Population, Food, and Knowledge

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Johnson, D.G. “Population, Food, and Knowledge.” American Economic Review 90 (2000): 1-14.

When judging the current state of the world, one can examine many different aspects. Some such aspects include people, agriculture, and advancement of knowledge. These areas can help one better understand where the world has been, where it is currently at, and where it will be in the future. This kind of study is necessary so as to ensure that the future of the world will be positive, and not deteriorate like it could if it went ignored. D. Johnson’s article, Population, Food, and Knowledge, takes a look at such issues, and describes the past, present and future conditions of the world.

When observing the issue of food in the world, one can see that there is not an infinite supply. The world’s population is currently at its highest point in history, and people are the most nourished as they have ever been in the past. This may not seem like that important of an issue, but at one time, it was thought that the world’s population would exceed the food supply, so that people would go hungry. In 1798, Thomas Robert Malthus published a document with the view that the world’s population would one day exceed food supply. He argued that population grows exponentially, while food supply grows arithmetically. This would therefore lead to a shortage of food in the future. Malthus was not the first to state such an idea; the following was written in the Bible: “When goods increase, those who eat them increase.” (Ecclesiastes 5) Not only was Malthus relatively correct with his model population and food models, but he was also correct in that there would be an overall improvement to the lives of people in the future. The question still remains as to how mankind can escape such a food shortage as described by Malthus.

One such way to deal with a food shortage is to attain more food and, therefore, more production. In the past, there were very inefficient ways of farming. This meant...
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