Is Malthusian Theory valid Today?
We must, however, add that though the gloomy fare casts of Malthus have not turned out to be true due to several factors which have made their appearance only in recent times, yet the essentials of the theory have not been demolished. He said that preventive checks were exercised, positive would operate. This is true even today.
The Malthusian theory fully applies to countries like India. India is, at present, in that unenviable position which Malthus feared. We have the highest birth-rate and the highest death-rate in the world. Grinding poverty, ever-recurring epidemics, famine, communal quarrels are the order of the day. We are deficient in food supply. Our standard of living is incredibly low. Who can say that , Malthus was not a true prophet. if not for his country. at any rate for countries like India and China.
MODERN THEORY OF POPULATION: THE OPTIMUM THEORY
Modem economists have rejected the Malthusian theory of maximum population which, if exceeded, will spell misery in the country. Instead of the maximum population, the modem economists have substituted the idea of the optimum population. By optimum population is meant the ideal number of the population that a country should have, considering its resources. The optimum means the best and the most desirable size of a country’s population. It is the right number. When a country’s population is neither too big nor small, but just that much which the country ought to have, it is called the optimum population. Given a certain amount of resources, state of technical knowledge and a certain stock of capital, there will be a definite size of the population at which the real income of goods and services per capital will be the highest. This the optimum size. The optimum number can. therefore. he defined as the one at which per capital income is the highest.
To be Optimum, Let us suppose that natural resources, stock of capital equipment and state of technology remain fixed in a country. Now assume that population which was initially very small relative to these other resources begins to increase. With the increase in population, labour force of the country will also increase. As more and more labour-is combined with the fixed amounts of these other resources, output per capital or real income per head will rise. Why ? This is because the increase in the quantity of labour will make possible greater degree of specialization and more efficient use of natural and capital resources of the country. With a very small population or labour force, there was a limited scope for specialization, for each worker was required to do all sorts of jobs. But as population and, therefore, the quantity of labour increases, specialization becomes possible. Each man then need not do all the jobs or make all parts of a good. Everybody can concentrate on the job for which he is best suited. Division of labour among the different workers, which is made possible by the increase in
population, greatly increases the efficiency arc productivity of labour. At the optimum. For all these reasons, output
per capital will rise for a time as population increases. As the population continuous to increase. a point will finally be reached when capital and natural resources are fully utilized and, therefore. output per capital is the highest. The level of population at which per capital output or real income is the maximum is called the optimum population. If population still goes on increasing, that is. crosses the optimum point, output per capita will start declining. The country would then become over-populated.
Beyond the Optimum. Why does the output per capital fall when the optimum point is exceeded? This is because there are now more men in the economy than needed by it. A given amount of capital and natural resources have to be shared out among a large number , of workers with the result that each of them has a smaller amount of equipment. materials and natural resources to work with. For this reason the average productivity declines. It is very likely that many people may not get employment and. therefore. add nothing to production. Thus, there is likely to be unemployment of labour. It so happens that when people do not get employment outside agriculture. they cling to agriculture. The pressure of population on land increases. But the additional men. who get employment in agriculture. add nothing to production.
The concepts of optimum population, under population
and over-population are represented in below.
In this figure, the size of the population is measured on X-axis and output per capita on Y-axis. It is evident from the figure that. in the beginning, as population increases, output per capita also increases. Output per capita goes on increasing with every increase in population till OM population is reached. At OM level of population, the output per capita MP is the highest. If population now increases beyond OM, output per capita falls. Therefore. OM is the optimum population. If the population of the country is less than OM, it will be under-populated and if the population is more than OM. it will be a case of over-population.
Optimum population is not-a fixed and rigid number but is movable. As explained above. optimum
population is relative to resources and technology, Given the amount of capital. natural resources and the state of technology. there is a difinite size of population at which output per capita will be maximum. But the quantity of capital and natural resources and the state of technologjsare subjected to change. In fact. changes in them often take place. When there is any change in them. the optimum level of population will also change. For instance. when either there is an increase in the quantity of capital equipment and available natural resources or the country makes progress in technology. per capi a output curve will shift upward and to the right with the result that the optimum level of population will increase.
The concept is relative to natural resources, capital equipment and state of technical knowledge. It is assumed that they remain the same. Since these factors are subject to constant change, the optimum is a constantly shifting concept. As such we can seldom arrive at a stable optimum which may have significance in economic analysis and practice. Thus, the theory is based on wrong assumptions.
Also, mere size of the population is of little significance. The composition of the population, e.g., age-distribution or distribution as regards workers and non-workers matter a great deal. Even if the population of a country is of the optimum size, the existence of a
large number of non-working population such as infants and the aged, is bound to affect adversly the productive capacity of the economy.
The theory ignores political, social. strategic and other aspects of the population problem and considers only the economic aspect. For instance, a small population may be advocated on economic grounds but it will be dangerous from the point of view
of defence. Adam Smith rightly said, “Defence is better than opulenc. The concept of the optimum population is
Only of theoretical interest. Actually, it is not easy to attain the optimum size by reducing population in the case of over-population and increas in it in the case of under-population.