Commentary: The Specter Of Robert Malthus, Part 3

We will continue our discussion of Robert Malthus. In part 1, we gave an overview of our path forward. In part 2, we talked about how Malthus just hates helping poor people. He advocates, give them no help, make them work and get some self-respect. In this, part 3, we talk about how he says that any one that cannot take care of themselves should be allowed to die – he claims its the law of nature. What a *********.

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He comments are so terrible, that I cannot summarize them, so, I will just quote them here.

“Every step tells. He who performs his duty faithfully will reap the full fruits of it, whatever may be the number of others who fail. This duty is intelligible to the humblest capacity. It is merely, that he is not to bring beings into the world, for whom he cannot find the means of support. When once this subject is cleared from the obscurity thrown over it by parochial laws and private benevolence, every man must feel the strongest conviction of such an obligation. If he cannot support his children, they must starve; and if he marry in the face of a fair probability that he shall not be able to support his children, he is guilty of all the evils, which he thus brings upon himself, his wife and his offspring. It is clearly his interest, and will tend greatly to promote his happiness, to defer marrying, till by industry and economy he is in a capacity to support the children that he may reasonably expect from his marriage; and as he cannot in the mean time gratify his passions without violating an express command of God, and running a great risk of injuring himself, or some of his fellow-creatures, considerations of his own interest and happiness will dictate to him the strong obligation to a moral conduct while he remains unmarried.”

This comes from Malthus, a man who states later in the book that marriage is just “legalized prostitution”. He declares above that if you cannot provide for your children, then your children must starve. He may be a minister, but this is not Christian.

“It is an evident truth that, whatever may be the rate of increase in the means of subsistence, the increase of population must be limited by it, at least after the food has once been divided into the smallest shares that will support life. All the children born, beyond what would be required to keep up the population to this level, must necessarily perish, unless room be made for them by the deaths of grown persons. It has appeared indeed clearly in the course of this work, that in all old states the marriages and births depend principally upon the deaths, and that there is no encouragement to early unions so powerful as a great mortality. To act consistently therefore, we should facilitate, instead of foolishly and vainly endeavouring to impede, the operations of nature in producing this mortality; and if we dread the too frequent visitation of the horrid form of famine, we should sedulously encourage the other forms of destruction, which we compel nature to use. Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits. In our towns we we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and court the return of the plague. In the country, we should build our villages near stagnant pools, and particularly encourage settlements in all marshy and unwholesome situations. But above all, we should reprobate specific remedies for ravaging diseases; and those benevolent, but much mistaken men, who have thought they were doing a service to mankind by projecting schemes for the total extirpation of particular disorders. If by these and similar means the annual mortality were increased from 1 in 36 or 40, to 1 in 18 or 20, we might probably every one of us marry at the age of puberty, and yet few be absolutely starved.”

Here Malthus claims that society should welcome epidemics. When you read this, think about how our country has handled the COVID-19 pandemic. One does not need to read much more to know that these words are from the bowels of hell.

“After the public notice which I have proposed had been given, and the system of poor-laws had ceased with regard to the rising generation, if any man chose to marry, without a prospect of being able to support a family, he should have the most perfect liberty so to do. Though to marry, in this case, is, in my opinion, clearly an immoral act, yet it is not one which society can justly take upon itself to prevent or punish; because the punishment provided for it by the laws of nature falls directly and most severely upon the individual who commits the act, and through him, only more remotely and feebly, on the society. When nature will govern and punish for us, it is a very miserable ambition to wish to snatch the rod from her hands, and draw upon ourselves the odium of executioner. To the punishment therefore of nature he should be left, the punishment of want. He has erred in the face of a most clear and precise warning, and can have no just reason to complain of any person but himself when he feels the consequences of his error. All parish assistance should be denied him; and he should be left to the uncertain support of private charity. He should be taught to know, that the laws of nature which are the laws of God, had doomed him and his family to suffer for disobeying their repeated admonitions; that he had no claim of right on society for the smallest portion of food, beyond that which his labour would fairly purchase; and that if he and his family were saved from feeling the natural consequences of his imprudence he would owe it to the pity of some kind of benefactor, to whom, therefore, he ought to be bound by the strongest ties of gratitude.”

People like Malthus really scare me. They have such a privileged upbringing and have such an affinity for all the cute little moral sayings that the newly wealthy use for covering their tracks with regards to obtaining their wealth: “A penny saved is a penny earned” or “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise”. In the passage directly above, Malthus uses standard Christian morality as an excuse to isolate, punish, atomize, and kill fellow human beings. He may not be well known in the economic text books, but I believe his ideas are alive and well – the specter of Robert Malthus is upon us.

Next time, we will summarize and wrap up this series of commentary.

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