Re: overpopulation - more

Daniel Fabulich (
Mon, 6 Jul 1998 20:11:25 -0400 (EDT)

On Mon, 6 Jul 1998, Damien Broderick wrote:

> So, at least, it might seem. Malthus, who long ago forecast overpopulation
> doom, would prove to be the bleak prophet of utopia.

Malthus ultimately recanted his whole theory; not just the date, but the whole damnable thing, when he discovered that, actually, food production was increasing geometrically too. False alarm, as usual.

The best and clearest argument is this: economically speaking, people produce more than they consume on average; this is a well researched and much puzzled at fact. Of course, part of the reason this is true is because "economic production" includes a lot of things we wouldn't consider production from an ecological point of view: chopping down tress and turning them into paper, pumping oil out of the ground and turning it into disposable cutlery and building houses on uninhabited soil are all activities which economists would consider "production," but which obviously reduce the resources available to us.

However, it would be folly to understate the value of the economic prosperity which results. Because each person produces more than they consume, each extra person adds more extra wealth for each person to use; everyone becomes richer by this process (yes, as noted, some faster than others, but the effect is absolutely positive for everyone). More extra wealth means better housing, better eating, better education. And the more educated people we have out there, the more minds we have at work trying to figure out how to create even more wealth that we can sell to the rest of us.

So we can see already that so long as we don't run out of resources, more people leads to more prosperity. The question is, when do we run out of resources? Well, not when we run out of reosurces on earth; long before that it will become economically profitable to mine resources from nearby asteroids and planets. Not even when we run out of resources in our solar system; there are obviously orders of magnitude more energy and space available in other solar systems in our galaxy ... and so on. Have no fear that we will go about exhausting each source before moving on to the next: the price system makes certain that as we begin to approach the point where we are about to run out of an important resource, the price will rise, making it more profitable to leave the resource be and seek out a cheaper one, as we have been doing for centuries.

So the point is this: increasing population leads to increasing prosperity for all until we run out of useful resources in this universe; my money is on this not happening for several billions of years, if ever.