But man is endowed with foresight, and hence his reason and his will are alone able to halt this disastrous trend.
Thomas Robert Malthus, quoted by Frédéric Bastiat
Frédéric Bastiat disagreed with the results of Malthus’ analysis on population. However, he is here exposing those who are throwing the baby out with the bathwater and explains that observing that population can grow geometrically as it was then in the United States is right since this was a known fact. Through today’s quote, he shows that Malthus recognised that the fatality of a geometric progression of population confronted to an arithmetic progression of the means of subsistence might not be applicable.
He thus attempts to reinstate Malthus in his fame despite not sharing his pessimism on the future of population and is researching the errors that the latter may have made to reach his conclusion. Indeed, we now know that the population has grown considerably (from one to eight billion individuals at the human scale) and that the optimism from Frédéric Bastiat towards it has prevailed. As Malthus noted, man’s foresight is what allowed him to avoid falling into the disastrous trap that would have made his multiplication impossible. This is the topic of this chapter on population, from which I shall choose seven quotes having a more universal reach from an economic point of view.
Other quotes from Population:
Malthus – Ignorance – Reality – Prevention – Hubris – Wealth