Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Malthusian societies? Modern societies determined by bare subsistence wages?

I read in Franklin L. Ford, 'Europe 1780-1830, A General History of Europe' book, first published in 1970, Chapter XIII 'Intellectual Ferment in a Revolutionary Age', Malthus page 346,

"... The implications of his theory for a ruthless young capitalism were none the less apparent. If anything more than subsistence only breeds misery for the mass of mankind, then bare subsistence should determine wages, all excess value produced by technical progress and increasing scale of manufacturing being reserved to the entrepreneur and such stockholders as have put up capital in his support."

Bare subsistence to determine wages? Bare subsistence the criterion that economies is based upon? What human societies, in the world over, are built upon? And based on this criterion the mass of humankind is kept at subsistence levels, as these might fluctuate slightly from decade to decade, a slow linear process, whereas the excess value being reserved for the entrepreneur and such stockholders that put up the capital? An excess value that rises exponentially.

Can this be true? Is it the blueprint that modern societies use to construct themselves? Determine and define the interactions between their individual members? It is mentioned in this website by Gavin Kennedy, that

"... subsistence incomes had remained the lot of the population (the Malthusian trap) for millennia."

A trap by all means. It is generally acknowledged that as the years go by, the rich are getting richer and richer, the gap between low earners and high earners widens.

Franklin L. Ford writes about Thomas Malthus that

"No single writer did more to buttress the forbidding side of this doctrine of economics ruled by egoism and the free play of forces than did the Englishman Thomas Malthus."


"In 1798, disgusted by what he considered the vaporizing of men such as Condorcet and William Godwin, author of the utopian 'Social Justice' five years before, Malthus published an 'Essay on Population'".

And as Franklin L. Ford admits,

"This has continued ever since to influence not only economic thought but also the apologetics of imperialism and biological theories of environment and natural selection."

Looking back over the years Malthus influence is widespread in the way modern societies govern themselves, permeating key sectors throughout their structures. It is the way governments and states adhere to. An underlying factor in all the interactions between state authorities and their individual members.

But why did Malthus arrive to that notion?

As Franklin L. Ford, mentions

"Malthus did not seek to spell out any theory of wages of profits. Rather, he thought of himself as a scientific student of demography and, when he urged self-restraint in regard to procreation, as a moralist."


"For Malthus, the rationale of population growth, and hence of possible improvement in the masses' standard of living, was as clear as it was discouraging. Given man's capacity for propagation to the absolute limit of numbers supportable by any given level of food supply, the author saw no hope of lifting the race by increasing subsistence. Indeed, he argued, since food production could at the very best increase, generation by generation, in no more than an arithmetic progression -1,2,3,4,5- while population, left to follow its natural tendency, would follow a geometric progression -1,2,4,8,16- the 'improvement of mankind' was an illusion beckoning disaster. The only reason the worst does not happen, he explained, is that natural checks, including famine, pestilence, war and 'vice' (abortion and infanticide) prevent the possible rise in population from being fully realized."

So the fear of over-population? That is what drove Malthus to his notions? Governments and states, following in Malthus' steps, provide additional checks, along with the natural checks, to prevent the rise of populations to unsustainable levels? Doing anything possible, to strengthen the checks even to the point of harboring vice-inducing conditions, such as drug-trafficking, gun-slinging in America, or the vehement opposition against any demands for wage increases with the sole goal of restraining population growth?

Is that one of the ideals of humanity?

No comments:

Post a Comment