to be absolutely unlimited, and its ratio of increase much greater than we can conceive that any possible exertions of mankind could make it....yet still the power of population being a power of a superior order, the increase of the human species can only be kept commensurate to the increase of the means of subsistence by the constant operation of the strong law of necessity acting as a check upon the greater power.
— Malthus T.R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Chapter 2, p. 8
In later editions of his essay, Malthus clarified his view that if society relied on human misery to limit population growth, then sources of misery (e.g., hunger, disease, and war) would inevitably afflict society, as would volatile economic cycles. On the other hand, "preventive checks" to population that limited birthrates, such as later marriages, could ensure a higher standard of living for all, while also increasing economic stability. Regarding possibilities for freeing man from these limits, Malthus argued against a variety of imaginable solutions, such as the notion that agricultural improvements could expand without limit.
Of the relationship between population and economics, Malthus wrote that when the population of laborers grows faster than the production of food, real wages fall because the growing population causes the cost of living (i.e., the cost of food) to go up. Difficulties of raising a family eventually reduce the rate of population growth, until the falling population again leads to higher real wages.
In the second and subsequent editions Malthus put more emphasis on moral restraint as the best means of easing the poverty of the lower classes."
Editions and versions
- 1798: An Essay on the Principle of Population, as it affects the future improvement of society with remarks on the speculations of Mr. Godwin, M. Condorcet, and other writers.. Anonymously published.
- 1803: Second and much enlarged edition: An Essay on the Principle of Population; or, a view of its past and present effects on human happiness; with an enquiry into our prospects respecting the future removal or mitigation of the evils which it occasions. Authorship acknowledged.
- 1806, 1807, 1816 and 1826: editions 3–6, with relatively minor changes from the second edition.
- 1823: Malthus contributed the article on Population to the supplement of the Encyclopædia Britannica.
- 1830: Malthus had a long extract from the 1823 article reprinted as A summary view of the Principle of Population.
1800: The present high price of provisions
In this work, his first published pamphlet, Malthus argues against the notion prevailing in his locale that the greed of intermediaries caused the high price of provisions. Instead, Malthus says that the high price stems from the Poor Laws, which "increase the parish allowances in proportion to the price of corn." Thus, given a limited supply, the Poor Laws force up the price of daily necessities. But he concludes by saying that in time of scarcity such Poor Laws, by raising the price of corn more evenly, actually produce a beneficial effect.
1814: Observations on the effects of the Corn Laws
Although government in Britain had regulated the prices of grain, the Corn Laws originated in 1815. At the end of the Napoleonic Wars that year, Parliament passed legislation banning the importation of foreign corn into Britain until domestic corn cost 80 shillings per quarter. The high price caused the cost of food to increase and caused distress among the working classes in the towns. It led to serious rioting in London and to the "Peterloo Massacre" (1819) in Manchester.
In this pamphlet, printed during the parliamentary discussion, Malthus tentatively supported the free-traders. He argued that given the increasing cost of growing British corn, advantages accrued from supplementing it from cheaper foreign sources.
1820: Principles of political economy
In 1820 Malthus published Principles of Political Economy. 1836: Second edition, posthumously published. Malthus intended this work to rival Ricardo's Principles (1817). It, and his 1827 Definitions in political economy, defended Sismondi's views on "general glut" rather than Say's Law, which in effect states "there can be no general glut".
- 1807. A letter to Samuel Whitbread, Esq. M.P. on his proposed Bill for the Amendment of the Poor Laws. Johnson and Hatchard, London.
- 1808. Spence on Commerce. Edinburgh Review11, January, 429–448.
- 1808. Newneham and others on the state of Ireland. Edinburgh Review12, July, 336–355.
- 1809. Newneham on the state of Ireland, Edinburgh Review14 April, 151–170.
- 1811. Depreciation of paper currency. Edinburgh Review17, February, 340–372.
- 1812. Pamphlets on the bullion question. Edinburgh Review18, August, 448–470.
- 1813. A letter to the Rt. Hon. Lord Grenville. Johnson, London.
- 1817. Statement respecting the East-India College. Murray, London.
