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Malthusians Wrong Again: World Cereal Production Hits All-Time High

World grain production grew by 3 percent this year, while world population rose just 1.2 percent.

Record cereal production this year will lead to record end-season grain inventories, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization's latest World Food Situation update. Overall, grain production rose from 2,533 million metric tons last year to 2,613 million metric tons this year—an increase of about 3 percent. The group projects a slight decline in global wheat production, and it expects rice production "to remain broadly stable."

FAO2017Food and Agriculture Organization

That 3 percent increase in grain production handily outstrips the rate of global population increase, which decelerated to 1.2 percent last year. Despite the neo-Malthusians' claims to the contrary, more food for people does not necessarily mean more progeny. Generally speaking, more food security means a lower fertility rate:

FertilityRateMap2015U.N.

For more background, see my article "The Invisible Hand of Population Control."

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  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Malthus has been so embarrassed lately I haven't seen him say ANYTHING in years. Shut down. Even his parish thinks he's embarrassing.

  • Bacon-Magic glib reasonoid||

    Old fake news.

  • Eric Bana||

    The best thing about data proving people wrong is that we never hear the same rabid hysteria being recycled. Man, that's just swell. No more overpopulation fear-mongers to speak of.

    The same thing is bound to happen with net neutrality in a couple years when the internet will really be just fine without some of the FCC provisions from the Open Internet Order of 2015. It'll be great when people realize how off base they were and never get gullibly riled up about that kind of thing again.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Isn't that already happening?

  • Entelechy||

    In other news , annual land production continues to lag population growth by 1.2%

  • CE||

    Of course cereal production is up. There was a record crop of Crunch Berries.

  • ||

    Of course cereal production is up.

    Same as it was last year, and the year before that, and the year before that...

  • ||

    Since when are people held accountable for the veracity of their predictions? THE SCIENCE IS SETTLED!

  • Sidd Finch v2.01||

    Despite the neo-Malthusians' claims to the contrary, more food for people does not necessarily mean more progeny.

    This doesn't sound at all like a straw man.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    That's a core claim of Malthus. People won't stop fucking and so population grows geometrically.

  • Sidd Finch v2.01||

    That's not remotely a "core claim" of Malthus.

  • Sidd Finch v2.01||

    Malthus documented *the opposite* -- that people respond to economic incentives and aren't constantly starving due to geometric growth.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    You're right. His claim was that under any gains in productivity this will be met with a similar rise in population until quality of life is driven back to the same average level.

    In his most famous work, An Essay On the Principles of population, he does make the claim that population tends to double each generation, while crop yields grow geometrically. Which he then used to argue for ways of controlling population. I believe birth control in his case is what he argued for.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    But towards the extinction of the passion between the sexes, no
    progress whatever has hitherto been made. It appears to exist in as
    much force at present as it did two thousand or four thousand years
    ago. There are individual exceptions now as there always have been.
    But, as these exceptions do not appear to increase in number, it would
    surely be a very unphilosophical mode of arguing to infer, merely from
    the existence of an exception, that the exception would, in time,
    become the rule, and the rule the exception.
    Assuming then my postulata as granted, I say, that the power of
    population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce
    subsistence for man.
    Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio.
    Subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio. A slight
    acquaintance with numbers will shew the immensity of the first power
    in comparison of the second.

    By that law of our nature which makes food necessary to the life of
    man, the effects of these two unequal powers must be kept equal.
    This implies a strong and constantly operating check on population
    from the difficulty of subsistence. This difficulty must fall somewhere
    and must necessarily be severely felt by a large portion of mankind.
  • BestUsedCarSales||

    This is probably what most people think of when they think of the core thesis of Malthus. If you disagree, please expand on what you believe to be his core idea so we can discuss that.

  • Sidd Finch v2.01||

    please expand on what you believe to be his core idea so we can discuss that.

    There's thousands of good essays on Malthus that aren't clickbait bullshit you can go read.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I literally quoted the original text.

  • BYODB||


    Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio.


    Simply put, no it does not. Or, if it does, there is no situation where population is unchecked.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I know. So we are disagreeing with Malthus. This is also the part of Malthusian belief that Bailey was likely disagreeing with.

  • Sidd Finch v2.01||

    And the quoted text literally said nothing like "People won't stop fucking and so population grows geometrically."

  • BYODB||

    Actually, it basically does say that. He just takes a really, really long time to say a simple fucking thing.

  • BYODB||


    But towards the extinction of the passion between the sexes, no progress whatever has hitherto been made. It appears to exist in as much force at present as it did two thousand or four thousand years ago.

    AKA People won't stop fucking.

    Assuming then my postulata as granted, I say, that the power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man. Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio.

    AKA Assuming the previous is true, I declare without evidence this other thing to be true.

  • Sidd Finch v2.01||

    AKA Assuming the previous is true, I declare without evidence this other thing to be true.

    On one hand, that observation led to the theory of natural selection.

