Economics and other social scientists have long debated how population growth affects a society. The most direct effect is on the size of the labor force: A large population means more workers to produce goods and services. At the same time, it means more people to consume those goods and services. Beyond these obvious effects, population growth interacts with the other factors of production in ways that are less obvious and more open to debate.

Stretching Natural Resources

Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834), an English minister and early economic thinker, is famous for his book called An Essay on the Principle of Population as It Affects the Future Improvement of Society. In it, he offered what may be history’s most chilling forecast. Malthus argued that an ever-increasing population would continually strain society’s ability to provide for itself. As a result, mankind was doomed to forever live in poverty Malthus’s logic was sunple. He began noting that “food is necessary to the existence of man” and that “the passion between the sexes is necessary and will remain nearly in its present state He concluded that “the pow er of population is infinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.” According to Malthus, the only check on population growth was “misery and vice.” Attempts by

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