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An L-shaped crisis or another Malthus?

Saptarshi Pal's picture

Between 1798 and 1826 Thomas Malthus, in his series of essays on population, had stated that the human population grows in geometric proportion while the food production grows only in arithmetic proportion. Hence, he predicted that there will be a situation, in the 19th century, when the food supply will not be able to support the growth in population and it will inevitably lead to a population check by means of natural/man-made catastrophes.

A few weeks back, I was in Europe where I heard the speaker mention that the current crisis is an L-shaped crisis. Normally in a business “cycle,” there is a boom period (like we had till a few years back) which is almost inevitably followed by a slowdown (or a correction), but then the economy picks up again after a short time and in all probability, attains a higher level of production than the last boom. This is the way a capitalist society works. However, this time it is feared that the economy will not pick up again after the recession, meaning it will not be a normal U-shaped growth pattern but a severe L-shaped one –we can expect no growth or an insignificant growth rate in the coming decade or more. This is a scary picture!

The recession has derailed most of our career and personal plans. The Masters students in my university got amazing job offers till last year, but this year only one has managed to do so! I know that a friend of mine had to postpone his engagement for the same reason and to make matters worse he is also not been able to find admission in a decent B-school, as there is a sudden rush to continue with education due to the dismal job market. I know that my professor is not able to find sufficient funds for her research as the private sponsor backed out due to his “new” financial problems. The crisis has directly affected me as I am not able to find a satisfying job, as I had expected to, and I will have to shift to my Plan B. I can state several more such real-life examples –to me this crisis is very “real”. Of course, the observations will be different across the globe but no country and no person can claim to be insulated. In this globalized world, even a strike by textiles workers in Bangladesh will shoot up prices on the Fifth Avenue!
To make matters worse, the speaker (and he is a well-known global figure) was telling us that this trend will continue for most of the next decade. I wonder how long my Professor will have to wait before she can resume her research; also if my friend keeps postponing his marriage I fear there will be severe repercussions in his personal life. Students going in for a second degree and expecting the crisis to clear by then will also be in for a rude shock if the speaker’s predictions turn out to be true!

My solace is my faith in a simple aspect of the human character –the power to think and innovate. The Industrial Revolution and the Green Revolution proved that we can produce enough to feed billions of people. The current world population is over 6 billion, which will reach 9 billion in a few decades and no one is surprised to hear that anymore!


Submitted by Jared Echevarria on
Well said!

Submitted by Prakash Iyengar on
Hey, thanks for bringing this up.. Here is what i think.. The slump that we see today is because of the enormous deficit budgeting of the US of A. They spent money they didnt have and with 2 war fronts continue to do so.. the borrowing of the country is too much for the global economy to sustain. So the only measure that can succeed is letting the economy to take its own course rather than bailing out GM.. it will take time.. but economies will only emerge stronger after this fall.. And about the speaker.. there were a lot of people who thought economies wont recover after the Great Depression but here we are.. Cheers.