Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Malthus Mistake

David Brooks' latest column directs the reader to a very interesting, and entertaining, video that shows how the world has become steadily healthier and wealthier since 1810.  Do check it out; it's short.

Brooks uses the information therein to make a different point, but as I watched it, it occurred to me how thoroughly it discredited the dire predictions of Thomas Malthus.  As fate would have it, Malthus began prophesying certain global decline at almost precisely the same time as the data in the video begins.  Basically, Malthus argued that global population growth would outpace the agricultural production necessary to sustain it and, as a result, catastrophe loomed.  Even without the formal data, we've known for a long while now that he was wrong.

Nevertheless, many embrace his general theory still and the Malthusians alive today are mostly found among the environmentalist crazies who see little but gloom and doom in our future.  1810 was chosen as the starting point for the data because it afforded a nice, round, 200-year look back, and because it coincided, more or less, with the acceleration of the already ongoing Industrial Revolution.  You know, the Revolution that started spilling all those unsustainable levels of carbon-monoxide and -dioxide into our atmosphere.  But, as the data demonstrates, the world has not only survived the Industrial Revolution, it has positively benefited from it.  Heck, one might even go so far as to argue that the more of Blake's "dark Satanic Mills" we constructed, the better off we would be.  But I won't.

Don't misunderstand, this is no brief for capital "P" Progressivism.  Just because we're undeniably healthier and wealthier, doesn't mean we're any the wiser.  But we all need to know nevertheless, that this ubiquitous counsel of despair, coming mostly, and ironically, from contemporary Progressives, is wholly unfounded.

Fear not!

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