In this paper, we take inspiration from Thomas Malthus' hypothesis that
food shortage and hunger would remain "nature's last most dreadful
resource" and that "the power of population is so superior to the power
of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must
in some shape or other visit the human race". We revise and reinterprete
it into a modern and thus global version and we elaborate on such a
possible new interpretation and what its policy implications might be.
In a first section, and somewhat as a parenthesis, we briefly comment on
the financial crisis as it has unfolded over the last four months of
2008 and impacted gradually the real economy. In the second section of
the paper we review the different policy responses to past Malthusian
challenges: how food production succeeded particularly over the second
half of the 20th Century to keep pace with rapid population growth. In a
third section, we replace the word "population" in the above cited
Malthus' quote with "consumption" and illustrate what this might imply
for global world growth and Europe's place in the world in 2025. In a
fourth and final section, we then draw some initial policy conclusions.
The nature of the Malthusian challenges raised today appears both global
and local in nature. On the one hand it raises questions with respect to
the need for open, international research collaboration. Imposing
national, or regional, boundaries with respect to research participation
and funding, certainly appears (with respect to some of the most urgent
Malthusian research problems) to be the expression of an outdated and
wasteful research nationalism. On the other hand, the growing need for
local knowledge re-use, adaptation and embedment in many emerging and
developing countries involving efforts at local innovation, is in many
ways similar to, and reminiscent of the development of the many
innovation policy tools in European countries and regions. The first
policy challenge, we refer to as "recherche sans frontières"; the second
one as "innovation for local development".
Keywords: Thomas Malthus, economic forecasting, population growth, economic growth, resource scarcity, innovation, globalisation, economic development, regional development.
JEL classification: E17, O11, O13, O21, O33
UNU-MERIT Working Papers ISSN 1871-9872