Malthus and Boserup Population Theory

MALTHUS AND BOSERUP The world population is the total number of living humans on the planet Earth. Recently the world has just hit over 7 billion people. It is expected that if the worlds population continues to increase at the rate it is doing now, then we will become overpopulated. Overpopulation is where an organism’s numbers exceed the carrying capacity of its habitat. There are various views on this population crisis and throughout this essay I will describe theses views. Thomas Malthus was a pessimist , his theory is that the growth of human populations always tends to outstrip the productive capabilities of land resources.
The result is that resources place a restriction on population growth and size and ‘positive’ checks (famine and disease) or preventative checks (limitation of family size) work to reduce population growth. Writing before the agricultural revolution, Malthus presumed that the productivity of resources were permanent because agricultural technology was largely fixed. From a Malthusian perspective, technology and environment (considered in terms of land resources) are therefore seen as independent variables that work together to determine the dependant variable of population, which he sees mainly in terms of population growth and size.
According to him, human society could never be perfected. He believed that man is a lazy animal, who would lead a satisfied life and procreate as long as his family was well fed. However, as soon as human population would feel constraints in food supply due to increase in population, he would again work hard to provide enough for his family. This might lead to an increase in agricultural production to provide for all, but at the same time man would be back to his complacent stage, where all his needs would be fulfilled. This would start the cycle of overpopulation and food shortage, all over again.
Having been a clergy, Malthus validated his theory on moral grounds that suffering was a way of making human beings realize the virtues of hard work and moral behavior. Such kind of suffering due to overpopulation and food supply was inevitable. Malthus’ theory had great influence on both Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace, who are the co-founders of the modern evolutionary theory. By the end of the 19th Century, when living standards improved and birth rates dropped in the Western countries, concerns of overpopulation became irrelevant.
However, in underdeveloped countries which have agrarian economies, Malthus’ theory often finds credibility. On the other hand, Ester Boserup was an optimist. Her theory focuses on the relationships between three factors; population, environment and technology. Her concept of ‘population’ in contrast to Malthus, encompasses population density as well as population size and growth. Ester Boserup stated that an increase in population would stimulate technologists to increase food production.
As Boserup said any rise in population would increase demand for food and this would act as an incentive to change agrarian technology and produce more food. Therefore population growth will inspire innovators who will solve the problem s the increasing population has caused therefore making it sustainable for a growing population. Even though they are two opposing theories they do have some similarities. They are both based on ‘closed’ communities which at a global scale is not true. They are similar by the way they both agree that an rise in population will increase demand for food.
However they completely differ on what the consequences will be. As Malthus says increased demand for food will eventually cause food production to decrease due to the law of diminishing returns. As Boserup has a completely opposing view that increased population would increase food production. We have to remember that Malthus wrote his essay in 1798 before the agriculture revolution therefore he excluded technology from his theory therefore making it slightly inaccurate. As Boserup wrote her theory in 1968 and has seen the effect technology can have crop yield therefore the two theories contrast.
Also Mathus and Boserup disagree on the outcomes of increased population as Malthus stated that population cant increase above the food supplies otherwise positive checks would occur. Malthus talks about controlling a population by preventative checks and how the population must be kept below the crisis point otherwise these positive checks will occur. In contrast Boserup does the opposite and stated that famine and war will be prevented by human solutions. Therefore the two theories have different answers as to how to make a sustainable population which will survive in food resources.
I personally agree with Malthus and believe that the power of population is much greater than the power of the earth to provide subsistence for man although Boserup states that an increase in population would stimulate technologists to increase food production etc. There is only a limit of resources available that can be used and the use of new technology and manufacturing is a massive contributor to the green house effect. Also we cannot rely on an increases in population to stimulate people to find new ways so that we can live sustainably.
Some people may argue that ‘positive checks’ are meant to happen. I don’t believe in parts of this theory however if we can reduce the population to a sustainable level then these positive checks will not have to take place. We can reduce positive checks by encouraging people to have fewer children however this has been taken a bit too far in some areas, for example – Chinas One Child Policy. Although this was a massive success in reducing the population, there are also problems that China is now faced with including gender imbalance (for every 6 males there are 5 females) and an ageing population.

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