‘Poverty is not caused by overpopulation, overpopulation is caused by poverty’
Bangladesh is one of the poor countries with one of the highest population of the world. Is the country poor because of the huge number of people or the poverty itself is the reason behind the overpopulation? To answer this question, I have looked at the overall development condition and population of the world and tried to find the missing links between the two. First I presented some facts about world population and demography. Then I analyzed the Malthusian and Marxist views on population. I talked about the existing views that considered population growth as the main reason behind poverty. Then I discussed my arguments about those view and discussed how population growth is not the primary cause of low standard of living, gross inequalities or limited freedom choice that characterize much of the developing world. I tried to find the main reasons behind the impoverishment of the poor countries and how those lead to overpopulation.
Human race came into existence around 2 billion years ago. Agricultural Revolution took place about 10,000 years ago when people used to hunt and gather food. At that time the estimated world population was about 4 million. The population started to grow significantly after the agricultural revolution. However, the most dramatic population growth occurred after the Industrial Revolution in 1750s. The world population was approaching one billion people and was increasing by more than two million every year. This dramatic population growth is termed population explosion because within less than 300 years the number of people mushroomed to more than 6 billion whereas before this, world population grew very slowly for millions of years. At this very moment, nearly 7 billion people are sharing this planet. By 2050, the population is expected to reach 9 billion. The world population is very unevenly distributed by geographic region, fertility and mortality levels and age structure. Here we also have to consider the term demographic transition: transition from high birth and death rates to low birth and death rates.
Most of the developing countries are in stage two and the developed countries in stage three. So in the developing countries, though death rate has dropped significantly due to improvement in medicine and health care, fertility rate remains high. So population growth is highest in the developing and poor countries.
Now the question is why birth rates are so high in the developing countries? In 1798, Thomas Malthus proposed a theory that determines the relationship between population growth and economic development. According to him, the poor countries are poor because of the population growth. Eliminate the population problem and the problem of poverty will be solved by itself. To eliminate the extra people, positive and preventive checks are necessary. Positive checks are famine, natural disasters, war etc which according to him is a good way to get rid of the unnecessary people who are burden to the society. Preventive checks would be only moral restrain because birth controls were considered as sins according to the Catholic Church. Malthus was not aware of the technological progress that would occur and thus he came up with the theory that food production will not be able to keep up with the population growth. Thus the solution was to get rid of the poor people. Karl Marx saw the Malthusian point of view as an outrage against humanity. Marx pinpointed the fact that with technological progress, there would be more production. So capital would be increasing too. However, the few capitalist who own all the resources exploit the poor workers and keep them poor. So poverty is the result of a poorly organized capitalist society where there is no equal distribution of wealth. From the Marxist point of view,...