    OTOH he didn't provide an iron-clad proof in the same paragraph and snarky millennials are so much better than that.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    But towards the extinction of the passion between the sexes, no
    progress whatever has hitherto been made. It appears to exist in as
    much force at present as it did two thousand or four thousand years
    ago

    This is saying that the passion between the sexes (which means sex in this context) has not decreased over time, and he sees no reason to expect it will, and thus in this line:

    Assuming then my postulata as granted, I say, that the power of
    population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce
    subsistence for man."

    He is saying that population would grow geometrically until it raises to the level of food available.

    Here is the text

    And finally, what do you believe to be the Malthusian thesis?

  • Sidd Finch v2.01||

    He is saying that population would grow geometrically until it raises to the level of food available.

    Huh ... I thought he said

    People won't stop fucking and so population grows geometrically.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Yes, I exaggerated for humorous effect in a casual conversation. Please don't be obtuse.

  • Sidd Finch v2.01||

    what do you believe to be the Malthusian thesis?

    This is such a stupid fucking asshole question.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I've stated clearly what I believe it to be and why. Your first comment was that "That's not remotely a "core claim" of Malthus." So I'm trying to get at what you consider to be a core Malthusian idea.

  • ||

    FAKE QUOTED ORIGINAL TEXT!!!11!1111!!!!!

  • ||

    I think you meant to say "crop yields grow arithmetically"

  • Juice||

    All right. Let's make more beer.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Seer-eee-alll... that means Apple Jacks, home slice.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Ron, I recently listened to an episode of the Freakanomics podcast with John Van Reenen and Nick Bloom, who were arguing that although there is growth in areas like computing and agriculture it's becoming increasing expensive to realize those gains. They attribute this to innovation simply getting harder once the low-hanging fruit has been picked.

    Have you seen that work? Any thoughts?

  • Morbo||

    It depends on what you mean by "more expensive". Modern agriculture and the machinery that goes with it is extremely expensive, however the efficiency is such astoundingly higher that it is well worth it. There are a lot of places in the world that still aren't practicing modern agriculture, so there's still a lot of gains to be had on that front.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Here is the link to the episode:
    http://freakonomics.com/podcast/no-new-ideas/

    They specifically discussed R&D in semiconductors and agriculture needed to sustain Moore's law or the growth in yields/acre. Money spent on R&D has gone but growth rates have been fairly flat. That's the claim, anyway.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    They attribute this to innovation simply getting harder once the low-hanging fruit has been picked.

    I'm not sure why computing and agriculture are the only areas where this is true. Realistically, this would be true in every endeavor of innovation.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Those were the ones they talked about on the podcast. They claimed you see this trend across mature sectors. I'm not easily finding the actual study to dive into the details.

  • Sidd Finch v2.01||

    Of course you see this across mature sectors; that's what "mature sectors" are.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Agreed. The innovations come from immature sectors which supplant (or end run) the mature ones, causing the immature sectors to mature, etc.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Agreed - it doesn't at all seem like a surprising result. The implication in the podcast is that's it's perhaps not accounted for in economic growth models, which assume a constant rate of return per dollar spent on R&D (or so it seemed from the episode).

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    My only hesitation about their outlook (and of course, I only have the paraphrased version of what you're saying, so I may be attributing meaning that isn't there) is that's the classic reason why people, at a given moment in time, believe "everything's been invented".

    It was the essential reason why my tech cohorts were vociferously arguing back in the 90s that Microsoft would be THE dominant tech company forever. The low-hanging fruit had been picked, cost of entry was too high for competitors to supplant the entrenched market share etc. The point being, you don't know WHERE the next innovation will come from, and as a rule, it comes from places the experts never expect.

  • BYODB||


    The point being, you don't know WHERE the next innovation will come from, and as a rule, it comes from places the experts never expect.

    Pretty much this. No one saw the smart phone coming.

    Except maybe Lucas Arts in 1995?

    Or Star Trek: TNG in 1987?

    My point being that if you want to know what is coming on the horizon, read science fiction and play video games and be on the lookout for things that are plausible. The reason for that is because engineers watch that stuff, and think 'hey, we can do that...'

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    My point being that if you want to know what is coming on the horizon, read science fiction and play video games and be on the lookout for things that are plausible.

    Kind of, if you cherry pick. If you look at a lot of Sci fi, a couple of things become apparent:

    1. We're nowhere near the innovations that Sci Fi sometimes suggested we'd already have.
    2. We're actually way beyond other innovations that Sci Fi suggested.

  • BYODB||

    True enough, some things are plausible and even function but still aren't things that you have.

    RE: Flying cars / jet packs. Both exist, but you probably don't own one.

    There is a lot more at play, but as a general guideline it seems to work out.

  • Bra Ket||

    Like all creative arts, they primarily just reflect the views of society at the time. Because of the same factors like the technology's potential value, and just guessing at the direction of momentum of technological progress based on what we can do so far and where the next frontiers are. Some people will think something is a possible future product and write a story with it. For the same reasons, another person will make the same prediction and try to engineer/research it. Other people will look to invest in it, etc.

  • Mithrandir||

    If Malthusians are good at anything, it's being consistently wrong.

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    I'll be right eventually!

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