Short Essay on the Malthusian Theory of Population

Robert Malthus, an English clergyman put forward the theory of population in his book’ An Essay on The Principle of Population in 1978.

He was impressed by the unlimited urge of sex to produce children and limited power of earth to produce food. His explanation has been reduced to the following points:

(i) Human population increases faster than food production Population increases in geometric progression and food production in arithmetic ratio. Geometric progression is 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64,128, and arithmetic progression is 1,2,4,6,8,10.


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(ii) Population always increases when the means of subsistence (existence) increase.

(iii) There are two ways viz., positive and preventive checks which can keep the level of population checked.

(iv) Population has a tendency to be doubled after a period of 25 years.

(v) Laws of diminishing returns apply to agriculture. Population gets food from agriculture.


Malthus painted a bleak picture of the countries if the population continues to rise at such an alarming speed. He opined that there will be an imbalance between population growth and the food supply. Under these circumstances, T.R. Malthus predicted cannibalism (that is man eating man) in the future. In order to control the population growth, he suggested preventive and positive checks. These are as follows:

(a) Preventive checks:

These checks exercise influence on the growth of population by bringing down the birth rates. These checks are use of family planning methods such as contraceptives, late marriage and self-restraint.

(b) Positive checks:


These exercise their influence on the grow population by increasing the death rate. Examples of these checks are natural catastrophes famines, droughts, floods and spread of epidemics etc.

Malthus further stressed that the nation should immediately adopt preventive checks to cont/ol the population otherwise nature shall interfere through its untold miseries which has been discussed in the preceding paragraph. A storm of controversy was raised over Malthus art theory of population with the following points of criticism.

1. In western countries population has failed to grow as rapidly as predicted by Malthus. As a result the living standards of people have increased.

2. Malthusian concept of population is believed to be governed by the law of diminishing returns as applied to agriculture. Advancement in technical know-how and application of technology in agricultural has failed this law.

3. Malthus held the view that with the increase in subsistence, food supply will increase population. But in western countries, there has been control over birth in-spite of increase in subsistence resources.

4. Malthus gave no exact proof about his assertion that population increases in geometric progression and food supply in arithmetic progression.

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