Two Predictions discussed by Gary North:
The first one was virtually unknown and was made by Ezra Styles, the president of Yale University in the latter part of the 18th century. He gave an election sermon in 1783 which was quite common. Election sermons were common then and for more than another century. “Already for ages, Europe has arrived to a plenary if not a declining population of 100 million. In 200 or 300 years, this second enlargement may cover America with three times that number if the present ratio of increase continues with the enterprising spirit of Americans for colonization and removing out into the wilderness and settling new countries.” Two hundred years almost to the day the U.S. population reached 300 million people. There is no prediction that I have ever seen in terms of accuracy, and more to the point in terms of what would have been inconceivable at the time the prediction was made than Ezra Styles’s sermon called “The United States Elevated to Glory and Honor.”
Fifteen years after this sermon was delivered, another person made a prediction. His prediction was much longer and much more important and much move conventional, was widely received, and shaped the thinking of virtually all Western scholars for the next 80 years. It was published anonymously, and only later when the book in which the prediction appeared was widely accepted did he come forward. His name was Thomas Robert Malthus. And the book was on population. In that book he made an assessment of what was going to happen throughout the West. And that assessment was very straightly and succinctly stated in a phrase that we all know, that food increases arithmetically but population increases geometrically. He took it out of later editions because it was clearly preposterous because there was no reason why food wouldn’t increase geometrically along with any other population. So he took it out, but the implication was clear, and that is that population pressures would always push against the prevailing supply of food in any society, with any species, at any time in history. This was the most important single attack on the enlightenment that was ever delivered, and it shook the enlightenment, and it was self-conscious to shake the enlightenment. Because what he was doing was reacting against the optimism of enlightenment philosophers with respect to the future. That enlightenment and science would combine to create a society of endless growth and endless prosperity and upward movement. And Malthus set down, anonymously at first, and wrote his book to show that this could not possible be true because population would always expand within the environment to the limitations of resources. But the main resource was food.
But Malthus was wrong.