- 1821. Godwin on Malthus. Edinburgh Review35, July, 362–377.
- 1823. The Measure of Value, stated and illustrated
- 1823. Tooke – On high and low prices. Quarterly Review, 29 (57), April, 214–239.
- 1824. Political economy. Quarterly Review30 (60), January, 297–334.
- 1829. On the measure of the conditions necessary to the supply of commodities. Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature of the United Kingdom. 1, 171–180. John Murray, London.
- 1829. On the meaning which is most usually and most correctly attached to the term Value of a Commodity. Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature of the United Kingdom. 2, 74–81. John Murray.
Reception and influence
Further information: An Essay on the Principle of Population § Reception and influence
Malthus developed the theory of demand-supply mismatches that he called gluts. Discounted at the time, this theory foreshadowed later works of an admirer, John Maynard Keynes.
The vast bulk of continuing commentary on Malthus, however, extends and expands on the "Malthusian controversy" of the early 19th century.
In popular culture
- Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, represents the perceived ideas of Malthus, famously illustrated by his explanation as to why he refuses to donate to the poor and destitute: "If they would rather die they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population". In general, Dickens had some Malthusian concerns (evident in Hard Times and other novels), and he concentrated his attacks on Utilitarianism and many of its proponents, like Smith, and Bentham, whom he thought of, along with Malthus, as unjust and inhumane people.
- In Aldous Huxley's novel, Brave New World, people generally regard fertility as a nuisance, as in vitro breeding has enabled the society to maintain its population at precisely the level the controllers want. The women, therefore, carry contraceptives with them at all times in a "Malthusian belt".
- In the television show Wiseguy, Kevin Spacey played Mel Proffitt, a self-professed "Malthusian" who quotes Thomas Malthus and keeps a bust of his likeness on display.
- The video game Hydrophobia tells about some eco-terrorists who name themselves "Malthusians" because their ideology is based on Malthus' theories.
- At the end of Urinetown, a Broadway musical about a dystopia where, in response to a devastating drought, people too poor to pay for restroom usage are killed as a means of population control, Officer Lockstock cries "Hail, Malthus!" and is echoed by the cast before the last chords of the finale play.
- In the video game Victoria 2 the player can research the technology "Malthusian Thought" as a benefit to his country.
- Malthus and his ideas feature prominently in Adolfo Bioy Casares's novel The Invention of Morel.
- In George R.R. Martin's science fiction fix-up novel Tuf Voyaging, a planet struggling with overpopulation is named "S'uthlam", an anagram for Malthus.
The epitaph of Malthus in Bath Abbey reads:
Sacred to the memory of the Rev Thomas Robert Malthus, long known to the lettered world by his admirable writings on the social branches of political economy, particularly by his essay on population.
One of the best men and truest philosophers of any age or country, raised by native dignity of mind above the misrepresentation of the ignorant and the neglect of the great, he lived a serene and happy life devoted to the pursuit and communication of truth. Supported by a calm but firm conviction of the usefulness of his labours.
Content with the approbation of the wise and good. His writings will be a lasting monument of the extent and correctness of his understanding. The spotless integrity of his principles, the equity and candour of his nature, his sweetness of temper, urbanity of manners and tenderness of heart, his benevolence and his piety are still dearer recollections of his family and friends. Born February 14, 1766 Died 29 December 1834.
- ^Several sources give Malthus's date of death as 15 December 2001. See Meyers Konversationslexikon (Leipzig, 4th edition, 1885–1892), "Biography" by Nigel Malthus (the memorial transcription reproduced in this article). But the 1911 Britannica gives 23 December 1834.
- ^Petersen, William. 1979. Malthus. Heinemann, London. 2nd ed 1999.
- ^ abc"Malthus, Thomas Robert (MLTS784TR)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- ^Geoffrey Gilbert, introduction to Malthus T.R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Oxford World's Classics reprint. viii in Oxford World's Classics reprint.
- ^Malthus T.R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Chapter 1, p. 13 in Oxford World's Classics reprint.
- ^Bowler, Peter J. (2003). Evolution: the history of an idea. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 104–05. ISBN 0-520-23693-9.
