Essay on the Principle of Population

ISBN-10: 0199540454
ISBN-13: 9780199540457
Edition: 2008
List price: $14.95 Buy it from $11.70
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Description: As the world's population continues to grow at a frighteningly rapid rate, Malthus's classic warning against overpopulation gains increasing importance. An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) examines the tendency of human numbers to  More...

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Book details

List price: $14.95
Copyright year: 2008
Publisher: Oxford University Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 8/1/2008
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 208
Size: 5.08" wide x 7.72" long x 0.35" tall
Weight: 0.550
Language: English

As the world's population continues to grow at a frighteningly rapid rate, Malthus's classic warning against overpopulation gains increasing importance. An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) examines the tendency of human numbers to outstrip their resources, and argues that checks in the form of poverty, disease, and starvation are necessary to keep societies from moving beyond their means of subsistence. Malthus's simple but powerful argument was controversial in his time; today his name has become a byword for active concern about humankind's demographic and ecological prospects.

Thomas Robert Malthus was born to a wealthy family near Surrey, England. His father, the eccentric Daniel Malthus, was friends with both David Hume and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Malthus was educated privately at home and, at age 13, began two years of study in residence with Richard Graves, a Protestant minister near Bath. He excelled in history, classics, and fighting. In a letter to Daniel Malthus on the progress of his son, Graves stated that young Thomas "loves fighting for fighting's sake, and delights in bruising. . . ." In 1783, Malthus enrolled in a religious academy for Protestant dissenters; when it failed the same year, he became the private student of a radical Unitarian minister. At age 18, he enrolled at Jesus College, Cambridge, where he studied mathematics and the classics. He graduated from Cambridge in 1788 and became an ordained minister in the Church of England in 1791. Malthus and his father frequently discussed the issues of the day. When the elder Malthus became fascinated with the utopian philosophy of the popular William Godwin, which preached a vision of peace, prosperity, and equality for all, the younger Malthus expressed his doubts in a manuscript intended only for his father. His father suggested, however, that it be published and so "An Essay on the Principle of Population As It Affects the Future Improvement of Society" appeared in 1798. The book was an instant success. Well written, it argued that population tended to grow at a geometric (exponential) rate, whereas the resources needed to support the population would only grow at an arithmetic (linear) rate. Eventually, society would not have the resources to support its population, and the result would be misery, poverty, and a subsistence standard of living for the masses. "An Essay on the Principle of Population" thrust Malthus into the public eye and dealt such a lethal blow to utopian visions that economics was soon called "the dismal science." In 1805, Malthus became the first person in England to receive the title of political economist when he was appointed professor of history and political economy at the East India College. In 1811, he met David Ricardo, and the two soon became lifelong friends and professional rivals. In 1820, Malthus published "Principles of Political Economy," a sometimes obscure but far-reaching treatment of economics that advocated a form of national income accounting, made advances in the theory of rent, and extended the analysis of supply and demand. Today, Malthus is more remembered for his views on population than for his views on economics. Even so, his other achievements have not gone unnoticed. John Maynard Keynes paid the ultimate tribute when he wrote:"If only Malthus, instead of Ricardo, had been the parent stem from which nineteenth-century economics proceeded, what a much wiser and richer place the world would be today!"

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