April 10, 2019


A country can never be too rich, too beautiful or too full of people (Jay L. Zagorsky, 4/09/19, The Conversation)

The first economist to suggest there were limits to how many inhabitants a country could support was Thomas Malthus, who wrote his most famous work, "An Essay on the Principle of Population," in 1798.

Malthus believed that each country had a "carrying capacity," a maximum number of people it can support. When the population is above its carrying capacity, it is full.

Carrying capacity is based on environmental factors, such as the amount of food resources that can be grown on land or harvested from the sea. If Malthus were alive today, he would point out there is a fixed amount of oil in the Earth and a fixed amount of farmland to grow crops. Sooner or later the oil will run out, and if population grows without bound, there will not be enough food to feed everyone.

Malthus' predictions about what happens after a country rises above its carrying capacity were dire: Disease, famine and wars break out to bring the population back down to a sustainable level. In simple terms, Malthus' theory was that the population in a country cannot grow indefinitely. Death will constrain it.

Posted by at April 10, 2019 12:03 AM