- ^Malthus T.R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population, in Oxford World's Classics reprint. p. 61, end of Chapter VII
- ^Malthus T.R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Chapter V, pp. 39–45. in Oxford World's Classics reprint.
- ^Geoffrey Gilbert, introduction to Malthus T.R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Oxford World's Classics reprint. xx.
- ^Browne, Janet 1995. Charles Darwin: Voyaging. Cape, London. pp. 385–90
- ^Raby P. 2001. Alfred Russel Wallace: a life. Princeton. pp. 21, 131
- ^"Malthus TRM Biography". Retrieved 2010-02-13.
- ^Petersen, William. 1979. Malthus. Heinemann, London. 2nd ed 1999. p. 21
- ^ abJohn Avery (1997). Progress, Poverty and Population: Re-Reading Condorcet, Godwin and Malthus. Frank Cass. pp. 56–57. ISBN 978-0-7146-4750-0. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
- ^Petersen, William. 1979. Malthus. Heinemann, London. 2nd ed 1999. p. 28
- ^Thomas Robert Malthus (1997). T.R. Malthus: The Unpublished Papers in the Collection of Kanto Gakuen University. Cambridge University Press. p. 54 note 196. ISBN 978-0-521-58138-7. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
- ^G. Talbot Griffith (9 December 2010). Population Problems of the Age of Malthus. Cambridge University Press. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-521-17863-1. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
- ^ Lee, Sidney, ed. (1895). "Otter, William". Dictionary of National Biography. 42. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- ^Burns, Arthur. "Otter, William". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/20935. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- ^Jean-Antoine-Nicolas de Caritat Condorcet (marquès de); William Godwin; Thomas Robert Malthus (1997). Progress, Poverty and Population: Re-Reading Condorcet, Godwin and Malthus. Routledge. p. 64. ISBN 978-0-7146-4750-0. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
- ^Malthus T. R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Oxford World's Classics reprint: xxix Chronology.
- ^Thomas Robert Malthus (1997). T.R. Malthus: The Unpublished Papers in the Collection of Kanto Gakuen University. Cambridge University Press. p. 120 notes. ISBN 978-0-521-58138-7. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
- ^Mary Poovey (1 December 1998). A History of the Modern Fact: Problems of Knowledge in the Sciences of Wealth and Society. University of Chicago Press. p. 295. ISBN 978-0-226-67525-1. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
- ^On The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, London: John Murray, Albemarle-Street, by David Ricardo, 1817 (third edition 1821) – Chapter 6, On Profits: paragraph 28, "Thus, taking the former ..." and paragraph 33, "There can, however ..."
- ^ abSowell, pp. 193–4.
- ^Donald Winch (26 January 1996). Riches and Poverty: An Intellectual History of Political Economy in Britain, 1750–1834. Cambridge University Press. p. 365. ISBN 978-0-521-55920-1. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
- ^Stefan Collini; Donald Winch; John Wyon Burrow (1983). That Noble Science of Politics: A Study in Nineteenth Century Intellectual History. CUP Archive. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-521-27770-9. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
- ^Leslie Stephen (1 March 2006). The English Utilitarians. 1. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 238. ISBN 978-0-8264-8816-9. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
- ^Samuel Hollander (14 January 2005). Jean-Baptiste Say and the Classical Canon in Economics: The British Connection in French Classicism. Taylor & Francis. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-203-02228-3. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
- ^Geoffrey Gilbert, introduction to Malthus T.R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Oxford World's Classics reprint. xx in Oxford World's Classics reprint. xx
- ^Cannan E. 1893. A History of the Theories of Production and Distribution in English Political Economy from 1776 to 1848. Kelly, New York.
- ^Thomas Robert Malthus (1989). Principles of Political Economy. Cambridge University Press. p. lxviii. ISBN 978-0-521-24775-7. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
- ^ abc Lee, Sidney, ed. (1893). "Malthus, Thomas Robert". Dictionary of National Biography. 36. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- ^Malthus, Thomas Robert (1827). Definitions in Political Economy. London: John Murray.
