Malthus Across Nations
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Malthus Across Nations

The Reception of Thomas Robert Malthus in Europe, America and Japan

Edited by Gilbert Faccarello, Masashi Izumo and Hiromi Morishita

The writings of Thomas Robert Malthus continue to resonate today, particularly An Essay on the Principle of Population which was published more than two centuries ago. Malthus Across Nations creates a fascinating picture of the circulation of his economic and demographic ideas across different countries, highlighting the reception of his works in a variety of nations and cultures. This unique book offers not only a fascinating piece of comparative analysis in the history of economic thought but also places some of today’s most pressing debates into an accurate historical perspective, thereby improving our understanding of them.
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Chapter 2: The reception of Malthus’s Essay on Population in the United States

David Andrews

Abstract

The American Declaration of Independence reflects the same Enlightenment ideals that led William Godwin and the Marquis de Condorcet to argue for the possibility of the perfectibility of humanity through institutional reform, so Malthus’s Essay on Population also serves as a rebuke to Americans who, believing that European poverty was due to European institutions, sought to build a new society that would provide freedom, equality and general prosperity. But there were competing visions. Nationalist supporters of government promotion of manufacturing argued that Malthusian misery and vice were not inevitable because, in the absence of oppressive European institutions, productivity increases as population increases. Southern defenders of slavery, on the other hand, viewed Malthus as a symbol of the horrific so-called ‘free labour system’, under which wage workers, who could be exploited and discarded, were worse off than slaves because of the slave owners’ interest in the well-being of their property.

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