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  • Writer's pictureAlan Stevens - AWAH - Libertarianism, Freedom.

The Myth of Overpopulation

Updated: May 7

Globalists, Collectivist Politicians and Fearmongers claim that the World is ‘Overpopulated’, but without presenting any justification. 


The Reverend Thomas Malthus was a British scholar and clergyman.  He is best known for writing ‘An Essay on the Principle of Population’ in 1798.  He said that food production in the long-term could not grow as fast as human populations.  Therefore, growing populations would be culled by famine.  He reportedly envisaged crowding the poor together so that they would fall prey to infectious disease earlier on, rather than lingering hopelessly in the face of inevitable extinction in a future food crisis.


There are two problems with this thesis that the world is doomed to suffer from ‘overpopulation’.  Firstly, modern experience suggests that it is not true.  Secondly it may be used to justify ‘depopulation’, ranging from Malthus’s not so benign neglect of the poor to enforced population reduction, as favoured by globalists and climate change alarmists. 


Depopulation necessarily envisages coercion, and potentially lethal coercion.  It cannot be supported by any libertarian.  It is an immoral creed and, one might add, un-Christian. 


The notion that the world is ‘overpopulated’ needs to be challenged.  People willing to contemplate ‘culling the herd’ must be made to explain on what basis they claim that the world is currently overpopulated.  The definition should be that a substantial proportion of a population is living ‘below subsistence’ as the statistician Gregory King expressed it in his late 17th century survey of the English population. 


In pre-industrial agrarian societies with poor legal protection for property, and no access to hydrocarbon fuels, a large minority of the population lived below subsistence.  They were so poor that they did not have the resources to sustain themselves and have enough surviving children to replace themselves.  The poor were constantly dying out and being replaced by unlucky or improvident individuals falling from higher up the social scale.


On this basis, late 17th century Britain and every other agrarian society in history has suffered from overpopulation.  Its population was then about five million people.  A century later, the population was ten million.  Nevertheless, Malthus was writing just at the moment when Britain was arguably ceasing to have an ‘overpopulation’ problem.

 

In 1798 the coal-powered Industrial Revolution was well under way in Britain.  It was the direct result of effective legal protection of property rights since the Glorious Revolution of 1688.  Industrialisation saved the ‘submerged third’ of the population.  Instead of a losing struggle to survive in hovels on seasonal agricultural day labour and handouts, migrants to industrial towns had paid indoor work, brick-built houses with tiled roofs, and enough food to feed their families. They were no longer living ‘below subsistence’.


Britain’s population was then 10 million.  Now it is around 70 million.  The country has plenty of problems, almost all of them stemming from state action, but the prospect of famine is not one of them, and won’t be unless globalists’ attacks on farming are successful. 


The world’s population has gone from perhaps one billion in 1798 to eight billion now.  And yet the proportion of people worldwide who are at risk of famine has continuously and drastically diminished.  Food production has grown faster than population, proving Malthus wrong.  So has energy production and general wellbeing, contrary to alarmist and self-interested fearmongering about everything ‘running out’. 


On my definition, then, the world is rapidly approaching the point where it is no longer suffering from overpopulation.  Which means there is no conceivable justification for intervening to reduce populations, especially as world population shows every sign of peaking sooner rather than later. 


The popular notion that the world is overpopulated because it is somehow too ‘crowded’ is not evidently justified either.  If the world’s population were all housed at densities characteristic of cities such as Buenos Aires, Beijing or Sao Paulo, then its entire population would fit into Texas, leaving the entire rest of the world empty.  (At somewhat lower Moscow or Paris average densities, you would need to throw in New Mexico too.)


In any case, the world does not need to become overpopulated again.  Argentina’s newly elected President Javier Milei explained to the globalist ghouls at the WEF conference in Davos the truth about human wellbeing.  Until around 1800, the inventions of humanity did nothing to raise average, and very low, standards of living.  Such countries were ‘overpopulated’ as we are not.  Then classical liberalism (libertarianism) brought in legal systems protecting private property absolutely – following the British example. 


Effective legal protection of private property enabled independent accumulation and deployment of capital over long time horizons on a large scale.  The result was the achievement of undreamt of mass affluence within a few generations.  Without it there would not have been general prosperity.  Take away legal protection of property and person, and prosperity will also fade away.  As we are seeing in the West.


Non-libertarian political creeds hostile to private property, such as Socialism, Communism, Fascism, Social Democracy, Conservatism, Peronism and Globalism, are merely shades of collectivism.  They bring about mass impoverishment to the extent that they are implemented – and have done so to a remarkable extent in Argentina.  As Milei told Davos, collectivists, in this case globalists, are the problem.  Marxist antipathy to private property (‘you will own nothing and be happy’) is precisely what could revive the spectre of Malthusian famine by undoing the progress of the last two centuries.

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