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Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The Relevance of Malthusian and Boserup Population Theories in an Economy

The Relevance of Malthusian and Boserup Population Theories in an Economy- Introduction

Human Population is a key driver in any given economy because it is source of labor which that pushes all economic responsibilities. Due to the significance of population studies, two renowned economists have developed theories that relate population, economic growth and technology. The first is English Robert Malthus who passed on in 1834 aged 68 years and Danish Ester Boserup. This paper takes a comparative analysis of the two theories in regard to economy, population and technology and their relevance in the current state of economy.

Malthusian theory of population published in his essay, The Principle of Population, is a pessimistic theory that foretold that population growth would surpass the rate of creation of main consumer goods leading to conflict. Malthus in his theory predicted that food supply would grow at an arithmetic progression rate; 1, 2, 3, and so on while the rate of population growth would take a geometric progression; 2, 4, 8, and so on.  This would make population surpass food production and lead to conflict that can only be resolved by occurrence of natural disasters to significantly reduce population.

On the other hand, Boserup gave a different opinion when she observed in 1965 that, population increase would stimulate technological advances to keep food production at check. Boserup observed that population growth should therefore be seen as an incentive for technology development from agrarian to modern cutting edge technology.

Malthusian population theory is based on the law of diminishing returns in that the more food production (Agriculture) takes place; land productivity reduces leading to poor subsequent yields. This makes it relevant to most economists’ view. However, it has a number of pit falls. To begin with, Malthus overlooked the potential of technological growth that would make production of tones of food for a given population. In the current state of economies, a number of countries use technology; mechanization of agriculture, to produce surplus food that can be exported to other countries or given as aid to less productive economies.
Secondly, Malthus never predicted measures that would be set to check population growth rate at bay.

Scientific method of birth control in the modern world has significantly reduced the growth of population making the Malthusian theory irrelevant. In addition, he never saw the impact of economic growth on population. As an economy grows, there is demographic transition that where population reduces. There are countries in the recent world that experience negative population growth to which causes concerns to government bodies. As a result, administrators are at times obligated with providing incentives for registered births.

Though Boserup’s theory of population is more relevant to the modern economy, the theory was based on an ideal/closed economy. Boserup never saw the impacts of immigration and emigration that can either lead to increase or decrease in population growth. As long as there an economy needs extra labor, there will be immigration to take up the job opportunities. The current unemployment rate in the United States has made her citizens seek for jobs outside territory. The idea of a closed economy is also irrelevant in the modern times due to effects of globalization that has opened up economies for growth and development. Job outsourcing is now a common practice that makes closed economy totally out of place.

As much as the two theories by Malthus and Boserup are opposing, they all do share common ideals. They both assume a closed economy. In addition, they share the opinion that population is on the rise; but, differ on the cost of population rise. Malthus sees population growth as the cause of reduced food production whereas Boserup obverses that population growth would lead to invention; hence, improved food production.

In conclusion, it would be prudent that The Principle of Population was an 18th century essay by Malthus. Boserup’s ideals were published in the 20th century. Today we live in the 21st century whose future potential growth lies in Information and Communication Technology, ICT. Malthusian theory was relevant in the agrarian technology for a less developed economy and it is irrelevant at some instances in the world today.

Boserup’s theory is based on the industrial revolution and the opportunities it creates. The ideals of a closed economy are not applicable in the information age we are in today. Information age has flattened the universe with the development of globalization making trade and opportunities more diverse. The two theories are based on economic principles and will still remain relevant to economists; for instance, the law of diminishing returns that still holds for a number of issues in economics.

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