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Transatlantic Blog

Refuting Malthus, and Thanos, in 60 seconds

One of the fiercest villains in the Marvel universe is Thanos – but he pales in comparison to economist and clergyman Thomas Malthus. An AEI scholar has produced a video refuting them both in less than one minute.

“Thanos' plan to wipe out half the universe is based in the real-world economics of Thomas Robert Malthus,” explains the video’s description.

Malthus believed that the human race found itself in a vicious circle: Technological improved agricultural yield, which in turn increased population. However, population would gradually rise until it outpaced the existing food supply. His ideology could be summarized in a single sentence: “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.”

Put simply, Malthusian economics sees human beings as a plague of locusts devouring last year’s seed corn. Malthus’ modest solution exhorted people to “court the return of the plague.”

But Malthus embraced a zero-sum fallacy. In reality, each person born into the world uses his or her God-given talents to increase technological progress, increase human capital, and improve life for every other human being. As population has risen sharply, so too have global food supply, dietary supply adequacy, and life expectancy while infant mortality rates dropped.

Strain explains these phenomena in a 60-second video produced by AEI, with an eye to Avengers Infinity villain Thanos:

Further reading:

“'Avengers: Infinity War' and the economics of infinity” by Jordan Ballor, Ph.D.

“‘Avengers: Infinity War’ and the danger of idolatrous ideology” by Joe Carter

“Debunking the Overpopulation Alarmists”s by Marian L. Tupy, Ph.D.

(Hat tip:

(Photo credit: Hannaford. This photo has been cropped. CC BY-SA 2.0.)

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Rev. Ben Johnson is Executive Editor at the Acton Institute. His work focuses on the principles necessary to create a free and virtuous society in the transatlantic sphere (the U.S., Canada, and Europe). He earned his Bachelor of Arts in History summa cum laude from Ohio University and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.