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My rejection of over-population as a problem is shaped by being familiar with the rejection of Malthus, made explicit my American commentators and economists in the 1800s. Most especially, look at Henry Carey's 1851 Harmony of Interests, in which he assailed British economics.

Carey was the greatest U.S. economist of the 19th century; I generally find that I can take any recent book on economics and judge its worth by looking in the index to see how many mentions of Henry Carey there are. If there are none, or perhaps just a short note, the book has always, ALWAYS, turned out to be some apologia for monetarism or some other dementia.

British economic thinking, Carey wrote,

is unsound and unnatural, and second, a theory invented for the purpose of accounting for the poverty and wretchedness which are its necessary results. The miseries of Ireland are charged to over-population, although millions of acres of the richest soils of the kingdom are waiting drainage to take their place among the most productive in the world, and although the Irish are compelled to waste more labour than would pay, many times over, for all the cloth and iron they consume. The wretchedness of Scotland is charged to over-population when a large portion of the land is so tied up by entails as to forbid improvement, and almost forbid cultivation. The difficulty of obtaining food in England is ascribed to over-population, when throughout the kingdom a large portion of the land is occupied as pleasure grounds, by men whose fortunes are due to the system which has ruined Ireland and India. Over-population is the ready excuse for all the evils of a vicious system, and so will it continue to be until that system shall see its end... (pp. 64-65)

In conflict with the British system, Carey was a proponent of what was  known until about the 1920s, as the American System of political economy. There is an excellent write up of it on Wikipedia.

I would like to see, for example, a calculation of the lost opportunity cost of having thousands of the most brilliant minds in physics, mathematics, and computer science, working the past three decades on quantifying and modeling the behavior of the financial markets, instead of working on problems like replacing carbon-based fuels, or redesigning urban environments to end suburbanization.

by NBBooks on Thu Dec 6th, 2007 at 04:13:36 PM EST
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