Thursday, May 05, 2011

Malthusian Fears are Baseless

Malthusian Fears are Baseless

The New York Times has a piece out today that explores a human future that is projected to surpass ten billion souls in a few decades time, or by 2100. The comments are illuminating, replete as they are with believers in the Malthusian idea, promulgated in 1799, that humans will outgrow our environment the way fungi and rats do. Not surprising, but these comments betray a strait jacket in their thinking. They insist that we can not adapt to the future with the techniques and technologies of the past.

It is amazing the lack of imagination shown by the naysayers of a successful humanity. In 1950 the world had no way to support a doubling of the population, yet in 2000 we did, with a higher standard of living in every way it could be measured for everyone. The Malthusian believers make no attempt to support their point of view, they just assume it and repeat it, and get angry that their point of view is not accepted by all.

Personally, I have no desire to live in a world of contracting population, with houses and schools becoming empty and technology declining, and I have no reason to believe that this is our fate. What the Malthusian believers forget is that we are not rats, we each bring more to the world than we take from it. We are tool users and builders, innovators and problem solvers. More population will result in more specialization, more advancement, more luxury, and a higher standard of living for all, as it always has. We have no fresh water shortage, we have a water collection problem caused by central planning and allowing "experts" to decide how to allocate resources. I am certain that humanity will thrive, and that means expand. There is no limit to how much food we can grow, no shortages of any important commodity that can not be accounted for in the pricing mechanism. This is not ideology, it the only valid conclusion one could draw from the last ten thousand (or two million) years of human improvement.

UPDATE: Becker and Posner agree with me. (No surprise there)