first edition of Principles of Political Economy: Considered with a
View to their Practical Application appeared in 1820, seven years
later Malthus followed it with Definitions in Political Economy.
While he is best known for his theory of population and the supply of
sustenance, his works on the economic system and its functioning is
this time in England and, for that matter, the world, the entire system
of economic exchange and balance had been revolutionized by the
industrial revolution, colonialism, the steam engine, and urbanization.
The economy was no longer localized; it was well on its way to
globalization. The Corn Laws, first passed in England in 1804 and
subsequently revised numerous times, created a micro- macro- economic
case study about which Malthus and others could argue and observe.
In his Observations on the Effects of the Corn Laws (see below
for text) Malthus argues with Smith's position concerning the effects of
the laws, labor costs, and trade.
was trained as a minister, but spent his career as Professor of Modern
History and Political Economy at the East India College in Haileybury.
According to Malthus, population is kept in balance either by
devastation or self-interest. If the poor are allowed to reach a
higher standard of living, they will restrain population growth to
become upwardly mobile and to have enough to provide a similar
opportunity for their children. This was radical thought in the
early 1800's. Many preferred to allow the "natural" course of
starvation and illness to weed out the population, agreeing with Malthus'
pessimistic view that the poor would be unable to exercise
self-restraint. They also liked Malthus' view that helping the
poor only took resources from those who would make better use of them.
So, on the one hand, Malthus was in favor of creating an economy to
allow the poor to better themselves and at the same time against the
Theoretical criticisms came from people like Everett and Godwin, among
others. Everett questioned the geometric progression as a model
for population growth. Full text from both authors is available
theoretical arguments concerning the economy by Malthus, Ricardo, Smith,
and others both described the rise of the mercantile economy and helped
to mold and shape it. The various roles of government, banking,
money, property and capital were defined and created the system we live
Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio.
Subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio. A slight
acquaintance with numbers will show the immensity of the first power in
comparison of the second. (An Essay on the Principle of
number of labourers also being above the proportion of work in the
market, the price of labor must tend towards a decrease; while the price
of provisions would at the same time tend to rise. (An Essay on
the Principle of Population, 1798)
these facts is not to favour taxes; but to give one of the strongest
reasons against them; namely, that they are not only a great evil on
their first imposition, but that the attempt to get rid of them
afterwards, is often attended with fresh suffering. (Principles
of Political Economy, Section X, On the Immediate Causes of the
Progress of Wealth, 1820)