Will Malthus Be Right?

His forecast was ahead of its time, but nature may still put a lid on humanity

Malthus was right. So read a car bumper sticker on a busy New Jersey highway the other day, and it got me thinking about the Rev. Thomas Malthus, the English political economist who gave the "dismal science" its nickname. His "Essay on the Principle of Population," published in 1798, predicted a gloomy future for humanity: our population would grow until it reached the limits of our food supply, ensuring that poverty and famine would persistently rear their ugly faces to the world.

The most casual cruise on the Internet shows how much debate Malthus still stirs today. Basically, the Pollyannas of...

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