The longer one lives, the more one learns. Until the present
controversy on Malthusianism arose, I had not known what constituted
side-issues in a discussion. But now I am beginning to find out. Malthusians are to be allowed to make any number of unsupported statements, which can in any way serve to prop up their cause; but the moment an Anarchist brings forward proof to show that these statements are false, on one side arises the cry of irrelevancy, and on the other that of the valuelessness of statistics. I am not at all surprised at this; the evidence being against Malthusianism, of course evidence is of no use, for Malthusianism is an must be right. If Mr. James will take the trouble to re-read his former article and my answer thereto, he cannot fail to see that I but answered his statements seriatim, bringing forward proof in each case, to show that they were false. If any side-issues were introduced, Mr. James is responsible for them, and not I.
The question at issue was whether the reduction in the number of members composing families would be of any advantage to the laborers under present conditions, and to this I strictly adhered until irrelevant matter was introduced by my opponents, into the discussion of which I willingly entered for the purpose of showing that they were as much at fault on the side as the main issue. Mr. James's whole article was a side issue.
Now, again, as to the scientific value of Malthsus's work. That there is a relation between population and food-supply, probably no person will deny, but what this relation is has never yet been determined, and Malthsus's random assertion has not in the least helped to determine it. We have as yet no data whereby to determine the relationship, and, until we have, there is no further use in discussing this matter. The main proposition remaining undemonstrated, we are hardly yet in a position to make deductions from it. There is nothing in Malthus of any value that had not been seen by earlier writers, and by none more clearly than Condorcet, against whom the Principle of Population was mainly directed.
To return to the original discussion, from which I have been accused of straying, I will ask the Malthusians to prove that, everything else remaining unchanged, the reduction in numbers, whether it be in the adult population or in families, would improve the condition of the working-people. When they do this, I shall be willing to take up the discussion again. But, as statistics are of no value and proof is irrelevant, the readers of Liberty will probably succeed in obtaining a much-needed rest from Parson Malthus and his philosophy.