The Reverend Thomas Malthus may well have provided the possibility of a new pick-up line.

Let’s begin with his two laws of human nature, established by the “Being who first arranged the system of the universe”:

First, That food is necessary to the existence of man.

Secondly, That the passion between the sexes is necessary and will remain nearly in its present state (An Essay on the Principle of Population, p. 4).

The very assertion that one’s philosophical hypotheses are laws of the universe seems to have been a fashion among the classical economists of the time. A mark of their bounded specificity, I would suggest, but also a rhetorical device to give weight to their arguments. To bolster his scientific credentials, Malthus soon enough deploys mathematical terms. The availability of food may increase in an “arithmetical ratio,” he opines, but population does so in a “geometrical ratio” (p. 6). Even more, he goes on to speak of the algebra of lust: “The passion between the sexes has appeared in every age to be so nearly the same that it may always be considered, in algebraic language, as a given quantity” (p. 40). Of these two “scientific laws,” lust is the stronger, no matter how much geometry and algebra is involved. Or rather, it precisely because of the mathematical nature of the two laws that lust is more powerful. Given the geometrical nature of lust, “A slight acquaintance with numbers will shew the immensity of the first power in comparison of the second” (p. 4).

One cannot help wonder at how the good reverend made a move for sex, or what a Malthusian pick-up line might be – “in light of the irresistible geometrical power of my libido, would you care to …?”

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