Henry Charles Carey Population

Henry Charles Carey Population

Carey held Malthus to be wrong, first because he maintained that the Malthusian theory is contrary to God's attributes. He begins the chapter (xxxviii) on population thus: "'Be fruitful and multiply,' said the Lord, 'and replenish the earth and subdue it'"; and after describing briefly Malthusian-ism, as he understands it, adds: "Can such things be? Can it be that the Creator has been thus inconsistent with Himself? Can it be, that after having instituted throughout the material world a system, the harmony of whose parts is absolutely per­fect, He has of design, subjected man, the master of all, to laws which must produce universal discord? Can it be, that after having given to man all the faculties required for as­suming the mastery of nature, it has been a part of His design to subject him to laws in virtue of which he must be­come nature's slave?" It hardly seems necessary to criticize this position.

A second argument is deduced from the harmonious laws of nature. As the earth is cultivated, the lower races of animals die out and the supply of carbonic acid tends to diminish, since animals generate and plants consume that gas. It is therefore necessary that the numbers of the human race should increase in order to furnish the vegetable world with the necessary-amount of carbonic acid. It is doubtful if Carey's dilettanteism in natural science ever led him to a rasher hypothesis. In the first place, aside from any question as to where the carbonic acid comes from, it may be fairly doubted whether the amount generated by man or the lower animals has any appreciable effect on vegetation. In the second place, it might with equal propriety be argued that the number of mankind ought to decrease, since the great amount of coal now consumed as fuel is increasing the supply of carbonic acid gas so rapidly as soon to upset all natural and harmonious arrangements!

A third argument used by Carey is that the increase of num­bers means increase of wealth. The more hands, the more producers of wealth. The greater the number of inhabitants, the greater the combination and division of labor.1 To a certain extent this is true. It must simply be remembered that labor is only one element of production, while increase of wealth depends upon the harmonious development of the three elements, land, labor, and capital, to say nothing of enterprise.

Carey next argues that it is absurd to suppose that man alone increases in geometrical ratio. The lower animals, which furnish him with food, increase as rapidly, and even more rapidly. A single grain of corn produces hundreds of grains, and these if planted will increase in like number. That is geomet­rical progression. "The progeny of a single pair of carp," says Carey, "would in three years amount to thousands of billions; that of a pair of rabbits would in twenty years count by millions; whereas that of a pair of elephants would not number dozens. When, however, we reach the highest form, we hear of a new law, in virtue of which man increases in a geometrical ratio while increase of the commodities required for his use is limited to the arithmetical one."

J. S. Mill's reply is to the point. "Mr. Carey," he says, "expatiates on the absurdity of supposing that matter tends to assume the highest form of organization, the human, at a more rapid rate than it assumes the lower forms which com­pose human food; that human beings multiply faster than; turnips and cabbages. But the limit to the increase of man­kind, according to the doctrine of Mr. Malthus, does not depend on the power of increase of turnips and cabbages, but on the limited quantity of the land on which they can be grown. When Mr. Carey can show, . . . not that turnips and cabbages, but that the soil itself, or the nutritive elements contained in it, tend naturally to multiply, and that too, at a rate exceeding the most rapid possible increase of mankind, he will have said something to the purpose. Till then, this part, at least, of his argument may be considered as non-existent."

A further argument used by Carey is the same as that ad­vocated by Herbert Spencer in his Biology. It is only one of a number of striking resemblances between them, and Carey's works were published first. The position taken by Carey is that there is an antagonism between the intellectual and gen­erative functions, and that the growth of population tends to decrease in rate as man becomes more highly developed, so that the supply of men is made equal to the demand by a self-acting law. Carey is able to give no proof for this position, however, for statistics such as he cites may be found on both sides. This very plausible idea remains a mere hypothesis to this day.