07 May 2021

The consequences of population growth

The consequences of population growth - topic by Clara


 Essay by Lawrence 


 Thomas Malthus was one of the first economists to write about population growth in modern times. In his book “An Essay on the Principle of Population”, published in 1798, he came to the conclusion that when a country’s food production improves people tend to spend their newly gained prosperity in bearing more people. Eventually, the country will return back to low food supplies because of population growth. 


But the fear of population growth still persists today long after it has been shown that Malthus was wrong and the consequences of population growth are not a matter of food supply only. Indeed food supplies can be subject to mismanagement of agriculture, lack of an infrastructure to deliver food supplies, waste, over pricing, and today genetically modified organisms. The biggest threat to food supplies today is not climate change but rather biopiracy and more specifically, seed appropriation and patent law. 


Biopiracy is basically legally or illegally taking over of the knowledge and resources from countries and used for profit without sharing with the people who had their resources stolen. Similarly, is the appropriation of seeds from a country and then genetically modify and patent them thus making it illegal for local farmers from keeping seeds for the next season. There is no doubt that the powers that be are making a good profit for allowing such pilfering and robbery of their country. Today food has nothing to do with population growth or not. 


 In western countries today there are serious political movements who argue that immigrants are invading their civilized country because of population growth and because these immigrants are motivated by a desire to take local jobs. Usually the countries with the most vociferous anti immigrant movements are also the countries that held large empires in the world that plundered and ransacked resources from local peoples for centuries. 


What Malthus unwittingly pointed out was that when people have a stable life they prefer to stay put and raise a family rather than go to war, start revolutions and so on. 


One of the consequences of population growth is that wealth will eventually be distributed in smaller amounts but amongst more people. Sure there will be wealthier people, but also more wealth created. Today we know that there are many billionaires in the world, and we also know that wealth is still being inequitably distributed. However, when we talk about billionaires it does not mean that these people have piles of currency notes under their mattress or bank account. Their wealth is measured in terms of shares, asset portfolios, patents, ownership of companies and so on. And then there are those who money launder their illegal money. 


But from our perspective what matters is that before the fall of the Soviet Union people spoke of millionaires. Before the late 1980s the world was divided into more or less three spheres: the west with all the wealth and millionaires, the Soviet Union and Red China, and the rest of the poor world. The real wealth was held in the hands of the west especially because western countries were the bankers of the rest of the corrupt countries. According to Wikipedia in 1987 the population was about five billion people, today according to the WorldoMeter site (https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/) the population this week is about 7, 863, 972, 588 and counting. To compare, the European wealth in 2019 is estimated to have been 90,752 (US billion). The point is that for many adults alive today in the west we never experienced such a huge movement of people before the fall of the Berlin Wall. 


One real consequence of population growth is inflation especially of fixed property, which also happens to be a key component of wealth portfolio. The value of property is usually increased either by limiting access to desirable areas, or inflation. Unfortunately wages and salaries do not keep up with real earnings power. Hence, whilst, on paper many countries look rich and prosperous, especially with the deceptive per capita earnings, in reality wealth is not equitably distributed. Not everyone has the same purchasing power when a modest property costs a factor of dozens of years to pay it. 


The irony is that local people see immigrants as taking their jobs and creating scarcity of employment opportunities; immigrants see advanced countries as opportunities paved in gold. In the meantime it is well established now Europe needs a population boost just to maintain the present productivity rates. 


 In Chapter* Five of An Essay on the Principle of Population, Malthus rejects the idea of physically just giving money to the poor. He does, however, recognise that the rich can become poor and the poor become rich: this is still very true with shareholding millionaires today. However, the real problem of population growth must be instability in the development of a country or region. 


*An Essay on the Principle of Population, by Thomas Malthus https://www.gutenberg.org/files/4239/4239-h/4239-h.htm 


Best Lawrence 


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