English Economist (1766 - 1834)

Malthus' father owned a small estate and was one of the executors of French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau's estate. A graduate of Jesus College in Cambridge, Malthus was a close associate of English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and took orders in the Church of England in 1797.

At the same time, from discussions he participated in with his father and friends, Malthus published An Essay on the Principle of Poupulation as it Affects the Future Improvement of Society, with Remarks on the Speculation of Mr. Godwin, M. Condorcet, and Other Writers (1798). Malthus proposed that population, unchecked, increases geometrically, while subsistence only increases arithmetically. Thus population, regulated by war, famine, pestilence and by the influence of misery and vice, increases only to the limits of subsistence. Although his views were a subject of much controversy, in 1803, he published a more thorough version of his theories in An Essay on the Principle of Population or a View of its Past and Present Effects on Human Happiness with an enquiry into Our Prospects Respecting the Future Removal of the Evils Which it Occasions (sheesh, imagine the node titles if this guy was on E2). This categorized the checks on population into positive and preventative classes.

Although mainly intended as an argument against utopian visions of society, Malthus's ideas proved very important to Charles Darwin, who was inspired by the conflict inherent in existence, given limited resources for subsistence. A friend of the economist, David Ricardo, Malthus also contributed to the economic theory through ideas later developed into the law of diminishing returns as applied to agriculture.

Source: The Dictionary of Global Culture - Gates & Appiah

Two useless facts about Thomas Malthus:

Firstly, his surname is pronounced Malt-Huss, not Mal-Suss.

Secondly, Charles Dickens liked to parody Malthus's seemingly inhumane perspective of the futility of alieviating poverty. One mean old industrialist in the novel Hard Times called Thomas Gradgrind had a boy named Malthus. In A Christmas Carol, a better known miserly misanthrope called Ebeneezer Scrooge quotes Malthus when he explains why he chooses not to donate money to the poor:

"I wish to be left alone. Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned the Work Houses and prisons they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there."
"Many can't go there; and many would rather die."
"If they would rather die", said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

A hundred years later, South Park's Cartman would breathe Malthusian ideals back to life through Dickens:

Mr. Garrison: Now children, I want each of you to bring in one can of food. And later, the mayor of South Park will divide it up amongst Kenny's family and other poor people.
Cartman: I'm not bringin' in food for poor people! Screw them!
Wendy: Don't you want to help those who are less fortunate?!
Cartman: Hey you guys, do you hear something? I, I think I hear the flower children calling.
Wendy: This is the one time of year you're supposed to care about people who can't eat!
Cartman: Isn't it enough that I pay taxes?!? What about the poor houses that, that I pay for?!?
Wendy: Many would rather die than go to those places!
Cartman: Well then, perhaps they should, and decrease the surplus population!
Mr. Garrison: Ok kids, that's enough Dickens for one day.

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