Tuesday, 16 February 2010
The New Malthus
My view of the future used to be a straightforward pessimism that went something like this; our lives are market-determined. Supply and demand means that if the supply of something exceeds supply its price goes down, where if demand exceeds supply the price goes up. So far, so Economics 101. Now, there are, broadly speaking, three important quantities in the world; people, energy, raw materials. The supply of the latter two is diminishing and will continue to diminish; therefore raw materials and energy have been getting, and will continue to get, more expensive. On the other hand, human beings continue to breed, so the supply of people is increasing. Therefore the price of people (what we earn in wages) will continue to fall. In other words, the future—and 2028 is soon enough for this to be felt—will be more expensive to live in, although we, speaking generally, will have less money to pay for it. There’s a horrible, sub-Malthusian feel of inevitability about this. Practically speaking I feel there must be a way out of it, though such ways don't automatically come to mind.