- ^ abMalthus, Thomas Robert (2016). Definitions in Political Economy. McLean: Berkeley Bridge Press. ISBN 978-1-945208-01-0.
- ^McCulloch, John Ramsay (1827-03-10). "A Review of Definitions in Political Economy by the Rev. T. R. Malthus". The Scotsman: 1.
- ^McCulloch, John Ramsay (1825). The Principles of Political Economy. Edinburgh: William & Charles Tait.
- ^Morton Paglin's "Introduction" to: Malthus, Thomas Robert (1986). Definitions in Political Economy. Fairfield, New Jersey: Augustus M. Kelley. p. xiii.
- ^James P. Huzel (1 January 2006). The Popularization of Malthus in Early Nineteenth-Century England: Martineau, Cobbett And the Pauper Press. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-7546-5427-8. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
- ^Donald Winch (26 January 1996). Riches and Poverty: An Intellectual History of Political Economy in Britain, 1750–1834. Cambridge University Press. pp. 371–72. ISBN 978-0-521-55920-1.
- ^Painted by Linnell, and seen here in a cropped and scanned monochrome version.
- ^Hodgson, M.H. 2004. Malthus, Thomas Robert (1766–1834). In Rutherford D (ed) Biographical Dictionary of British Economists. Continuum, Bristol.
- ^Martineau, Harriet 1877. Autobiography. 3 vols, Smith, Elder, London. vol 1, p. 327.
- ^Geoffrey Gilbert, introduction to Malthus T.R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Oxford World's Classics reprint. viii
- ^See, e.g., Peter Turchin 2003; Turchin and Korotayev 2006Archived 29 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine.; Peter Turchin et al. 2007; Korotayev et al. 2006.
- ^Oxford World's Classics reprint
- ^Essay (1826), I:2. See also A:1:17
- ^Geoffrey Gilbert, introduction to Malthus T.R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Oxford World's Classics reprint, p. xviii
- ^dates from Malthus T.R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Oxford World's Classics reprint: xxix Chronology.
- ^1800: The present high price of provisions, paragraph 26
- ^Hirst F. W. 1925. From Adam Smith to Philip Snowden: a history of free trade in Great Britain. Unwin, London. p88
- ^Also: "The Corn Laws... safeguarded farmers from the consequences of their wartime euphoria, when farms had changed hands at the fanciest prices, loans and mortgages had been accepted on impossible terms." Eric Hobsbawm 1999. Industry and Empire: the birth of the Industrial Revolution, p. 175
- ^See Malthus, Thomas Robert (1820). "Principles of Political Economy Considered with a View of their Practical Application" (1 ed.). London: John Murray. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
- ^Steven G. Medema; Warren J. Samuels (2003). The History of Economic Thought: A Reader. Routledge. p. 291. ISBN 978-0-415-20550-4. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
- ^Dickens, Charles (1845). A Christmas carol in prose. Bradword, Evans. p. 14.
- ^Paroissien, David (2008). A companion to Charles Dickens. John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 1-4051-3097-0.
Thomas Robert Malthus (13 February1766 – 29 December1834) was an English demographer and political economist best known for his pessimistic but highly influential views on population growth.
An Essay on The Principle of Population (First Edition 1798, unrevised)
- It is an acknowledged truth in philosophy that a just theory will always be confirmed by experiment.
- Chapter I, paragraph 9, lines 1-2
- Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio, Subsistence, increases only in an arithmetical ratio.
- Chapter I, paragraph 18, lines 1-2
- The love of independence is a sentiment that surely none would wish to see erased from the breast of man, though the parish law of England, it must be confessed, is a system of all others the most calculated gradually to weaken this sentiment, and in the end may eradicate it completely.
- Chapter IV, paragraph 13, lines 11-15
- To remedy the frequent distresses of the common people, the poor laws of England have been instituted; but it is to be feared that though they may have alleviated a little the intensity of individual misfortune, they have spread the general evil over a much larger surface.
- Chapter V, paragraph 2, lines 1-5
- The transfer of three shillings and sixpence a day to every labourer would not increase the quantity of meat in the country. There is not at present enough for all to have a decent share. What would then be the consequence?
