Home > Doom, Intellectuals, Ne0-Malthusian > Hey look another Neo-Malthusian

Hey look another Neo-Malthusian


Check out this guy.

Much has been written about population growth since the first edition of Malthus’s famous essay was published in 1798. However, an underlying truth is usually left unsaid: Population growth on Earth must cease. It makes more sense for humans to bring growth to a halt by adjusting birth rates downward in humane ways rather than waiting for death rates to move upward as the four horsemen reappear. Those who think it inhumane to control human fertility have apparently never experienced conditions in Third World shanty towns, where people struggle just to stay alive for another day.

So I’m wondering, has this guy “experienced conditions in Third World shanty towns?” I’m guessing not.

I also find it odd, that this guy is appealing to the authority of a guy that was famously wrong! He might have just as well appealed to Ehrlich, author of Population Bomb.

Oh wait, he does.

Fred Pearce’s post at “Consumption Dwarfs Population as Main Environmental Threat,” is one example. George Monbiot’s post on “The Population Myth,” is another. Both authors seem to have discovered that our rate of consumption is an issue, so both play down population numbers and focus on our consumption habits. Neither mentions the work of Paul Ehrlich and his I = PAT equation, where I represents our impact on the Earth, P equals population, A equals affluence (hence consumption), and T stands for technology.

What is it with these people? I know they think they know much more than everyone else. I know they think they need to educate everyone because it’s obvious the unwashed masses aren’t capable of even thinking about the problem in the right way. I know these people have the best of intentions.

What about the history of mankind do these people not understand? England was sure to have a population problem, but oh wait, they discovered comparative advantage and traded their English wool for German beef. Primitive man, you know those hunter-gatherers, surely had a population problem. If they over hunted, they would all die (or most of them would anyway) Of wait, somewhere along the way they invented…..farming! OMG, Technology and ideas, coupled with trade….can that be an answer?

My hypothesis, is that I think Neo-Malthusians think so little of mankind, they have such a contempt for human in general that they just don’t understand the human drive to adapt. We made it through an Ice Age right? We started with stone tools (Neanderthals “invented” stone tools long before modern man came along.) and adapted, innovated and created the damn internet….now all we do is go to Papa John’s web site and food magically appears at your door!

Seriously, I think that they, Neo-Malthusians, just don’t understand both economics (from which we get comparative advantage, even Krugman admits that most people just don’t understand it,  and trade) and the human drive to better ourselves. They are stuck in a world view which only emphasises the bad, instead of the good. This world view is summed up perfectly in a Paul Ehrlich quote.

What business does anyone have trying to help arrange it that more human beings will be born, each one of whom might be a Judas, an Attila the Hun, or a Hitler – or simply a burden to his or her family and community and a person who will live a life that is nasty, brutish and short?

I’m much more of an optimist, which is summed up in this Julian Simon quote.

There came to me the memory of reading a eulogy delivered by a Jewish chaplain over the dead on the battlefield at Iwo Jima, saying something like, “How many who would have been a Mozart or a Michelangelo or an Einstein have we buried here?”  And then I thought, Have I gone crazy? What business do I have trying to help arrange it that fewer human beings will be born, each one of whom might be a Mozart or a Michelangelo or an Einstein – or simply a joy to his or her family and community, and a person who will enjoy life?

But back to the first guy….this is his solution, remind you of any country Liberals love to hate? (No, not the US.)

Continued population growth is unsustainable, as is continued growth in the production of oil and other fossil fuels. As Lester Brown argued, in PLAN B: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble, “If we cannot stabilize population and if we cannot stabilize climate, there is not an ecosystem on earth we can save.” As Alan Weisman wrote, in The World Without Us, “The intelligent solution [to the problem of population growth] would require the courage and the wisdom to put our knowledge to the test. It would henceforth limit every human female on Earth capable of bearing children to one.” Started now, such a policy would reduce Earth’s population down to around 1.6 billion by 2100, about the same as the world population in 1900. Had we kept Earth’s population at that level we would not be having this conversation.

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  1. yttik
    July 7, 2010 at 18:34

    Geesh, the number of births have actually declined, all over the world. Ironically, if you give women choices and opportunity, there is a natural decline in the number of births. Just a few decades ago only one in ten women over 45 was childless. It’s now dropped to 1 in 5. In some places like Italy, the decline is really dramatic, and they now have some of the lowest birth rates in the world.

    “It would henceforth limit every human female on Earth capable of bearing children to one.”

    Such idiocy and outright misogyny! If you really wanted to force a population reduction it would be wiser to mandate vasectomies. Instead they never cease to rub their hands together in glee at the thought of controlling women. Yes Left, I’m talking to you guys!

    • July 9, 2010 at 03:30

      I thought of the same thing…tell that asshat that he is the first to be sterilized, by castration. See how willing he is to do his own part.

  2. Seth
    July 15, 2010 at 20:50

    Nice post. Made me giggle.

    These guys never seem to make the connection between birth rates and economic freedom. If they really want fewer humans they should check that out. Generally, more economic freedom leads to fewer births. I have to credit Mark Steyn for pointing that out to me in his book, “American Alone.”

    But, it makes economic sense. The U.S. had higher birth rates when kids represented cheap labor on the farm. They produced income for the family. We’ve slowed down now that they soak up several hundred thousand dollars in costs from conception to independence.

    • July 16, 2010 at 18:36

      I agree it makes sense. You know what else makes perfect sense, trade. Yet for some reason, these people think trade is bad too. They think going back to “simpler” lifestyles is somehow more “sustainable.” Yeah, it might be, for the 40% of the population that makes it past 30 years old. Remember what Russ Roberts says in the Choice, “Self-sufficiency is the road to poverty.”
      But it comes back to the intellectual problem that Sowell addresses, that the Intellectuals are insulated from the consequences of their actions. This guy can and will continue to make these kinds of pronouncements and when they are proven wrong, he will never be held responsible for them. I

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