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Friday, June 14, 2019

How Big of a Problem Is Overpopulation?

By: Chelsea Follett
Human Progress

Unwarranted panic about overpopulation is a big problem that has led to human rights abuses and much pointless suffering.

Consider the long history of overpopulation alarmism, and how the doomsayers’ fears have failed to materialize again and again.

Two centuries ago, Thomas Malthus’s Essay on Population warned that out-of-control population growth would deplete resources and bring about widespread famine.

His preferred solution was to decrease the birth rate by delaying marriage, but if that didn’t work he endorsed some rather extreme measures to slash the population.

To prevent famine, he thought it was morally permissible to “court the return of the plague” by making the poor live in swamps and even to ban “specific remedies for ravaging diseases.”

After Malthus died, the Industrial Revolution brought about unprecedented prosperity that funded the construction of safe water supplies and sewage systems at a scale never before achieved. Living standards were transformed and lifespans lengthened. As farms mechanized, food became more plentiful even as the population grew. Famine became rarer.

Yet Malthus’s ideas proved enduringly popular.