For more than 200 years the population alarmists have been predicting the worst, and for more than 200 years their predictions have failed to come true. As the number of men, women, and children in the world has skyrocketed -- from fewer than 1 billion when Malthus lived to nearly 7 billion today -- so has the average person's standard of living. Poverty, disease, and hunger have not been eradicated, of course, and there are many people in dire need of help. But by and large human beings are living longer, healthier, cleaner, richer, better-educated, more productive, and more comfortable lives than ever before.
The Malthusians are wrong. When human beings proliferate, the result isn't less of everything to go around. The planet doesn't run out of food and fuel, minerals and metals. On the contrary, most resources have grown cheaper and more abundant over the past couple centuries -- in tandem with rising population.
The explanation is no mystery. Yes, more babies mean more mouths and therefore more consumption. But more babies also mean more minds and arms and spines -- and therefore more new ideas, more energy, more ingenuity, more initiative, more enterprise. "Human beings do not just consume, they also produce," writes George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan in a new book. "The world economy is not like a party where everyone splits a birthday cake; it is more like a potluck where everyone brings a dish."
It is a beautiful and uplifting insight, but the population misanthropes never seem to grasp it: Human beings, on the whole and over time, usually create more than they destroy. With more people tend to come more progress and more prosperity. That's why the birth of virtually any baby is cause to rejoice, and why parents who decide to raise another child bestow a gift on all of us. To be fruitful and multiply, says Genesis, is to be blessed. The parents of Harper Beckham know that, even if The Observer doesn't.
(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe. His website is www.JeffJacoby.com).