]]]]]]]]]]]]]          THE GHOSTS OF MALTHUS          [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[
                        By Steven W. Mosher               (10/27/1989)
                     Director of Asian Studies, 
              Claremont Institute, Montclair, Calif.

       (Letter to the Editor, NATIONAL REVIEW, 10/../1989)    

     Ray Percival's muzzling of Malthus and his pro-population-control 
pit bulls, the neo-Malthusians ["Malthus and His Ghost," Aug. 18], was 
masterly.  Paul Ehrlich and the doom-and-gloom crowd depict man as a 
voracious consumer.  Yet every stomach comes with two hands attached.  
As Percival points out, by producing more than he consumes man has 
worked his way up from the near-universal poverty that was his lot two 
short centuries ago.
     Percival's argument needs emendation at only one point.  In his 
refutation of Ehrlich's simplistic formulation that "more people = 
more famine," he proposes that there have been "at most 15 million 
famine deaths" in this century.  In fact, there have been nearly twice 
that in China alone.  Most of which occurred from 1959 to 1962, 
following the Great Leap Forward.
     It was the calculations of men, not the vagaries of nature, that 
led to mass starvation after the Great Leap Forward.  Mao Tse-tung had 
organized the countryside into huge agricultural collectives, only to 
neglect farming.  Food production plummeted as peasants in vast 
numbers were dispatched to mine coal, smelt iron, and build public 
works.  When food shortages threatened the cities, Mao ordered grain 
collection to be stepped up, feeding the urban population by beggaring 
the rural.  Peking's ruling group chose, in effect, to sacrifice 
millions of their countrymen, rather than reveal their own 
incompetence.  Altogether, in what may be the worst famine of the 
century, between twenty and thirty million peasants died.
     This, of course, is a familiar story, told in the Ukrainian 
famine, the Cambodian famine.  We live in an age in which governments, 
more specifically one-party Marxist dictatorships, deliberately cause 
famines.  Percival's optimism about the ability of unfettered human 
populations to feed themselves is perfectly on the mark:  it takes 
considerable evil genius to create economic systems and policies which 
render people incapable of providing for their basic needs.
     The population-control zealots have come to treat their corpus of 
belief more like a religious system than a scientific theory.  
Precisely as philosophers of science like Thomas Kuhn and Paul 
Feyerabend predicted, it is impossible to convince anyone operating 
within neo-Malthusian constraints of its falsity by rational or 
empirical argument.  They are immeasurable fortified in their 
intransigence by the ample funds to which they have access, since they 
have managed to convince many governments and foundations that they hold 
the key to mankind's success as a species:  reducing the numbers of 
living, breathing, emoting, and loving human beings.

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