T.R. Malthus was the first economist to give serious attention to population problem. He is famous for his work ‘the principle of Population’. He published an ‘Essay on the principle of population’ in 1798. So this principle is also referred to as Malthusian Theory of Population’. He propounded the theory since he was distressed by the rapid increase in the population of England.
Malthus declared that there was a ‘Constant tendency in all animated life to increase beyond the nourishment for it’. People, unless checked in some way, doubled their numbers every quarter of a century. He stated that while population increased in geometrical progression, food production could be increased only in arithmetical progression, though he did not use these terms with mathematical precision. He tried, therefore, to show that the means of subsistence placed a limit on the growth of population. An increase in the means of subsistence brings about an increase in the population, unless this was checked by “vice or misery” due to famine, war or pestilence or “moral restraint” which meant abstention from early marriage.
The argument of Malthus can be summarized in three propositions:
- Rate of Growth of Food Production
Population in limited by the means of subsistence. The growth of food production takes place in slow arithmetic progression like, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 and so on. Because, food production is subject to the law of diminishing returns. Consequently, it would be impossible to maintain an expansion of food production to keep pace with the increasing population.
- Rate of Growth of Population
Population invariably increases where the means of subsistence increase, unless prevented by some powerful check. The population growth takes place in quick geometrical progression like, 1, 2, 4, 12 and 32. This leads the population of a country to double in 25 years.
- Checks to Population
The disequilibrium between population and food production results into economic crises like famine. Hence, population should be checked by two means:
(a) Positive Checks
The positive check is brought by nature like want misery, famine, war, drought, disease, and earthquake etc. these checks increase death rate.
(b) Preventive Checks
The preventive checks are carried out by men. These checks are celibacy, rate marriage, and moral restraint such as abstinence from marriage or sexual gratification.
Malthus favored preventive checks. In the absence of preventive checks, the positive checks operate. Malthus thus advised to exercise self-restraint to keep population under check. These checks have been shown in a chart below: