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Thomas Malthus, the most destructive Englishman who ever lived?

February 13, 2017



I suppose words like “destructive” or “evil” are necessarily contested terms.  Jack the Ripper is supposed to have killed five people – maybe a few more.  Thomas Malthus may have been more remotely responsible for the deaths of many millions.  But if you were to meet Thomas Malthus in a narrow deserted street on a dark night, he wouldn’t hurt you -whereas Jack the Ripper probably would.

If they were assembling a list of the top ten most destructive Englishmen who ever lived (assuming they haven’t already – they assemble top ten lists of everything else), I would personally do my darndest to ensure that Thomas Malthus’ name appeared upon it.  The most destructive humans all kill with pens rather than swords, and Malthus’ Essay on Population (1798) is destructive because it has reconciled powerful people to the mass destruction of their fellow creatures.   Widely discredited, it remains credited…

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One Comment
  1. Thomas Malthus is an excellent call for topping the poll as the most destructive Englishman. I think he just takes it from Thomas Hobbes whose brand of Autocratic Libertarianism should have remained dead and buried if it wasn’t resurrected to justify British actions in the War of American Independence. Unfortunately once out of the bag it has continued to grow so that it now dominates our idea of freedom. Recovering the earlier republican idea of liberty which Hobbes hated is only now starting to gather pace but it is most consigned to academic departments and struggles for light and air. Looking at Trumps America where autocratic Executive Orders are being used to impose Libertarian values and Theresa May’s use of the autocratic Prerogative is using utilised to perpetrate a ‘bonfire of red tape’ autocratic libertarianism seems almost unassailable. So I’ll borrow your time machine after your job on Malthus and go back to 1650 and stop Hobbes before he writes Leviathan. My vote as the second most destructive Englishman!

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