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Bastiat on Malthus: Wisdom from 1850 for Optimism Today

By <a class="post-author" href="/about#tfisher">Travis Fisher</a> -- December 7, 2012

“If we face the facts courageously, we shall see that a large area has been left open for the exercise of our initiative.”

The holiday season is not only a time to count our blessings, but also to imagine (or perhaps simply recognize) an ever-improving future for ourselves and the broader society. To that end, we can be thankful that the theories of doom-and-gloom are wrong, and the disastrous predictions drawn from those theories bear no resemblance to reality.

Being both a great fan of the 19th century classical-liberal political economist Frederic Bastiat and a critic of neo-Malthusianism, I was surprised to discover recently that Bastiat devoted an entire chapter of his work “Economic Harmonies” to Malthus’s theory on population. As Master Resource readers probably know, it was Malthus’s theory on population that prompted historian Thomas Carlyle to refer to economics as “the dismal science.”