Economics, Literature and Scepticism

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I am a PhD student in Economics. I am originally from South Africa and plan to return there after my PhD. I completed my M. Comm in Economics and my MA In Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Cape Town, where I worked as a lecturer before starting my PhD.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Malthus Misunderstood?

Posted by Simon Halliday | Friday, June 13, 2008 | Category: |

Global Food Crisis vs. Pop Growth

Another person doesn't seem to understand Malthus properly, or modern development economics. The capabilities of hybrid seeds and fertilizer (NYT) in Sub-Saharan Africa (read this comment on the NYT article for a critique, Jeffrey Sachs and other support this, De Long and others are more skeptical, Rodrik gives some good commentary.) are completely avoided by the article.

Mashimbye comments:
I know that economists, sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists,
historians, and philosophers might disagree with this hypothesis and
probably have theories of their own.
Um... yes. What about demographers? Do they know nothing about population? Have you forgotten that Malthus was an economist? That probably slipped your mind. Economists needing to comment on the work of other economists? Perish the thought...

I particularly don't like Mashimbye's idea of 'situations resonating', does this mean that there is evidence to support your theory? What, specifically, is this evidence? Have you looked at demographic models that indicate that we are at the disaster stage that Malthus predicted (though models predict this should happen later)? Maybe the concern for M&G bloggers to have evidence is just my issue, oh well.

Yes, overpopulation is (potentially?) a problem, but be more knowledgeable about what development economists (Rodrik, Sachs, Collier...) are saying please. Also, look at the evidence on the food crisis as assessed by them and others (even Paul Krugman has commented and Mark Thoma too over at Economist's View).

Also the claim that:
Increased production of food is long-term suicide. Our environment can take no more.
Is just plain inaccurate. Please look at the comments previously on how there can be dramatically increase food production in Africa without harming the environment. I refer you to Jeffrey Sachs's book The End of Poverty, moreover if you're skeptical about Sachs's commitment to the problem of the environment, think again and look at his more recent book, Common Wealth.

If you're interested in a note on Malthus, look at Bryan Caplan's commentary and another item of his here also commenting on Malthus and Clark's book A Farewell to Alms. Not directly relevant, but at least brings some of the ideas of Malthus directly to the table with some models, graphs and decent critique.


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