The fact is that Malthus was right about the whole of human history up until his own era.Ah that great force, the spirit of inquiry and rationality! Where did this spirit come from? Was it a special dispensation? Did it have a body, or did it wander the globe, haunting dark corners and abandoned buildings? What were its causal powers?
Sumerian peasants in the 30th century BC lived on the edge of subsistence; so did French peasants in the 18th century AD. Throughout history population growth had always managed to cancel out any sustained gains in the standard of living, just as Malthus said.
It was only with the industrial revolution that we finally escaped from the trap (if we did — for all we know, 35th-century historians will view the period 1800-2020 or so as a temporary aberration).
Was Malthus just unlucky? No. The same forces that made the industrial revolution possible — above all, the spirit of inquiry and rationality — also led to the birth of analytical economics. There probably couldn’t have been a Malthus until the world was on the verge of becoming non-Malthusian.
This blog got its start because I was supremely annoyed at an economist for "explaining" the end of the Malthusian trap by means of some absurd forays into socio-biology. Now another economist--a darling of the liberal blogosphere, rather than a crypto-racist--"explains" the end of the Malthusian trap by means of a conjuring trick. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust; the great circle is closed, Hallelujah!