- Chapter V, paragraph 3, lines 5-8
- I feel no doubt whatever that the parish laws of England have contributed to raise the price of provisions and to lower the real price of labour.
- Chapter V, paragraph 13, lines 1-3
- The labouring poor, to use a vulgar expression, seem always to live from hand to mouth. Their present wants employ their whole whole attention, and they seldom think of the future. Even when they have an opportunity of saving they seldom exercise it, but all that is beyond their present neccessities goes, generally speaking, to the ale house.
- Chapter V, paragraph 13, lines 8-13
- Every endeavor should be used to weaken and destroy all those institutions relating to corporations, apprenticeships, &c, which cause the labours of agriculture to be worse paid than the labours of trade and manufactures.
- Chapter V, paragraph 23, lines 3-7
- To prevent the recurrence of misery is, alas! beyond the power of man.
- Chapter V, paragraph 25, lines 4-5
- It accords with the most liberal spirit of philosophy to suppose that not a stone can fall, or a plant rise, without the immediate agency of divine power.
- Chapter VII, paragraph 10, lines 8-10
- The power of population is so superior to the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other vist the human race.
- Chapter VII, paragraph 20, lines 2-4
- With regard to the duration of human life, there does not appear to have existed from the earliest ages of the world to the present moment the smallest permanent symptom or indication of increasing prolongation.
- Chapter IX, paragraph 7, lines 1-4
- Though I may not be able to in the present instance to mark the limit at which further improvement will stop, I can very easily mention a point at which it will not arrive.
- Chapter IX, paragraph 8, lines 14-16
- It cannot be true, therefore, that among animals some of the offspring will possess the desirable qualities of the parents in greater degree, or that animals are indefinitely perfectible.
- Chapter IX, paragraph 9, lines 1-3
- I know of no well-directed attempts of this kind, except in the ancient family of the Bickerstaffs, who are said to have been very successful in whitening the skins and increasing the height of their race by prudent marriages, particularly by that very judicious cross with Maud, the milk- maid, by which some capital defects in the constitutions of the family were corrected.
- Chapter IX, paragraph 14, lines 22-27 ( see also eugenics)
- Man cannot live in the midst of plenty.
- Chapter X, paragraph 7, line 1
- It has appeared that from the inevitable laws of our nature, some human beings must suffer from want. These are the unhappy persons who, in the great lottery of life, have drawn a blank.
- Chapter X, paragraph 29, lines 12-15
- No move towards the extinction of the passion between the sexes has taken place in the five or six thousand years that the world has existed.
- Chapter XI, paragraph 1, lines 6-8
- I happen to have a very bad fit of the tooth-ache at the time I am writing this.
- Chapter XII, paragraph 6, lines 8-9
- The moon is not kept in her orbit round the earth, nor the earth in her orbit round the sun, by a force that varies merely in the inverse ratio of the squares of the distances.
- Chapter XIII, paragraph 2, lines 19-22
- The lower classes of people in Europe may at some future period be much better instructed then they are at present; they may be taught to employ the little spare time they have in many better ways than at the ale-house; they may live under better and more equal laws than they have hitherto done, perhaps, in any country; and I even conceive it possible, though not probable, that they may have more leisure; but it is not in the nature of things, that they can be awarded such a quantity of money or substance, as will allow them all to marry early, in the full confidence that they shall be able to provide with ease for a numerous family.
- Had population and food increased in the same ratio, it is probable that man might never have emerged from the savage state.
- Chapter XVIII, paragraph 11, lines 16-17
- The greatest talents have been frequently misapplied and have produced evil proportionate to the extent of their powers. Both reason and revelation seem to assure us that such minds will be condemned to eternal death, but while on earth, these vicious instruments performed their part in the great mass of impressions, by the disgust and abhorrence which they excited.
- Chapter XIX, paragraph 2, lines 1-6
- Evil exists in the world not to create despair but activity.
- Chapter XIX, paragraph 15, line 1
Essay on the Principle of Population (1798; rev. through 1826)
- The most successful supporters of tyranny are without doubt those general declaimers who attribute the distresses of the poor, and almost all evils to which society is subject, to human institutions and the iniquity of governments.
