The Malthusian theory of population is the outcome of an essay titled An Essay Population” written in 1798 by Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus, an Anglican clergy and a well-known political economist. The essay he wrote was influenced greatly by the rate at which the population in Europe at that time was growing at very fast rate. In his essay, highlighted the relationship between population and means of subsistence.
History of Malthusian Theory of Population
The Malthusian theory of population, proposed by Thomas Robert Malthus in the late 18th century, suggests that population growth will outpace the growth of resources, leading to widespread poverty, famine, and social unrest. Malthus argued that while population increases geometrically (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, and so on), the availability of resources, particularly food production, grows only arithmetically (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and so on). According to Malthus, this disparity would ultimately result in a population exceeding the carrying capacity of the Earth, leading to a \”Malthusian catastrophe.\”
Malthus identified two primary factors that would check population growth: preventive checks and positive checks. Preventive checks are measures taken by individuals to limit population growth, such as delaying marriage, practising contraception, or practising celibacy. Positive checks, on the other hand, are natural or social factors that reduce the population, such as famine, disease, war, or natural disasters.
Malthus believed that these checks on population growth were necessary to maintain a balance between population and resources. He argued that efforts to improve the conditions of the poor, such as social welfare or charity, would only lead to increased population growth and exacerbate the problem.
Malthus\’ theory was highly controversial and has been heavily debated since its inception. Critics argue that Malthus did not consider technological advancements and improvements in agricultural productivity, which have allowed for increased food production and the support of larger populations. Additionally, the theory has been criticized for its pessimistic view of human progress and its failure to account for social, economic, and political factors that influence population dynamics.
Nevertheless, the Malthusian theory of population remains an influential concept in the study of population growth and resource scarcity, and it has sparked ongoing discussions about sustainable development, resource management, and the relationship between population and the environment.
The main features of Malthusian theory
The main views or features of the Malthusian theory about population are:
That population was growing in geometric progression such as 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, etc, while food production or supply was growing at an arithmetical progression such as 1,2,3,4,5, etc.
That there is a tendency for all living to grow beyond the food available to them.
Unless population increase is matched with means of subsistence negative and positive checks will into force.
That the checks can be war, disease epidemics and famine.
That population is essentially limited to the means of subsistence.
Developments or events that have proved Malthusian theory wrong
Developments or events that have rendered Malthusian theory wrong or irrelevant in per day situations are found in developed count: such as England, America, Japan and Germany.
These developments include:
- Development of technical knowledge and mechanization: The development of technical knowledge and mechanization of agriculture in advanced or developed countries has helped to increase the food supply
- Changes in social attitude: Changes in social attitudes like family size and family ling or birth control in these countries,
- Efficient transportation system: Reared efficiency in the transportation system enables more materials to be provided to areas that needed them.
- Industrial Revolution: The industrial revolution, especially in Europe, also changed the idea of land as a fixed factor of production.
- Medical improvement: Medical improvement by way of efficient health: services also enables people to enjoy long life thereby proving Malthus\’s theory wrong.
- Opening of new colonies: The opening v colonies like America, Canada and Australia provided the necessary land for human habitation.
- Inter-dependency of nations: The inter-dependency of nations for goods and services available in large quantities as of international trade.
Developments or events that have proved Malthusian theory right
Development or events that have proved Malthusian theory right or valid in developing countries in Asia, Africa and even in the present in Nigeria. The events are as follows:
Negative attitude: Negative attitudes like the practice of polygamy and giving birth to children have made the population of many developing countries, including Nigeria, increase on a daily basis.
High population and low food production: The population of many developing countries is growing at a geometric progression while food production is growing at an arithmetical progression.
Difficulties in eradicating poverty: Poverty, which is inherent in a given society according to Malthus, has proved extremely difficult to be wiped out of many poor countries.
Poor economic development: Rapid population growth militates against rapid economic development and it grows faster than per capita income
Fallen standard of living: The standard of living of many developing countries has fallen as a result of an increase in population.
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