World Hunger: A Neo-Malthusian Perspective

World Hunger: A Neo-Malthusian Perspective

World Hunger: A Neo-Malthusian Perspective

World Hunger: A Neo-Malthusian Perspective

Synopsis

List of Tables List of Figures Preface Introduction The Analytical Framework Methodology Worldwide Impending Hunger: The Empirical Picture The Evidence of Effective Malthusian Pressures: The Empirical Record Changes in the Agricultural Tehcnology Summary Appendixes Bibliography Index

Excerpt

A general and constant food shortage seems to be a condition plaguing humankind from prehistoric times to the present. However, the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries witnessed an impressive, persistent series of technology applications that enabled the world to more than simply maintain per-capita food levels while populations expanded at unprecedented and increasing rates. During this period growth rates of food production exceeding historically record high rates of population growth were characteristic of the world as a whole. This was also true for the major subdivisions, differentially affected by the new population trends: on the one hand, Europe and its "new territories" in the earlier period; and on the other, the less developed regions in the latter period, especially in the post-World War II era.

A great deal of intellectual fervor and energy has been expended throughout this period in order to document and prove the hopelessness of humankind's position vis-à-vis the food supply. Pessimistic dogma, buttressed by various intuitive and statistical data, as well as lurid forebodings of impending disasters recur repeatedly from Malthus to the present. This persistent recurrence is all the more curious when we note that today, Ethiopia notwithstanding, widespread famine is no longer with us, and that when food shortages do occur, they are typically considered to result not from declining per-capita output but rather from rising per-capita incomes and expectations.

Chapter I documents the concern expressed in the literature over the man/food dilemma over the course of the modern era. The patently mistaken or misleading inferences, which have characterized the discussion throughout this period, have resulted largely from one basic analytical flaw, of which many (and arguably especially) economists have been consistently guilty--the application of a short-run perspective to a problem whose essential characteristics cannot be properly perceived except in a long-run dynamic context. This is a shortcoming of not only Malthus, his contemporaries, and his disciples but also of later illustrious personages such as Alfred Marshall, Maynard Keynes, and many contemporary economists.

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