- If I saw a glass of wine repeatedly presented to a man, and he took no notice of it, I should be apt to think that he was blind or uncivil. A juster philosophy might teach me rather to think that my eyes deceived me, and that the offer was not really what I conceived it to be.
- The germs of existence contained in this spot of earth, with ample food, and ample room to expand in, would fill millions of worlds in the course of a few thousand years.
- The perpetual tendency of the race of man to increase beyond the means of subsistence is one of the general laws of animated nature, which we can have no reason to expect to change.
- The immediate cause of the increase of population is the excess of the births above deaths; and the rate of increase, or the period of doubling, depends upon the proportion which the excess of the births above the deaths bears to the population.
- The main peculiarity which distinguishes man from other animals, is the means of his support, is the power which he possesses of very greatly increasing these means.
- The finest minds seem to be formed rather by efforts at original thinking, by endeavours to form new combinations, and to discover new truths, than by passively receiving the impressions of other men's ideas.
- we should facilitate, instead of foolishly and vainly endeavouring to impede, the operations of nature in producing this mortality; and 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 the 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.*12 But above all, we should reprobate specific remedies for ravaging diseases; and those benevolent, but much mistaken men, who have thought they were doing a service to mankind by projecting schemes for the total extirpation of particular disorders. [Book IV, Chapter V]
Principles of Political Economy (Second Edition 1836)
- PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY CONSIDERED WITH A VIEW TO THEIR PRACTICAL APPLICATION Second Edition
With Considerable Additions From The Author's Own Manuscript And An Original Memoir
- Not many years had elapsed after the first edition of this work, when it became known to all with whom Mr. Malthus had the opportunity of communicating on the subject, or who were acquainted with his last publications, that his opinions on the subject of value had undergone some change.
- Advertisement to the Second Edition, p. vii
- It has been said, and perhaps with truth, that the conclusions of Political Economy partake more of the certainty of the stricter sciences than those of most of the other branches of human knowledge.
- Book I, Introduction, p. 1
- To minds of a certain cast there is nothing so captivating as simplification and generalization.
- Book I, Introduction, p. 5
- The first business of philosophy is to account for things as they are; and till our theories will do this, they ought not to be the ground of any practical conclusion.
- Book I, Introduction, p. 8
- The science of political economy is essentially practical, and applicable to the common business of human life. There are few branches of human knowledge where false views may do more harm, or just views more good.
- Book I, Introduction, p. 9
- The question is, what is saving?
- Book I, Chapter I, Of The Definitions of Wealth and of Productive Labour, Section II, p. 40
- Surely then some distinction between the different kinds of labour, with reference to their different effects on national wealth, must be admitted to be not only useful, but necessary; and if so, the question is what this distinction should be, and where the line between the different kinds of labour should be drawn.
- Book I, Chapter I, Of The Definitions of Wealth and of Productive Labour, Section II, p. 43
- To estimate the value of Newton's discoveries, or the delight communicated by Shakespeare and Milton, by the price at which their works have sold, would be but a poor measure of the degree in which they have elevated and enchanted their country; nor would it be less grovelling and incongruous to estimate the benefit which the country has derived from the Revolution of 1688, by the pay of the soldiers, and all other payments concerned in effecting it.
- Book I, Chapter I, Of The Definitions of Wealth and of Productive Labour, Section II, p. 49
- The proposition of Mr. Ricardo, which states that a rise in the price of labour lowers the price of a large class of commodities, has undoubtedly a very paradoxical air; but it is, nevertheless, true, and the appearance of paradox would vanish, if it were stated more naturally and correctly.
- Book I, Chapter II, On the Nature, Causes, and Measures of Value, Section IV, p. 88
- If a country can only be rich by running a successful race for low wages, I should be disposed to say at once, perish such riches!
- Book I, Chapter III, Of the Rent of Land, Section IX, p. 214
- But, fortunately for mankind, the neat rents of the land, under a system of private property, can never be diminished by the progress of cultivation.
