03-08-08

On the Principle of Population

"(..) and I thought that I should not do justice to the subject, and bring it fairly under discussion, if I refused to consider any of the consequences which appeared necessary to flow from it, whatever these consequences might be. By pursuing this plan, however, I am aware that I have opened a door to many objections and, probably, to much severity of criticism: but I console myself with the reflection that even the errors into which I may have fallen, by affording a handle to argument, and an additional excitement to examination, may be subservient to the important end, of bringing a subject so nearly connected with the happiness of society into more general notice." Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population, Cambridge University Press (1992) Preface, p.9.


He's probably thé heretic of woolly thinking. Charity increases misery. Helping out is often a matter of patronizing. There is a necessary tendency to overpopulation, and overpopulation is always an issue of the poor. The poor stay poor - because the rich need an excess of poverty. Social security leads to social insecurity. Just a couple of things in the line of - I do not claim they're Malthus' point of view nor even that they can all be based on his findings - woolly thinking heresy.
It is unfortunate that, based on anecdotal evidence, a figure and work like that is all but cut out of the rational tradition. Malthus was hugely influential. He predates men like Darwin & Bergson in showing the huge raw power of the tendencies of nature. He predates much modern moral thinking in pinpointing the differences between what is to happen regardless & what can happen based on rational human intervention. It is obvious that much of his work is outdated - that is true across the board for all early Enlightenment science. But be that as it may, the quote shows that - unlike much of the contemporary wooly babble, specifically in politics - he did attempt science.
He was right, attempting to be so scientific was his Achilles' heel. If he had "confined (him)self merely to general views, (..) the work (..) would probably have had a much more masterly air" (ibid.) who knows? It might have been taken as a left wing bible, calling on people to free themselves from patronage ;-) It is an intellectual crime to use erroneous predictions against somebody predicting them in order to find out the value of his hypothesis. But this is exactly what has been done here. "Birth rates are lowering because of social security." - "There are excesses of means of subsistence in the West & they do not give rise to increasing birth rates." - ... All of this is true & surely this is because social security has come after education - because the West is characterized by highly individualized moral agents taking responsibility for their own reproduction rather than relying on revelation or custom - ...
The point is that now modern economist have rediscovered scarcity of natural supply - whether oil, oxygen or food - we have to rediscover the work of the main man, the man that first made this link between nature & nature´s trend to evolve towards the limits of nature's means. There is a lot in Malthus that deserves attention in modern day: mainly that simple woolly reflex response to dabble around with consequences of scarcity are not on, for the simple reason that tendencies in nature cannot be met by opposition. Avoiding nature to run into its own limits (better: into the limits where intelligent human life is no longer sustainable) requires smarter responses, requires really moral responses like avoiding the pursuit of always-later-death, avoiding that we feel obliged to be quantitatively successful, increasing scientific investigation that is focused on coming to terms with unavoidable, & sometimes whimsical changes in nature, ...
In any case we will not solve it by denying our own human nature in striving for our individual independence & access to independent thought. Nevertheless, this is the popular leftwing solution of 'back to the roots'. Make no mistake about this: 'back to the roots' will mean that the reality of Malthus' examples becomes accutely modern again ;-(


Whilst writing this I was listening (to my increasing disappointment) to Edvard Grieg, Peer Gynt Suites ETC., Chandos Digital.

13:05 Gepost door Guido Nius in Liefde | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: malthus, dynamics, competition, universals |  Facebook |

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