Thomas Robert Malthus was an English cleric who wrote a series of Essays from 1798 on-wards arguing that the growing population is unsustainable and would lead to a catastrophe of famine and disease. He argued that, the time of catastrophe was not very far. And, he wrote this when the world population was 1 billion, today we are 7.5 Billion. His followers even today make the same statement. But the facts are quite different. They are different because they fail to underestimate the force of technology invented by humans, and how it changes outcomes.
The first argument is economical argument. This is the most bizarre one as well, when you have a sudden burst of young people joining a country’s workforce, you call it Demographic Dividend. Demographic Dividends lead to accelerated growth and pulling lots of people out of poverty. But if parents have more children, it suddenly becomes the reason for their poverty? If country’s can reap demographic dividend, why shouldn’t parents? Can someone really guarantee that having 1 child and giving him best education will make parents old age better, or having 11 children who will not enrich their parents life in their old age. There is no dispute in the logic of probabilities, if you have more children, it is more likely that your years as senior citizens would be better. Plus it is not wise to keep all eggs in one basket.
But the real argument is what happens when you actually have lesser children, well let us look at those countries who are facing reduction in population, ask Japanese and Italians who give cash to women when they have babies. The issue that these countries realise is that if they do not have enough population growth, their economies could collapse, they need to have more people. I remember a poor woman from China who got widowed a few years ago, and Goverment’s one child policy forced her to have only one girl, who unfortunately died in a car accident. Now she has no one to take care of her in her old age. Be it at individual level or state having lesser population hurts economy.
Next is about food supply. In the last few hundred years we are eating far better than we have ever eaten. If you see this chart it tells about how calories intake in the developing world has increased.
The most expensive food is meat, below are the stats from WHO on meat consumption per capita.
So let us be clear, we are not going to run out of food. In 2030, we are projected to eat not just more but also better. So all the fear mongering that we would run out of food with more people is just a stupid idea. Most people who support Malthusianism do not realise that we are moving ahead with science and research. We are producing almost three times per hectare, than we did 50 years ago. If you look at the chart below world average is still half of UK average, ie we do not need additional farmland to grow more food, we need to grow it better. Just growing it with UK’s efficiency is enough to feed population double the size today.
And we are living a lot longer, the world’s life expectancy has gone up by 20 years from 1960, so no one is saying by having more babies we are going to die early.
Another argument is environmental one. This is again not true, it is not necessary that more population lead to more pollution. As it can be seen from the chart below, although Population Growth rate for Sweden and UK remains healthy, and their CO2 emissions are coming down, because the governments are spending 0.5% to 1% of their GDP in Environment. The environment is getting polluted because of bad habits of people, not because of babies. The impediment to control pollution is not babies again, it is not willing to spend money on environmental programmes. The US had a budget of $8 Billion for its Environmental Protection Agency and $598 Billion for its defence. So please stop propagating Malthusianism and stop blaming babies for pollution. They have a very busy schedule of eating, pooping and sleeping.