The views of Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) on population, first published in his Essay on the Principle of Population, 1798, continue to be hotly debated, either acclaimed or opposed, as do his views on microeconomics. There is also a widely held view that his macroeconomics lacks coherence and is more a collection of isolated jottings. This book challenges this assumption by presenting textual evidence that Malthus’ macroeconomics constitutes a significant system of thought with considerable academic merit.
This work reawakens the debate about the relative merits of Malthus and Ricardo as macroeconomists and contends that Malthus offers important macroeconomic ideas and policy proposals relevant to modern economic problems. The chapters present and analyse Malthus’ ideas on topics such as the determinants of aggregate economic growth; the causes of general depression; the remedies for mass unemployment; the balance between laissez-faire and government intervention; the optimum division of expenditure between consumption, saving, and investment; the distribution of income between wages, profits, and rents; and the degree of economic inequality. Particular emphasis is given to his view that the pattern of distribution of wealth between the upper, lower, and middle classes is a major determinant or factor in the production of wealth, and that continued economic development depends on the growth of a large and affluent middle class. The radical nature of some of his ideas and policy proposals on the ownership and distribution of land is highlighted. An extensive treatment of Say’s Law, incorporating aspects of the correspondence between Say and Malthus, addresses the question of whether Malthus showed that Say’s Law is merely a truism and lacks any scientific relevance. The book also sheds new light on the nature of the influence of Malthus on Keynes.
This combination of a search for textual authenticity and a critical assessment of the views of commentators on Malthus will be of significant interest to students and scholars of economic theory and the history of economics.
Table of Contents
I Malthus’s methodology
II Saving, investment, and consumption
III Effective demand and effective supply
IV Manufacturing, machinery, and inventions
V Population growth and per capita economic growth
VI Land, landlords, rent, and diminishing returns
VII Labour and Wages
VIII Capital, profits, interest, investment, and the wages- profits relation
IX Say’s Law
X Laissez-faire and government intervention. Private sector and public sector
XI Unproductive labour and unproductive consumption
XII Causes of growth and depression: Malthus’s theory and alternatives
XIII Distribution, redistribution, and the balance between economic equality and economic inequality
XIV Malthus and recent debates on economic inequality
John Pullen is Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales, Australia.