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Book review: Malthus by Robert J Mayhew

Thomas Malthus was wrong that population growth would lead to famine, so why are his ideas still popular?

By Clive James   June 2014

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In 1798 the cleric, scholar and political theorist Thomas Robert Malthus became famous for enunciating a single principle: since the population increases geometrically but its food supply increases only arithmetically, famine is inevitable. As a consequence, any period of apparent prosperity would lead to a breakdown because of limited resources: human progress was “condemned to a perpetual oscillation between happiness and misery.” Later on, as Robert J Mayhew relates in the first part of his…

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