Michael Philip on Malthus (Smart)

I view Malthus as a tempered social revisionist who knocked down myths, thought in terms of social science mechanisms (he had both supply and demand and Keynesian macro in surprisingly sophisticated forms, not to mention an early form of Darwin’s theory of evolution), and was painfully aware of the importance of contingent human choices. He is one of the five most underrated, and also least understood, economists. To be sure, he favored small government and opposed the Poor Laws. But he was skeptical enough about the notion of a voluntary self-regulating order that I would not quite call him a classical liberal. I read his economics as starting with the Bible, and asking whether any mechanisms might bring us to a less tragic outcome than what is found in the Old Testament. He was never quite sure of the answer, and his mix of moralizing and skepticism later attracted Keynes.

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