The Overpopulation Myth as Excuse to Control the Poor

Communism, Environmentalism and the Overpopulation Myth

In 1798 the English economist and statistician Thomas Robert Malthus,[1] whose father was a friend and admirer of Hume and Rousseau, published An Essay on the Principles of Population[2] in which he predicted future starvation based on the assumption that the rate of population growth would far surpass the growth rate of food supplies. Using this, he proposed draconian measures to “fix” an assumed overpopulation problem at a time when world population was below one billion. Even to this day, with 7 billion people, the world is not overpopulated except in certain crowded city neighborhoods, but population control advocates still push the myth.

Malthus made two major erroneous assumptions:

  1. Genetic inferiority and enhanced fertility of less accomplished peoples
  2. No improvement in crop yields per acre.

Malthus recognized two types of solutions to the “problem”: positive and preventative. The positive restraints were things like wars, disasters, starvation, and epidemic diseases that keep populations and lifespans low. In this sense, such tragedies were seen as a good thing. The preventative restraints were government and voluntary control over marriages, self-restraint, and reduction of public charity. Aid to the poor was seen as a bad thing, perpetuating the supposed population problem.

Using his erroneous assumptions of an overpopulated world on the brink of starvation as a reason, Malthus advocated government measures to reduce population growth rates among the poor such as regulating marriage and educating for moral abstinence. However, he opposed nutritional relief and improved hospital access among the poor that would have reduced infant mortality and extended life spans. In his opinion, helping the poor only made the supposed overpopulation problem worse and prevented the development of the ideal utopian dream of the materialists of the day, such as William Godwin, Rousseau, and his father Daniel Malthus, who envisioned a utopian future of anarchic communism, absolute equality, and elimination of poverty. However, raising the standard of living of the poor by education, employment opportunities, and improved healthcare would have been a better way of accomplishing his stated goals of stabilizing both the population and food supplies.

“Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits. In our towns we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and court the return of the plague. In the country, we should build our villages near stagnant pools, and particularly encourage settlements in all marshy and unwholesome situations. But above all, we should reprobate specific remedies for ravaging diseases; and restrain those benevolent, but much mistaken men, who have thought they were doing a service to mankind by projecting schemes for the total extirpations of particular disorders.”

—Thomas Malthus

Malthus also never considered the fact that a larger population would allow for a greater division of labor and result in increased efficiency and prosperity. People were seen only as consumers, not as contributors to the economy. He never envisioned that these “lower classes” would be capable of improving their lives with proper care and education. Instead, he viewed them as genetically inferior and incapable of improvement or accomplishment. In his opinion, lower classes were in a permanent social class by birth and genetics. He extended this same philosophy to Africa where he observed, as a positive, that the tsetse fly and malaria helped to keep human population numbers low and life spans short, thus preserving wildlife and its habitat. Here are the first seeds of environmentalism and its link to the overpopulation myth.

“We are bound in justice and honor formally to disclaim the right of the poor to support.”

—Thomas Malthus

He assumed that the only way to grow more food was to increase the number of acres under cultivation, which limited the total “carrying capacity” of any region and indeed the world. Thanks to the Green Revolution of modern agriculture, beginning in the 1950s and 1960s, and later technological developments, we now know that yields have improved by orders of magnitude through things like introduction of more prolific, disease resistant plant varieties and high yield hybrids, nitrogen and mineral fertilization, mechanization, and control of weeds and crop destroying pests like insects and rodents.

Nor did Malthus foresee the natural reduction of family size that usually occurs when people are raised beyond near-starvation subsistence and when diseases are controlled, thereby reducing high childhood mortality rates. Gradual shift from purely agrarian to free-market trade and industrialization also reduces populations because larger families are not needed for subsistence farming.

            Karl Marx, a contemporary of Darwin, read Malthus’ book but disagreed with his premise of limiting the poor to further society. Instead Marx argued that the exploitation of the poor by the rich, that is, oppression of the proletariat by the bourgeois, was the cause of poverty. However, rather than help raise their standard of living through economic means within the system, Marx sought to use the poor to overthrow established authority, which had in reality supplied both charity and employment to raise the standard of living of the people.

            The utopian dream and the exploitation themes were the early seeds of socialism and Communism. Both the Malthusian and Marxist views were detrimental to the poor; on the one hand denial of aid to the poor to raise their standard of living, and on the other hand use of the poor in attempts to overthrow authority that might have supplied such aid. Note that Malthus and his communistic associates lived over seventy years before Marx put the Communist philosophy on paper in the Communist Manifesto (1848).

It is also true that the racial superiority attitudes of the seventeenth century and earlier ages have been a persistent, though often not fully recognized, thread throughout the history of Western civilization of kings, serfs, slaves, and colonization of other lands. This same perverted philosophy persists today among progressives who only typically want to manage the poor while keeping them poor and “in their place,” that is, controlled.

Malthus was pushing evolution and eugenics long before Charles Darwin and Frances Galton, the supposed originators of these theories. Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace, founders of the theory of evolution, both had copies of Malthus’ book, which talks about changing conditions causing physical changes, the genetic inferiority of the poor and less developed cultures and races, and the need to control them. Darwin, in his own book, On the Origin of Species (1859), explains evolution as, “this is the doctrine of Malthus applied to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms.” Like Malthusian philosophy, the mechanism of evolution, survival of the fittest through natural selection, depends on competition for scarce resources as the basis of survival.

[1] The popular press calls him a minister, but he was no more a minister than Charles Darwin was, although both had studied theology for their wealthy families and had been assigned an Anglican ministry.

[2] Thomas Robert Malthus, An Essay on the Principles of Population (London, 1798).

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The book: Saving Africa from Lies that Kill: How Myths about the Environment and Overpopulation are Destroying Third World Countries will be published in October, 2018. Print and e-book will be available online and in bookstores.

My first book, Perverted Truth Exposed: How Progressive Philosophy has Corrupted Science was published in 2016. It is available in print and e-book, on line only, through World Net Daily store, Amazon, Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble.  See the companion blog at www.realscienceblog.com  for related posts and pages.

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