Malthus Reconsidered:

Population, Natural Resources, and Markets (No. 38)


Malthus will always be associated with the idea of a social and economic trap, in which population grows faster than food production. But Malthus did not believe in a population apocalypse, as many of his followers do today. He argued that basic institutions such as property rights, marriage, and free markets would restrain excessive population and encourage economic growth.

This essay, “Malthus Reconsidered: Population, Natural Resources, and Markets,” will end the misunderstanding Malthus suffers from his supporters and his critics. The author, Ross B. Emmett, wrote this essay while a Julian Simon Fellow at PERC in 2005. Julian Simon Fellows explore environmental problems in the tradition of Julian Simon, whose studies challenged conventional wisdom, especially in natural resource and population issues. Simon’s views have been increasingly accepted over time. This essay is part of the PERC Policy Series of papers on timely environmental topics.


Ross B. Emmett is associate professor of political theory and constitutional democracy at Michigan State University. His teaching focuses on the political economy of constitutional democracies. His research concerns economic thought and the history of economics at the University of Chicago between the 1920s and the 19802. He is co-director of the...
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