Despite significant economic progress since ancient times, most people in agrarian societies continued to live at the subsistence minimum until modern times. By the nineteenth century, it was said that these societies fell into a "Malthusian trap." The Malthusian trap describes a situation that keeps population growth in line with available resources. The increase in income per person was not sustainable in the long run, as economic growth was inevitably consumed by population increases.
Western European countries, however, managed to escape the Malthusian trap through the Industrial Revolution which accelerated in the nineteenth century. Escaping the Malthusian trap meant an increase in both population growth and economic prosperity for the vast majority of people. For example, Europe’s population more than doubled between 1800 and 1900, but the decline of living standards no longer accompanied this growth as it had in pre-industrial societies. Economic historians explained that the phenomenon resulted from technological advances, demographic shifts due to European marriage patterns (marrying in later years, establishing a separate household, having fewer children), and increased human intelligence. All of the above are supposed to secure the systematic excess of output growth rates over the overpopulation growth rate. It seems that one crucial factor needs to be added to the list: capitalism itself, where economic laws are fully unfolded and have maximum manifestation and impact on society. Humanity entered a capitalist mode of production, which became possible by limiting absolutism and intrusion into the economy, creating democratic institutions, and improving human rights, law supremacy, and its uniform application.
The ideal market economy emerges in the society that is described as a collection of numerous self-governing producers that meet multiple independent consumers and freely exchange commodities and services according to the rates established on the market by the equilibrium between supply and demand. People behave according to the rules and freely exercise their right to enter a business transaction or refuse to participate. Such a society is characterized by the primacy of private property, an extensive division of labor and cooperation, and rich assortments of commodities and services. Economic freedom was accompanied by a high degree of personal freedom. The closest social formation of this ideal happened to be capitalism at the times of classical liberals in the course of the beginning stages of the Industrial Revolution.
Thus, we already see the following pattern: In the societies of hunter-gatherers, economic laws had minimal manifestation but the most prolonged influence (more than 150,000 years). The agricultural revolution created more stable and secure communities, but they were characterized by a lack of capital the lead to low use of more productive factors of production. Low levels of personal economic freedom also inhibited growth and productivity. Industrialization, on the other hand, offered an escape.
But the escape is not always permanent. Socialist governments often act to undo the benefits of insutrialization and capitalism. Historically, socialist regimes have tried to suppress or override the natural operation of personal choice and capital accumulation in economiees. Socialism, in general, encroaches on private property rights, controls the economy, and subordinates individual decision-making to the collective. In this regard, it is appropriate to assume that socialism would push society back toward the Malthusian trap.
Let us examine this hypothesis in light of the case of Venezuela. Venezuela escaped the Malthusian trap only in the thirties of the last century, judging by the GDP output per capita (Figure 1). +
Socialism, as a regime of willful ignorance of fundamental economic laws and economic illiteracy, drives society back into the Malthusian trap. Venezuela is a vivid and unfortunate example of the implementing of the socialist idea in modern times. The way out of the trap is a full restoration of economic and individual freedoms that guarantee fundamental laws of the economy to unfold freely to people’s advantage.