The Malthusian Zombie
By Bryan Caplan
The latest sighting of the Malthusian Zombie is in Greg Clark’s A Farewell to Alms. At least these days, however, the zombie only has to show himself for zombie-slayers to emerge. Reviewer David Warsh directs us to an interesting article asking “Is Anywhere Stuck in a Malthusian Trap?” Punchline: Even in modern Africa, the Malthusian story doesn’t work.
A Malthusian would predict that rising GDP per capita would lead to a rising population, whilst rising population would (with a smaller lag) lead to falling GDP per capita. The data for an African sample… suggests that there is no significant link from GDP per capita growth in decade one to population growth in decade two and a significant but small impact of population growth in decade one on GDP per capita growth in decade two using a pooled sample. This provides scant evidence to support a theory that the region is caught in a Malthusian cycle.
That said, I’ve heard a lot of good things about A Farewell to Alms. With luck, the Malthusian Zombie will be too lethargic to cannibalize the rest of the book.