Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Malthusian Lie

This is an 'issue' that has been raised countless times since it was first conceptualized almost three centuries ago. One that has recently been adopted by academics and green-minded individuals around the world, but particularly in the gilded halls of American academia. It's the concept of the Malthusian catastrophe, colloquially known as over population, that some say is so immanent that it will spell doom for the world.  It's is one of the worst misconceptions perpetuated today.  The science its based on is outmoded, and history itself has proven time and again that the concept is a falsehood.  It is perhaps one of the most powerful tools in the leftist playbook with which the cause of statism has been advanced.

But before I get into why overpopulation is nothing more than a bunch of hot air; let me talk a little about how it came into being. In waining century of that great economist Adam Smith, the 19th century, an economist by the name of Thomas Robert Malthus an essay on the principal of population; in which he wrote that a societies population was checked by famine, disease, and war. He was a contrarian as such as that, unlike many economists, he did not see society as inherently perfectible.  Perhaps the most important statement he made in his essay was this little quotation:

The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.
 It is essentially a summary of his belief that eventually man's ability to provide himself would not be able to meet demands of growth.  He pointed to the fact that even with all the technological achievements by mankind over the past centuries that those technological achievements did little to improve mankind's ability to feed and sustain himself.  He was wrong, but he can be forgiven being wrong because the phenomenon known as the Industrial Revolution still had as yet not yielded any major improvements in the field of agriculture. Man had plowed the fields in 1798 much the same way he had done so in 3000 BC.  The tools had gotten a bit better, but the yields had not gone up, or not to the degree that they were about to.  But as we know now, agricultural yields did improve, for example, today American famers feed 6 times more people than they could only forty years ago.

Moreover many Malthusian proponents forget just how large the earth is, much of it is entirely empty. The most dense city in the world by population is Manila, with over 110,000 souls for every square mile.  By contrast, using my calculations, if you took the entire world's population and fit it an area the size of Texas you would have a population density of 26,000 people per square mile, or around the size of New York City.  Expand that area to include the entire Mississippi River Basin (which covers all or some portion of 26 states in this great nation) and the population density drops to a little over 6,000 people per square mile, or a around a fourth of New York City.  Expand that area to include the United States and your population density drops down to being equivalent to Taiwan. Double the world's population and the US density would only rise to equivalence to the island of Malta.

However, the counter the Malthusian proponents will make is that it is not the number of individuals living, but the resources they consume and the pollution they create.  Using the metrics from before lets look at water, arguably the most precious resource in the world outside of oxygen consumption.  Human beings need about eight liters of water a day to maintain adequate bodily health.  Simply multiplying this number by the worlds population and you we get to a global demand for water at around 56 billion liters a day. That is a lot of water, but considering that most people in the world aren't dying of thirst we already know that the world produces at least that much water.  However, what is interesting is that even if we located all of humanity in a single location, there are places in the world that could provide more than enough water for humanity to survive.

The Mississippi River Basin, which covers 26 states in the United States, has an average discharge of three million cubic feet per second, which is 84 million liters per second.  This means that in a singe hour the river basin discharges more than 305 billion liters of water, about five and a half times more than what human beings need to survive.  In my mind that is more than enough water for humanity to not only survive, but use for agriculture and any other use we could think of.

Now this isn't to make light of the problems of pollution or environmental degradation of the surrounding area, the great garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean is a visual illustration that human beings do have an impact on the environment.  However, despite the fact that many Malthusians are often major proponents of recycling, they forget that humanity has become much more efficient with the use of the resources available than in the past.  Solar power, via satellites, offers a nearly unlimited power source, offering the benefit of mobility if transported via laser or microwaves for humanity. And we are already well underway in hydroponics and areoponics, which uses a tenth of the water needed to grow crops and has the advantage of being able to make use of the height in addition to area. In my mind this means that an area used for a sporting event, such as a football stadium, could conceivably provide enough food to feed millions if not tens of millions of people a year.  Coupled with the in-vitro (lab) grown meat and the idea that some how human beings will not be able to feed one another is exposed as nothing more than an absurd alarmist fantasy.

