Famines Vanish as Marxism Declines and Population Increases
Death by famine has dropped by 99.6 percent in the last 100 years. This occurred at the same time population increased over 300 percent. The real cause of less starvation is the decline of Marxism.
Starvation is a terrible way to die. Our World in Data reports that the 1870s represent the worst decade in recent history for famine with over 20 million deaths, primarily in China and India.1 This suggests a rate of around 13,618 per million population. Bad climate, bad transportation, and bad communication systems combined to create this famine pandemic. But the next 40 years looked promising. By the 1910s famine deaths had dropped to 2,678,200, or to 1,530 per million population. Then the Marxists and Nazis showed up. The 1920s and 30s saw millions die in China and the Soviet Union. World War II caused large famines across Europe and Asia. There was a breather in the early 1950s before Mao’s Great Leap Forward created the largest famine in history killing 24 million Chinese from 1958 to 1962. The Cambodia Marxists starved another 1.75 million in 1979.
Prior to the 1920s famines were by and large due to natural causes. Beginning with Lenin, they became political atrocities. By the 1980s Communists could no longer hide their intentional and unintentional famines. On a population-adjusted basis for every famine death from 2010-2016, there were 275 in the 1920s.
Some have suggested that famine is a consequence of population growth. Take a look at the chart. Global population in 1975 stood at 4 billion. Famine deaths were 3,532,083 during the 1970s decade or around 883 per million population. Population increased by 3.34 billion, or 83.5 percent to 7.34 billion by 2015. Deaths due to famine from 2010-2016 were around 225,000, or 30 per million population. On a population-adjusted basis, famine deaths fell 96.5 percent from the 1970s.
What would this chart look like without Marxists, Nazis, and other totalitarian governments? The dashed green line represents a hypothetical trend line based on the 1870-1910 progress.
More people don’t cause famines, more Marxism causes famines. As Marxism has declined, so have famines. Contrary to popular belief and Ehrlich and Thanos, more people are an insurance against famine. Innovation in food production, transportation, and communications systems allow us to identify and move food to where people are hungry. We still have natural disasters and totalitarian governments, but the threat of starvation has almost disappeared.
Excerpt from our forthcoming book, Superabundance.
Hasell, Joe. “Does Population Growth Lead to Hunger and Famine?” Our World in Data, ourworldindata.org/population-growth-and-famines. Accessed 10 September 2021.