A well-known and fundamental element in the population theory of Thomas Robert Malthus is the concept of prudential or moral restraint. A less well-known but just as fundamental element is the “desire of bettering our condition,” also described by Malthus as the “vis medicatrix reipublicae,” which has been freely translated as the healing power of society. This article aims to explain the meaning and significance given by Malthus in his theory of population to these two concepts. Their essential role in preventing or remedying overpopulation does not seem to have received adequate recognition in the secondary literature on Malthus.
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