- Book I, Chapter III, Of the Rent of Land, Section IX, p. 216
- It is quite obvious therefore, that the knowledge and prudence of the poor themselves, are absolutely the only means by which any general and permanent improvement in their condition can be effected. They are really the arbiters of their own destiny; and what others can do for themselves. These truths are so important to the happiness of the great mass of society, that every opportunity should be taken of repeating them.
- Book I, Chapter V, Of the Profits of Capital, Section III, p. 279
- THERE is scarcely any inquiry more curious, or, from its importance, more worthy of attention, than that which traces the causes which practically check the progress of wealth in different countries, and stop it, or make it proceed very slowly, while the power of production remains comparatively undiminished, or at least would furnish the means of a great and abundant increase of produce and population.
- Book II, Chapter I, On the Progress of Wealth, Section I, p. 309
- In general it may be said that demand is quite as necessary to the increase of capital as the increase of capital is to demand.
- Book II, Chapter I, On the Progress of Wealth, Section IV, p. 349 ( See also; Says Law)
- A feather will weigh down a scale when there is nothing in the opposite one.
- Book II, Chapter I, On the Progress of Wealth, Section V, p. 355
- Thirty or forty proprietors, with incomes answering to between one thousand and five thousand a year, would create a much more effectual demand for the necessaries, conveniences, and luxuries of life, than a single proprietor possessing a hundred thousand a year.
- Book II, Chapter I, On the Progress of Wealth, Section VII, p. 374
- Every exchange which takes place in a country, effects a distribution of its produce better adapted to the wants of society....
If two districts, one of which possessed a rich copper mine, and the other a rich tin mine, had always been separated by an impassable river or mountain, there can be no doubt that an opening of a communication, a greater demand would take place, and a greater price be given for both the tin and the copper;and this greater price of both metals, though it might be only temporary, would alone go a great way towards furnishing the additional capital wanted to supply the additional demand; and the capitals of both districts, and the products of both mines, would be increased both in quantity and value to a degree which could not have taken place without the this new distribution of the produce, or some equivalent to it.
- Book II, Chapter I, On the Progress of Wealth, Section VIII, p. 382-383
- It is a mere futile process to exchange one set of commodities for another, if the parties; after this new distribution of goods has taken place, are not better off than they were before.
- Book II, Chapter I, On the Progress of Wealth, Section VIII, p. 384
- But such consumption is not consistent with the actual habits of the generality of capitalists. The great object of their lives is to save a fortune, both because it is their duty to make a provision for their families, and because they cannot spend an income with so much comfort to themselves, while they are obliged perhaps to attend a counting house for seven or eight hours a day...
...There must therefore be a considerable class of persons who have both the will and power to consume more material wealth then they produce, or the mercantile classes could not continue profitably to produce so much more than they consume.
- It is not the most pleasant employment to spend eight hours a day in a counting house.
- Book II, Chapter I, On the Progress of Wealth, Section IX, p. 403
- ...where are we to look for the consumption required but among the unproductive labourers of Adam Smith?...
- Book II, Chapter I, On the Progress of Wealth, Section IX, p. 406
- It is also very important to observe, that menial servants are absolutely necessary to make the resources of the higher and middle classes of society efficient in the demand for material products.
- Book II, Chapter I, On the Progress of Wealth, Section IX, p. 408
- The effect therefore on national wealth of those classes of unproductive consumers which are supported by taxation, must be very various in different countries, and must depend entirely upon the powers of production, and upon the manner in which the taxes are raised in each country.
- Book II, Chapter I, On The Progress of Wealth, Section IX, p. 410
- On the whole it may be observed, that the specific use of a body of unproductive consumers, is to give encouragement to wealth by maintaining such a balance between produce and consumption as will give the greatest exchangeable value to the results of the national industry.
- Book II, Chapter I, On The Progress of Wealth, Section IX, p. 412-413
- If one fourth of the capital of a country were suddenly destroyed, or entirely transferred to a different part of the world, without any other cause occurring of a diminished demand for commodities, this scantiness of capital would certainly occasion great inconvenience to consumers, and great distress among the working classes; but it would be attended with great advantages to the remaining capitalists.
