The Malthusian population theory is the outcome of an essay title “An Essay on Population” written in 1798 by Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus, an Anglican clergyman and a well-known political economist. The essay he wrote was influenced greatly by the rate at which the population in Europe at that time was growing at a very fast rate. In his essay, he highlighted the relationship between population and means of subsistence.
The main features of Malthusian theory
The main views or features of the Malthusian theory about population are:
- That population was growing at a geometric progression such as 2,4,8,16, 32, etc, while food production or supply was growing at an arithmetical progression such as 1,2,3,4,5, etc.
- That there is a tendency for all living things to grow beyond the food available to them.
- That unless population increase is matched with means of subsistence, negative and positive checks will come into force.
- That the checks can be war, diseases, epidemics and famine.
- That population is essentially limited by the means of subsistence.
Developments or events that have proved Malthusian theory wrong
Developments or events that have rendered Malthusian theory wrong or irrelevant in present day situation is found in developed countries such as England, America, Japan, Germany, etc. These developments include:
- Development of technical knowledge and mechanisation: The development of technical knowledge and mechanisation of agriculture in advanced or developed countries has helped to increase food supply.
- Changes in social attitude: Changes in social attitude like family size and family planning or birth control in these countries.
- Efficient transportation system: Increased efficiency in the transportation system enables more materials to be provided to areas that needed them.
- Industrial revolution: The industrial revolution, especially in Europe, also changed the idea of land as a fixed factor of production.
- Medical improvement: Medical improvement by way of efficient health care services also enables people to enjoy long life thereby proving Malthus theory wrong.
- Opening of new colonies: The opening of new colonies like America, Canada, Australia, etc provided the necessary land for human habitation.
- Interdependency of nations: The interdependency of nations for goods and services available in large quantities as a result of international trade.
Developments or events that have proved Malthusian theory right
Developments or events that have proved Malthusian theory right or valid in developing countries in Asia, Africa and even in the present day situation in Nigeria. The events are as follows:
- Negative attitude: Negative attitude like practice of polygamy, giving birth to many children, etc. have made the population of many developing countries, including Nigeria, to increase on daily basis.
- High population and low food production: The population of many developing countries is growing at a geometric progression while food production is growing at an arithmetical progression.
- Difficulties in eradicating poverty: Poverty, which is inherent in a given society according to Malthus, has proved extremely difficult to be wiped out of many poor countries.
- Poor economic development: Rapid population growth militates against rapid economic development and it grows faster than per capital income.
- Fallen standard of living: The standard of living of many developing countries has fallen as a result of increase in population.