In the course of this enquiry I found that much more had been done than I had been aware of, when I first published the Essay. The poverty and misery arising from a too rapid increase of population had been distinctly seen, and the most violent remedies proposed, so long ago as the times of Plato and Aristotle. And of late years the subject has been treated in such a manner by some of the French Economists; occasionally by Montesquieu, and, among our own writers, by Dr. Franklin, Sir James Stewart, Mr. Arthur Young, and Mr. Townsend, as to create a natural surprise that it had not excited more of the public attention.
In Malthus' opinion, the masses were incapable of exercising moral restraint, which was the only real remedy for the population problem. They were therefore doomed to live always at bare subsistence level. If all income and wealth were distributed among them, it would be totally wasted within one generation because of profligate behaviour and population growth, and they would be as poor and destitute as ever. Paternalistic attempts to help the poor were therefore highly likely to fail. Also, they were a positive evil because they drained wealth and income from the higher (and therefore more moral) ranks of society. These people were responsible - either in person or through patronage - for all the great achievements of society: art, music, philosophy, literature and so on owed their existence to the good taste and generosity of these people. Taking money from them to help the poor would deprive the world of culture.