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.In 300 years the number of Europeans -- counting those of unmixed descent living abroad -- increased more than sevenfold.
It seemed obvious to him that something had to keep the population in check to prevent wholesale starvation.
He said that there were two general kinds of checks that limited population growth: preventative checks and positive checks.
The positive checks were famine, misery, plague and war; because preventative checks had not limited the numbers of the poor, Malthus thought that positive checks were essential to do that job.
If positive checks were unsuccessful, then inevitably (he said), famine would be the resulting way of keeping the population down.
There are two versions of Thomas Robert Malthus’s Essay on the Principle of Population.
The first, published anonymously in 1798, was so successful that Malthus soon elaborated on it under his real name.In the last 150 years of statistical history the British Isles increased their population more than fourfold, while at the same time they contributed more than 17,500,000 people to the settlement of North America and the overseas Dominions.As the world's population continues to grow at a frighteningly rapid rate, Malthus's classic warning against overpopulation gains increasing importance.Thomas Malthus believed that natural rates of human reproduction, when unchecked, would lead to geometric increases in population: population would grow in a ratio of 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 and so on.However, he believed that food production increased only in arithmetic progression: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10.Moral restraint was the means by which the higher ranks of humans limited their family size in order not to dissipate their wealth among larger numbers of heirs.For the lower ranks of humans, vice and birth control were the means by which their numbers could be limited - but Malthus believed that these were insufficient to limit the vast numbers of the poor.All the children born, beyond what would be required to keep up the population to this level, must necessarily perish, unless room be made for them by the deaths of grown persons. To act consistently, therefore, we should facilitate, instead of foolishly and vainly endeavouring to impede, the operation of nature in producing this mortality, and if we dread the too frequent visitation of the horrid form of famine, we should sedulously encourage the other forms of destruction, which we compel nature to use.Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits.If all income and wealth were distributed among them, it would be totally wasted within one generation because of profligate behaviour and population growth, and they would be as poor and destitute as ever.Paternalistic attempts to help the poor were therefore highly likely to fail.