Wednesday, January 2, 2008


History records that Karl Marx had a fierce disregard for Thomas Malthus and his theory. Blaming the poor for their poverty was just not on for the socialist revolutionary from Trier, Germany. The system---capitalism---was to blame for everything. Dump capitalism, institute socialism, and people will presumably stop bonking. For Frederick Engels, socialism was like salt peter, it alone “makes possible that moral restraint of the propagative instinct which Malthus himself presents as the most effective and easiest remedy for over-population.”

This attitude still can be found in contemporary Marxist literature. Joel Kovel, for example, in the introduction to his book The Enemy of Nature, anticipated that critics would fault him for not giving sufficient weight to questions of population growth. He made no apologies. “At no point (in the book) does overpopulation appear among the chief candidates for the mantle of prime or efficient cause of the ecological crisis…I see it as a secondary dynamic—not secondary in importance, but in the sense of being determined by other features of the system. I remain a deeply committed adversary to the recurrent neo-Malthusianism that holds that if only the lower classes would stop their wanton breeding, all will be well; and I hold that human beings have ample power to regulate population so long as they have power over the terms of their social existence. To me, giving people that power is the main point, for which purpose we need a world where there are no more lower classes, and where all people are in control of their lives.”

The problem Joel, is that while we are waiting for your utopia to arrive, the world is adding 80 million people a year. We have to try to do something to stop that now.

And by the way, what was the socialist track-record in halting population growth in the third world, when “the people” were control of their lives (but apparently not of their hormones)? How did they do in Kenya, Tanzania, and Egypt under Nasser. How are they doing under the Marxist Mugabe in Zimbabwe? Why after trying their “classless” society did the Communist Chinese government find it necessary to institute a one-child policy?

Marxists still, after 150 years, engage in the fantasy that our species need obey no limits, that abundance is at hand if the world is rationally and democratically organized under “worker’s control”. “Malthus was right in asserting that there is always a surplus population; that there are always too many people in the world; he is wrong only when he asserts that there are more people on hand than can be maintained from the available means of subsistence.”

Engels made that statement more than a century ago, before Peak Oil. Modern Marxists have no such excuse.

The second to last word goes to my comrade, Chairman Albert Bartlett:

“Modern agriculture is the use of land to convert petroleum to food.”

The last word is mine, a corollary of the above: “Oil depletion. The ultimate contraceptive.”

Tim Murray,

Quadra Island, BC

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