Was Malthus Right? Population and Resources in the 21st Century

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Was Malthus Right? Population and Resources in the 21st Century (27:00)
Item# 9109

The dire prediction by controversial economist Thomas Malthus that the world’s expanding population would swiftly outrun its food supply has not come to fruition—yet. In this program, demographer Paul Demeny, of the Population Council; Walter Reid, of the World Resources Institute; and Max Singer, co-founder of the Hudson Institute, join Ben Wattenberg, of the American Enterprise Institute, in debating issues such as the powerful influence of technology in refuting Malthus’ theory, population projections for the 21st century, and the very real economic and physical aspects of resource depletion. (27 minutes)

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Segments in this Video - (8)

1. Controversy Over Malthusian Theory (01:36)
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The ideas that Thomas Malthus put forth in "An Essay on the Principle of Population" have pervaded scientific and humanist thought for over 200 years. Malthusian theory continues to be a controversial topic.

2. Importance of Thomas Malthus (03:32)

Thomas Malthus was an 18th-century, controversial economist. He focused his theories on the balance between population and world resources. To prove his theories, he brought in observation, statistics, the results of his extensive travel, and more.

3. Darwin and Malthusian Theory (02:45)

As population grew, Thomas Malthus predicted massive starvation and pestilence, especially in the cities. Darwin's "Origin of the Species" indirectly sprang from the Malthusian theory of competition for resources.

4. World Resource Depletion (04:04)

In countries like Africa, population outpaces the ability of food resources to replace themselves. In these types of examples Thomas Malthus was right. Experts, however, disagree on the definition of world resource depletion.

5. Urbanization and Population (04:17)

Thomas Malthus wrote at the time in history when everything was changing. People became more urbanized, and population increased, outstripping urban infrastructures' abilities to care for them.

6. Population, Income, and Production (02:15)

A classical economist, Thomas Malthus argued that human response to population growth can differ. He had never seen, however, a sustained growth pattern of per capita growth of income because people learned to produce more efficiently.

7. Population Projections, Economic Activity, and Environment (02:48)

Today, economists and population experts have the opportunity to face policy issues of lower population projections. Experts debate the link between economic activity and environment.

8. Legacy of Thomas Malthus (03:20)

Thomas Malthus forced people to look ahead at the effects of a growing world population. Did Malthus have a pessimistic view of human nature? Experts argue that he may have taken a "cautious view" about where humanity was headed.

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