But all this doesn't matter.  The fact is that statistics have shown us that its not overpopulation, but population degradation, that we face in the near future. Just play around with google statistiscs and you will see that the global fertility rate has halved in forty years, with many developed, and some developing nations, falling below replacement rate levels.  Many population alarmists, invariably progressive, champion this as good news for the earth. However, they fail to realize that the falling population assures that the socialist dream will never come to fruition. The socialist experiment relies on there being more people paying into the system than taking out of it. And unless a society is producing slightly more than 2.1 people, which replaces the parents and offers marginal population growth to counter act premature death, then you are left with a shrinking population.  We are seeing this system collapse in Europe simply because productive individuals are throwing their hands in the air and saying screw it.  Europe could easily solve this problem by adopting a more capitalistic friendly system. The solution to solving dropping fertility isn't so simple, as Japan has learned .

This is precisely why China will not surpass the US. Their communist leaders committed demographic suicide and have assured that even if they can defy economic history, history showing us that governments cannot manage economies well, that they will succumb to demographics.  The population fertility rate phenomena isn't limited to developed countries, but developing ones as well.  There isn't a nation on earth that hasn't experienced a drop in their fertility rate, and it is estimated that sometime by the end of this century the global fertility rate will drop below the replacement rate. This will have a major impact for an economy that has been based on ever growing populations for the last 400 years. Barring a complete usurpation of most activities by robots and computers, not unrealistic, then there will be a minor economic crisis.  Developed societies are going to need funds to pay for their generous and well established social safety net and there will not be enough young workers to pay for the elderly.  It isn't inconceivable that nations would start competing very aggressively for skilled or unskilled individuals from overseas.

The greatest danger though is population bust.  A population bust would be an explosive contraction of population that far outstrips any way for societies to cope.  This is why Japan has become so desperate because they face the very real possibility of seeing their civilization disappearing.  This doesn't have to mean that one day there simply aren't any Japanese left in the world, though this has happened in the past.  But it can mean that a population is unable to maintain its sovereignty and becomes subsumed in a larger stronger polity, something that Russia fears given their demographics.  Don't believe me? Then tell me, who has heard of the Etruscans? Hyskos? Hittittes? Philistines? or the  Sabini? (I am willing to wager that anyone who bothers to read this blog actually gives a damn about real history and not the bastard brother that is taught in schools today.) The Ainu, a people who live in Japan, and are slowly disappearing, are a modern day example of this.  Why is it that you think the Jews throughout history kept to themselves and tried very hard to maintain their identity? It's not only human beings that have an imperative to try and pass on its seed, civilizations and societies do as well. It's the reasons why much of the world resents globalization, which they think will further westernize their civilizations.

So the question is why, given the obvious dangers that are inherent in population collapse, that so many individuals, and progressives being chief among them, hem and haw so hard about the threats of over population?  Well 95% of individuals who worry about overpopulation don't know any of these statistics, or if they are presented this information they shut their eyes, its the other 5% who should know better. I am talking about the politicians and academia.  And I think it largely has to due with academia's unwillingness to come to terms with the truth.  You see, if they admit that there is no threat of overpopulation, and in fact a dire threat of population reversal, then many of the actions they have taken this last century are not only wrong, such as feminism being a prime example, but criminal, other ideas that I need not mention.  Also, many other of their pet ideological holding points suddenly become untenable when that reality is accepted. It also makes religion, which too many left leaning academics sneer at, look less backward and more wise.

There is a reason why the bible says go forth and multiply. The ancients understood something that we modern folk have forgotten.  Even if you aren't a religious individual, but you are an intellectually honest one, you will see that religion came into being partially to help counteract the negative aspects of human nature, cuckoldry, adultery, violence, slothfulness etc, and to ensure a societies survival.  If you look at it from a secular perspective, then you will see that the ten commandments was a survival guide for the Hebrew people while they wandered through the desert as a people without a home, and it seems to have worked, since the Jews are still around while many of their societal peers are nothing more than dust in the ruins of history. And the sooner the Malthusian Lie becomes dust the better.


  1. Excellent article. People are so well propagandized by the MSM, one still reads concern about "over population", even in the red pill manosphere. It refuses to die, similar to "global warming".

    People are the most valuable "resource" a nation has. Feminism and abortion are nation killers because, among other reasons, they actively seek to reduce this "resource".

