Since the late 18th century, humanity has enjoyed the most prolonged period of economic growth in history. This is in no small part due to the Industrial Revolution, which put mechanization and technology at the forefront of economics. Since then, there have always been those who believe that this upward trajectory is unsustainable and will inevitably collapse upon itself.
In his 1798 work, An Essay on the Principle of Population, the English economist Thomas Malthus theorized that the population growth of his time, driven by the economic developments of the Industrial Revolution, was unsustainable and would soon collapse upon itself. Due to the “passion between the sexes,” Malthus reasoned that population growth would be exponential, something that history has proven to be correct. He also reasoned that agricultural output would not be able to meet the demand of a rapidly growing population. From this, he inferred that famine and wars over scarce resources must soon follow. This would, in turn, cause a reduction in the size of the population, which would allow agricultural output to meet the population’s demand and thus facilitate population growth once more. This would once again lead to famine and war, which would once again lead to a drop in population, which would once again lead to better economic conditions, which would once again lead to a rising population, which would once again lead to famine and war, and so on ad infinitum. This is what we call a Malthusian Trap.Read More