Malthus: For and Against

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In the late 18th and early 19th centuries a debate arose over the impact that rapidly increasing population would have on the standard of living. The pessimistic school, represented by Malthus, argued that population would inevitably increase at a geometric rate, whilst agricultural output would only increase arithmetically. Thus, the standard of living of ordinary people would suffer unless they practised some kiind of family planning and restraint. The optimists, many of whom were free market economists, argued that human ingenuity, more scientific agricultural practises, and efficiencies of the free market would cope with expanding populations and that, in fact, life would get much better for ordinary people.

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Milton Friedman and the Free Society

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