- Book II, Chapter I, On The Progress of Wealth, Section X, p. 414 (See also: Karl Marx, Capital Volume I, Chapter 25, Section 4(e), p. 742
- When Hume and Adam Smith prophesied that a little increase of national debt beyond the then amount of it, would probably occasion bankruptcy; the main cause of their error was the natural one, of not being able to see the vast increase of productive power to which the nation would subsequently obtain.
- Book II, Chapter I, On The Progress of Wealth, Section X, p. 422
- The employment of the poor in roads and public works, and a tendency among landlords and persons of property to build, to improve and beautify their grounds, and to employ workmen and menial servants, are the means most within our power and most directly calculated to remedy the evils arising from that disturbance in the balance of produce and consumption.
- Book II, Chapter I, On The Progress of Wealth, Section X, p. 430
- In prosperous times the mercantile classes often realize fortunes, which go far towards securing them against the future; but unfortunately the working classes, though they share in the general prosperity, do not share in it so largely as in the general adversity.
- Book II, Chapter I, On The Progress of Wealth, Section X, p. 437
Quotes about Malthus
- And these riches, that are derived from this art of wealth-getting, are truly unlimited; for just as the art of medicine is without limit in respect to health, and each of the arts is without limit in respect of its end...
- "Are there no prisons?" said the Spirit turning on him for the last time with his own words.
"Are there no workhouses?"
The bell struck twelve.
- Malthus ... quotes the words of a poet, that the poor man comes to the feast of Nature and finds no cover laid for him, and adds that 'she bids him begone', for he did not before his birth ask of society whether or not he is welcome. This is now the pet theory of all genuine English bourgeois, and very naturally, since it is the most specious excuse for them.
- If, then, the problem is not to make the 'surplus population' useful, ... but merely to let it starve to death in the least objectionable way, ... this, of course, is simple enough, provided the surplus population perceives its own superfluousness and takes kindly to starvation. There is, however, in spite of the strenuous exertions of the humane bourgeoisie, no immediate prospect of its succeeding in bringing about such a disposition among the workers. The workers have taken it into their heads that they, with their busy hands, are the necessary, and the rich capitalists, who do nothing, the surplus population.
- Population trends have always provoked doom-fraught oracles, because their popular interpreters suppose that every new series will be infinitely sustained; yet, beyond the short term, expectations based on them are never fulfilled.
- Anyone would expect that Malthus, who taught the future servants of the East India Company, would draw, for his pessimistic evidence, on the huge, poor and prolific population of India. There is, however, only passing reference to Hindustan in his great Essay on The Principle of Population.
- Nature herself in times of great poverty or bad climatic conditions, as well as poor harvest, intervenes to restrict the increase of population of certain countries or races; this, to be sure, by a method as wise as it is ruthless.
- In 1860, sixty-three per cent of the couples married in Great Britain had families of four or more children; in 1925 only twenty per cent had more than four.
- The doctrine of population has been conspicuously absent, not because I doubt in the least its truth and vast importance, but because it forms no part of the direct problem of economics.
- Population regulates itself by the funds which are to employ it, and therefore always increases or diminishes with the increase or the diminution of capital. Every reduction of capital is therefore necessarily followed by a less effective demand for corn, by a fall in price, and by a diminished cultivation.
- It is true that the attempt made by Malthus to destroy the foundations of the Ricardian system failed and that the chief tenets of classical political economy continued to enjoy considerable authority.
- Eric Roll, A History of Economic Thought, Chapter 4, p. 143
- In his comfortable parsonage, he contemplated the misery of the great majority of mankind with equanimity, and pointed out the fallacies of the reformers who hoped to alleviate it.
- The most effectual encouragement to population is, the activity of industry, and the consequent multiplication of the national products.
- Jean-Baptiste Say, A Treatise On Political Economy (Fourth Edition), Book II, Chapter XI, Section I, p. 375
- The liberal reward of labour, as it is to the effect of increasing wealth, so it is the cause of increasing population. To complain of it, is to lament over the necessary effect and cause of the greatest public prosperity.
Chapter X, paragraph 7, line 1