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Why Malthus was wrong about population growth

October 25, 2011

Sometime within the next week, the world's population will hit the 7-billion mark. Many commentators find that prospect frightening. William McGurn, writing for the Wall Street Journal, argues that their fears are unfounded.

The dire predictions of a "population bomb" that would cause massive famines went unfulfilled, McGurn notes. The fear of a rising population traces its intellectual heritage back to the economic theories of Malthus--and he was wrong, too. McGurn explains that human beings are not merely consumers, but also producers, so that the birth of another human being--all other things being equal--constitutes a net increase in the world's resources.

Malthusian fears about population follow from the Malthusian view that human beings are primarily mouths to be fed rather than minds to be unlocked. In this reasoning, when a pig is born in China, the national wealth is thought to go up, but when a Chinese baby is born the national wealth goes down.


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