Malthus An Essay On The Principle Of Population Second Edition Invention Of 20th Century Essay
Indeed, if there was a basis at all for Malthus’ arithmetical ratio it could be found in his pre-Darwinian understanding of the natural world (as represented in his time by the work of thinkers such as Carolus Linnaeus and William Paley), in which he assumed that there was only limited room for “improvement” in plant and animal species.
Later on, it is true, it became common to see the so-called law of diminishing returns to land of classical economics as the basis for Malthus’ arithmetical ratio.
As the great conservative economist Joseph Schumpeter remarked, “The ‘law’ of diminishing returns from land…was entirely absent from Malthus’ some four decades before the emergence of modern soil science in the work of Justus von Liebig and others.
Hence, along with his great contemporary David Ricardo, he saw the fertility of the soil as subject to only very limited improvement.
But that theory—outside of the work of the gentleman farmer and political economist James Anderson, one of Malthus’ most formidable opponents—did not exist even in nascent form before the end of the Napoleonic wars and does not appear except in vague suggestions in any of the six editions of Malthus’.
It therefore cannot be seen as the foundation for Malthus’ argument.
These checks, Malthus argued, were all reducible to vice and misery, taking such forms as promiscuity before marriage, which limited fecundity (a common assumption in Malthus’ time), sickness, plagues, and—ultimately, if all other checks fell short, the dreaded scourge of famine.
First published in 1793, it was followed by a second edition in 1795 and a third edition in 1797 (the year before Malthus’ essay appeared).
In answer to Wallace, who had claimed that excessive population would result eventually from any perfect government, thus undermining its existence, Godwin contended that human population “will perhaps never be found in the ordinary course of affairs, greatly to increase, beyond the facility of subsistence.” Population tended to be regulated in human society in accordance with conditions of wealth and wages.
It also had a new title and represented a shift in argument. In the subsequent editions, after 1803, the changes in the text were relatively minor.
Hence, the 1798 edition of his essay is commonly known as the As the title indicates it was an attempt to intervene in a debate on the question of the future improvement of society.