You're Not Worth Saving

A famous 18th-century economist said the quiet part out loud.

Girl standing in dystopian rubble.

You might wonder why civilization seems to be backsliding. You might wonder why the richest governments in the world can't seem to take care of their poor. You might wonder why they talk about planning for the next pandemic without actually doing it.

It doesn't make sense.

You might wonder why wealthy nations only pass tax cuts for the rich and build up their militaries. You might wonder why they only fund endless, genocidal warfare. You might wonder why politicians and public health pundits talk about letting the vulnerable fall by the wayside. You might wonder why our institutions drag their feet when they respond to disasters and emergencies. You might wonder why food and medicine keep getting more expensive, along with housing. You might wonder why doctors don't seem to care what happens to patients anymore.

If you've ever gotten the strange notion that the elite want to cull the poor in order to conserve more resources for themselves, then you're not wrong. You're not a conspiracy theorist.

An 18th-century economist can tell you.

He said the quiet part out loud:

You're not worth saving.

In 1798, an affluent 30-something named Thomas Malthus published An Essay on the Principle of Population. Essentially, he blamed the poor for every problem in history. If you gave them too much, they would squander it by living beyond their means. They would overbreed. Their consumption would lead to famine, social upheaval, and war.

They had to be stopped.

They had to die.

Malthus didn't simply suggest that everyone should have fewer children. He singled out the poor and working classes. He criticized the idea of giving them aid and financial assistance. He described them as "inert, sluggish, and averse from labour, unless compelled by necessity."

In other words, the poor had to stay poor.

They were supposed to struggle.

And die young.

If you took away their struggles, the poor would start living too well. Instead of helping them, you had to let them fend for themselves. It was a good idea to make life harder for them.

He advocated against public health.

Malthus argued that "the great stream of mortality is constantly flowing" and "will always convey off a given quantity."

It was pointless to try and anticipate or respond to epidemics of disease or even famine because "if we stop up any of these channels it is perfectly clear that the stream of mortality must run with greater force through some of the other channels."

In his opinion, something would always kill poor people. Trying to prevent their deaths only made things worse.

Here's where things get nasty:

Malthus believed that if societies were going to try to prevent famines and wars, they would have to encourage other types of disasters and let them happen. "Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits. In our towns we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and court the return of the plague... But above all we should reprobate specific remedies for ravaging diseases; and those benevolent, but much-mistaken men, who have thought they were doing a service to mankind by projecting schemes for the total expiration of particular disorders." Malthus would have chided Jonas Salk for giving away the polio vaccine. He would've called it a grave mistake.

That's right, Malthus thought the overlords of society should withhold healthcare from the masses and even fight it.

He said don't give the poor medicine.

No universal healthcare for you.

Just suffer.

Malthus went on to recommend society try to double their mortality rates in order to reduce overpopulation.

Yes, double them.

This is the dark side of Malthus nobody talks about, but it's all over his work. He believed in letting nature run its course. If you were having a population problem, he said feel free to commit social murder.

Make it easy for them to die.

Anything goes.

For two hundred years now, the ideas promoted by Malthus have dominated in one way or another. They've guided disastrous responses to famines and pandemics alike. They became a cornerstone of colonialism, and they even influenced genocides. Economists officially dismiss Malthus now, but the elite channel him every single day. His ideas inspired Stanford professor Paul Ehrilich's The Population Bomb, which made him world famous.

He was basically preaching Malthusian economics.

Now it all makes sense.

You're not crazy. You're not making things up. One of the most influential economists in history wrote all of this down. He said it was a good idea to intentionally court pandemics. He said if you didn't let the poor die of disease, they would just die of famine or war. If you lifted them out of poverty, they would just start reproducing like rabbits.

They would overrun everything.

They'd end the world.

These ideas have become an unspoken tenet of neoliberal policy. It explains why the super rich won't do anything to help anyone but themselves. You're not worth saving. You're just another mouth to feed. You're just another drain on the grid. It explains why they use nonprofits largely to shine their halos and stash their wealth, while doing as little as possible to actually solve our problems. It explains why drug companies keep promising to lower prices on prescription drugs but never seem to deliver.

It explains why rich western countries rarely share their vaccines, and why they're so hard to get now.

You're not worth it.

The rich see us as a problem to be dealt with. We're a resource, as long as we don't want too much and then eventually die from a preventable disease. If we start demanding things like higher wages and human rights, then it's better to just let us die, and to help nature kill us.

Thomas Malthus remains alive and well in conservative think tanks. He's on the curriculum in plenty of private, conservative colleges. The rich might laugh off the idea that they want us dead.

Except they do.

The science has made one thing abundantly clear. The poor masses didn't cause the problems we're dealing with now. They didn't overheat the planet by overconsuming fossil fuels. The vast majority of pollution and carbon emissions come from the rich. It comes from their mansions and private jets. It comes from the corporations they're so proud of. It comes from the billions of tons of cheap plastic they produce.

They're the problem.

It's not us.

Like Malthus, the rich believe you have to keep poor people poor. You can't lift them out of poverty. You can't pay for school lunches. You have to keep poor countries poor, too. You can't raise their standards of living, because they'll start to consume too many resources.

The rich aren't going to share. That's against their ideology. They have no intention of reducing their own emissions. They're not going to live like the rest of us. We have to accept less.

So they can build superyachts.

It's their right.

If anything, they're now following the Malthus playbook by the letter. They're eroding public health on purpose. Malthus says they should encourage unsanitary habits. Well, you can find the modern equivalent of that in things like vaccine skepticism and herd immunity through infection. They promote it.

Malthus says they should court plagues.

So they're courting plagues.

They're designing plagues in labs. If one gets out, it's no big deal. It's just going to kill poor people who've been convinced that washing their hands will protect them. Malthus says the rich should make the streets narrower. So they're weakening infection control in hospitals.

Malthus would be impressed.

The rich believe it's a waste of money to spend anything on the poor. That's why a football star raided welfare funds to pay himself for speeches while building a volleyball stadium for his own daughter.

He felt entitled to it.

Politicians feel the same way.

They don't want to help poor communities or countries. They can police them. They can censor them. They can use international aid as a stick to get those countries to follow their rules. If a country doesn't do what they want, they cut them off. They let their citizens starve. They're happy to let a strategic ally bomb another country's poor children. Those poor kids were just going to die anyway. And if they didn't die, they would just consume valuable resources and make life harder for the rich.

This is what they do.

It's how they think. It's worth saying one last time. You're not crazy. It's not a conspiracy. These ideas come from one of the most influential economists in history. Of course, they have it all backward. They won't save civilization by killing the poor and working class.

We are civilization. We built it. We maintain it. We make everything. If we go, then the rest of society goes with us, including them.

They think you're not worth saving.

They're wrong.

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