economy

The Misapplication of Malthus

Malthus was a good and clever man. But Malthusian ideas pursued in his name are cruel and wrong.

The poor laws were wrong; British attitudes to famine in India and Ireland were wrong; eugenics was wrong; the Holocaust was wrong; India’s sterilization programme was wrong; China’s one-child policy was wrong. These were sins of commission, not omission.

Malthusian misanthropy – the notion that you should harden your heart, approve of famine and disease, feel ashamed of pity and compassion, for the good of the race – was wrong pragmatically as well as morally. The right thing to do about poor, hungry and fecund people was always, and still is, to give them hope, opportunity, freedom, education, food and medicine, including of course contraception, for not only will that make them happier, it will enable them to have smaller families.

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