It is proper to ask if increased population is desirable. In 1772 Benjamin Franklin said:* "I thought often of the happiness in New England, where every man is a freeholder, has a vote in public affairs, lives in a tidy, warm house, has plenty of good food and fuel, with whole clothes from head to foot, the manufacture perhaps of his own family. Long may they continue in this situation." This is the picture of brainy men in a typical Aryan democracy, in a country far from saturation. The tremendous increase of population has ended the condition forever.
The awful density of populations in large cities is difficult to imagine - a density so great that three days' interference with the streams of food pouring in results in tens of thousands of deaths. There are no foods stored up - cannot be - and millions literally live from hand to mouth.*
What is the use of over populating the land this way, and then feverishly increasing the food supply in a vain effort to stop starvation? Why should Chinese women bring forth so freely if 10,000,000 are to die every few years because food is scarce? What's the use anyhow of nations increasing in numbers, when, if they remained fewer, as in France, there would be more wealth and comfort per person? Why do we want a million immigrants a year to share our good luck? Why do we want the world's population to increase, if it is only to multiply the number in distress? The number on the verge of want is now ten times the whole population when Benjamin Franklin said that no one was in want. The pessimist long ago answered the question. He said that for many, life was not worth the living, and that it is a crime to thrust more and more babies into the painful struggle. We will be far happier, they say, if we are far fewer and far richer. One writer* even stated that increased population is a curse. At one time, in 1908, New York City had 150,000 men out of work and Berlin 40,000 - burdens on the efficient. If a calamity had wiped out 190,000 workers, there would have been 190,000 jobs for the idle - the least fit, by the way.
* Science, June 1, 1906.
* In New York City alone, in 1906, an immigrant arrived every forty seconds, and a passenger train every fifty-two seconds; a criminal was arrested every three minutes; a birth occurred every six minutes and death every seven minutes; a marriage every thirteen minutes and a divorce every eight and one-half hours; every forty-two minutes a business started and every seven hours one failed; there was a fire every forty-eight minutes and a ship left the harbor every forty-eight minutes; every fifty-one minutes a building was erected, and every one and three-fourths hours there was a fatal accident; every eight hours there was an attempt at murder and one-sixth succeeded (a murder every forty-eight hours), and every ten hours there was a suicide.
In answer it may be said that as man is an animal, his instinct is to increase and spread to the limit of the food supply, and all discussions as to its good or evil results or as to the possibility of changing the course of events, are futile. We cannot change natural laws; we can only watch and record their operation. Nations will always increase with the foods, because our existence depends upon the struggle for it. Things are not getting worse because there are more in distress than in Franklin's time. The proportion in poverty is getting less all the time, and conditions are infinitely better than in the time of Malthus, in spite of the tremendous increases of population he dreaded. There are now 75,000,000 people in a happier, more prosperous condition than in Franklin's time, and the good far outweighs the evil.
Migrations must continue until there is no advantage to be gained by them in the way of enhanced prospects of survival. Modern transportation has only changed the purpose from a search for homes to a search for wealth About one-twentieth of the people of the world live in the United States, and it produces one-fourteenth of the world's cotton, one-quarter of its wheat, one-half of its tobacco, one-half of the pork, one-quarter of the cattle, one-fifth of the fish, one-third of the lumber, one-third of the coal, one-third of the manufactures, one-quarter of the gold and silver, one-quarter of the iron and more than one-half of the petroleum and copper. The stream will Dour into the United States to share in this wealth, and we cannot possibly prevent it, nor can we prevent them carrying it back to Europe. There also seems to be a general tendency to migrate to a place where there are greater average earnings, irrespective of the wealth and density of population, as shown in the following table:
* James Cotten Morrison, "The Service of Man," p. 13.
Annual Earnings in
Average Annual Earnings per Money Earner
Average Inhabitants per Mile
Great Britain and Ireland . .
Sweden and Norway....
Total Europe (Ex. Turkey). .
These streams will cease when the population densities are so equalized that it will be just as easy to struggle for existence at home, importing foods if necessary, and that means a world organization of specialized nations or groups, some densely packed in limited areas and the rest spread over the farms.