  2. Bull fucking shit.
    There, i said it. Now, we could group people together in large conglomerates known as cities.
    However if shit hits the fan, especially economic shit, these are often the most unstable systems. Meaning they tend to fail, in an epic way. Look at the collapse of the soviet union and you'll see what i mean.

    That leaves the question: do you want a robust system, or do you simply want more people?

    Because shit will hit the fan, it always will.. And when it does, it's basically back to sustenance farming. Try doing that with say, 2k people per square mile, which is not uncommon.

    1. You've completely misunderstood the point of my post. I never said conglomerating people into a single geographical region was desirable or even practical. I simply used those observations to put to rest that somehow the earth is crowded, it isn't. I suggest you read Carnivore's reply as he actually percieved what the heart of this post was.

  3. I trust that you'll find this article sufficiently terrifying:

    1. Interesting article, though I disagree with the overpopulation fears of Mr. Calhouns, I was very intested in the rammifacations it has when considering the new urbanist movement that has been popular these last few decades.

  4. "Overpopulation is nothing but a bunch of hot air"? So do you believe that the earth can support an infinite number of people?

    Let's look at this logically for a moment:

    (1) Can the world support an infinitely high number of people? No.

    (2) Can the world support a population totalling the mass of the earth? No.

    (3) Can the world support a population where there is one human being for every square metre of the earth? Probably not, and you really wouldn't want to even if you could.

    The population seems to be doubling every 40 years. Despite the decline in rich societies, it's booming amongst the least educated, or more religious, members of these societies - giving us in the future a potentially dumber population on top of a booming one.

    At that rate, the situation in (3) would be reached in less than 600 years, and even if we survived that the situation in (2) would occur within 1800 years.

    The rational conclusion is that before that happens, starvation and all other manner of ills will cause massive untimely deaths amongst the population.

    This author seems so impressed by the huge volumes of water pouring into the Mississippi basin that he thinks "isn't that wonderful surely we can never grow as large as to use all that?". But when you actually do the maths, a different picture emerges.

    Those smug fools who think the collapse can be warded off indefinitely without population stability are no more in their right minds than someone who thinks we can build a skyscraper as long as a galaxy just because the ones we build keep getting taller.

    There's no avoiding the fact that exponential growth is a killer - unless you prefer to bury your head in the sand and ignore basic mathematics.

    1. Anonymous, (really you couldn't be bothered to create a tag name?)

      You are asserting claims I never made. No where did I say that the earth can support an infinite population or a population covering the mass of the earth. That renders points 1 and 2 invalid.

      Your 3rd point is simply taking a mathematical demostration I took, which was to illustrate how much space the earth actually has, and distort it to the extreme. We are no where near that point and even if you doubled our population this wouldn't be the case. If the world's population can fit in the continental US with a population density of Taiwan then even doubling the US population doesn't change this empirical reality?

      The population doesn't 'seem' to be doubling. It did double, but you make the mistake of extrapolating past data and assuming the factors that enable such a doubling will continue. The reason why the earths population doubled was due to advances in medical technology and food production, due in no small part to capitalism I might add, these factors are no longer in play.

      It seems you failed to read the part of my post where I point out that global fertility rates are dropping and by most estimates will be below replacement rate. In fact, there are numerous hypothesies that the population of the world could peak as early as 2030, not likely in my opinion, or as late as the beginnings of the 21st century, a certainty in my opinion.

      You make statements on actually doing the math but I contend that is you who haven't done the math, or at least not after doing your homework. Formulas are only as good as the data you have collected, and you have not collected good data.

      Your fundemental problem is you are letting emotion guide your reasoning process. You have decided overpopulation is a 'problem' without ever actually doing any research. Your arguments are not based on real data, just logic. But the problem with logic is that logic, like a mathematical formula, is as only good as the data presented.


Disagreements and countervailing views are welcome, however, comments will be deleted if:

-They have emoticons.
-If it is obvious that you have not read the post.
-Obvious Spam, and it takes me about a quarter second to determine if it is spam since you all write your comments the same way.

About Me

My photo
Seattle resident whose real name is Kevin Daniels. This blog covers the following topics, libertarian philosophy, realpolitik, western culture, history and the pursuit of truth from the perspective of a libertarian traditionalist.