At the point where people have begun to talk about “a positive Black Death effect” do they realize how far they’ve descended into the shadows? The hard-core horror of Malthusian analysis always has some new depths to fathom.
The idea that European living standards rose following the ‘relief’ from Malthusian pressure gifted by bubonic plague is far from new. It is even something approaching an uncontroversial fact of economic history. To take an additional step, however, and attribute the rise of the West to its mid-14th century epidemic devastation, is to wander into unexplored tracts of icy misanthropy. Europe was lucky enough to have enough people die.
The Malthusian implication (systematized by Gregory Clark) that only downward social mobility is compatible with eugenic trends, is a dark thought I have touched upon occasionally, but have yet to firmly fix upon. The idea of mass population destruction as a developmental gift, in any situation where economic growth rates fall below average fertility (I simplify), takes Dark Enlightenment to a whole other level.
As a footnote, it raises the question: was the Great Divergence eugenic for the Far East (which fell behind) and dysgenic for the West (which forged ahead)? Is economic prosperity essentially a gene trasher?
I tend to side with libertarians in their aversion to (Keynesian) broken window economics, but it is to be expected that such reasoning will promptly subside into sheer cognitive paralysis when the far more disturbing Malthusian conclusions are introduced. Libertarians already think they’ve ‘got’ Malthus, as the guy who lost the Simon-Ehrlich wager — an anti-capitalist green prophet preaching population restriction.
The real Malthus is going to come as a shock. He certainly spine-chills me.