Essay on Population

Author: Thomas Robert Malthus, political economist in England, professor of East India Company College. Opponent of optimistic enlightenment opinions. His father is Rousseau’s friend.

Context: Essay on Population was published at late 18th century, England was almost finished the first industrial revolution. Population growed tremendously because of the development of medical technology which decreased the death rate and the increase of food supply by more efficient farming methods and machines. At that time, most of economists believe that population growth has positive effect to economy.

Language: The author deduced his opinion based on the population growth during the 18th century by mathmatic method. He believe that the population growth rate is exponential increasing and food supply rate is liner increasing. So the increasing of population will cause starvation. His method is basically right, but his data only include the 18th century Europe(or England), he didn’t foresee that the population slow down and the food supply increased faster than liner by new technology.

Audience: Congress, Malthus believe the lower class should be responsible for the population growth and government should limit the population growth. His essay influenced the legislation at 1830s.

Intent: To conclude the population surplus theory for remind the government to control the population growth.

Message: the food supply increasing rate is much more slower than the population growth rate, the growth of population will decrease the productivity. So it’s necessary to control the population growth.

1 thought on “Essay on Population

  1. One thing that really struck me was when reading Thomas Malthus’ Essay on Population, was how he spoke to the difference between man and plants/animals in regards to sex. Malthus claimed that animals/plants “are all impelled by a powerful instinct to the increase of their species; and this instinct is interrupted by no reasoning, or doubts about providing for their offspring,” (Malthus 2). Here, Malthus shows that when reproducing, plants and animals are not faced with any “reasoning,” for they understand that their offspring will be able to take care of themselves. When talking about humans, Malthus claimed, “Impelled to the increase of his species by an equally powerful instinct, reason interrupts his career, and asks him whether he may not bering beings into the world, for whom he cannot provide the means of subsistence,” (Malthus 2). By making this claim, Malthus argued that while the sexual nature of both man and animal are the same, man must consider whether or not they can provide for their offspring. For if they cannot provide for their offspring, they must reconsider as their “reason interrupts,” their sexual nature. Ultimately, while man and animal may have the same sexual nature, animals and plants are able to act upon it for their offspring do not require the same amount of attention as the offspring of man. This is an interesting distinction between both man and animal that I had never considered before reading Thomas Malthus.

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