By Nicholas Gruen
History plays tricks on us. Just as we think we’ve got things figured, everything changes. My favourite example is Malthus’s ‘principle of population’ which explained why most people were mired in poverty despite improving technology. As Malthus explained, population growth was exponential and so would eventually outstrip productivity growth and return the bulk of the population back where it started – at bare subsistence. A theory with considerable explanatory power over the whole of human history! And published in 1798 just as it became obsolete. The next century saw the takeoff in living standards lifting global living standards around twenty times since then!