Thomas Malthus: on the uselessness of old age pensions, etc.

There’s nothing particularly new in the liberal economic arsenal, since they’ve been trotting out the same stuff for more than 200 years. Take the incredibly naive Thomas Malthus, for instance, on age pensions, support for single mothers and for the unemployed:

By the application of calculations to the probabilities of life and the interest of money, he [Condorcet] proposes that a fund should be established which should assure to the old an assistance, produced, in part, by their own former savings, and, in part, by the savings of individuals who in making the same sacrifice die before they reap the benefit of it. The same, or a similar fund, should give assistance to women and children who lose their husbands, or fathers, and afford a capital to those who were of an age to found a new family, sufficient for the proper development of their industry. These establishments, he observes, might be made in the name and under the protection of the society.

Such establishments and calculations may appear very promising upon paper, but when applied to real life they will be found to be absolutely nugatory … If by establishments of this kind of spur to industry be removed, if the idle and the negligent are placed upon the same footing with regard to their credit, and the future support of their wives and families, as the active and industrious, can we expect to see men exert that animated activity in bettering their condition which now forms the master spring of public prosperity? (An Essay on the Principle of Population, pp. 46-47)

Ah yes, the idle poor have always been with us. Shouldn’t reward them for their laziness, now, should we?


2 thoughts on “Thomas Malthus: on the uselessness of old age pensions, etc.

  1. I love Marx on “Parson” Malthus, plagiarist and ideologue of classes which consume but do not produce, i.e. the aristocracy and its sycophants (unproductive laborers). And isn’t environmentalism often a kind of neo-Malthusianism?

    1. Actually, 2 Thessalonians 3:10 is a kind of litmus test: ‘he who does not work shall not eat’. Lenin was right in his use of this verse as a slogan after the revolution (and its embodiment in the constitution of the USSR): those who do not work belong to the ruling class.

      There’s plenty of neo-Malthusians around, but they could well do with a read of his essay on population, for then they’d see how idiotic it is. Theodicy as a basis for political economy: the sin of lust (procreation) always overrides means of subsistence, leading to an apocalyptic scenario of misery and vice – for the poor and working class of course.

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