Review (1897) of Gustave de Molinariís
Viriculture (1897)

by Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929)

La Viriculture. Ralentissement de la Population – Dégénérescence – Causes et Remèdes.
Par G. DE MOLINARI. Paris: Guillaumin et Cie., 1897. 12mo. pp. 253.

GM-VC.1 The motive of M. de Molinari’s book is given in the subtitle, and it is a sufficiently curious motive for a book from an economist of his conservative position and wide range of learning. And the substance of the volume is perhaps no less curious, coming from such a source. The early chapters (i-viii) are taken up with an elementary exposition of the Malthusian premises, M. Molinari’s contribution being a supplementary explanation – not altogether unfamiliar to Malthus – of how, as the outcome of the Malthusian factors, the population of European countries has kept pace in its advance or decline with the advance or decline of the nation’s industrial productivity and with the extension and contraction of the market for the products of the national industries (chapters ix and x). France is especially unfortunate in having suffered a very sensible retardation in its rate of increase.
GM-VC.2 But this retardation of the rate of increase is not the most serious difficulty presented by the movement of population, and is not a sufficient cause for apprehension. The white race has nothing to fear from a failure of its numbers as compared with the rival yellow race, with which pessimists are fond of threatening us. The danger lies in the deterioration of the stock – visibly going forward today. The causes of the deterioration – the presence of which is inferred from a somewhat narrow range of data, some of which would bear a different interpretation from the one given them – are (p. 108):

1. Defects and diseases inherited from parents;
2. Ill-assorted unions of parents, comprising untoward crosses between races;
3. Unwise laws relating to marriage, and the artificial encouragement of population;
4. Insufficient care and nourishment, early and excessive child labor;
5. Prostitution.

It therefore appears that the questions of population have come to be so many and so important as to require the separation of this subject from the body of economic questions with which they have hitherto been classed. These questions taken by themselves are sufficient to make up the subject-matter of a special science which will draw its data, on the one hand, from the moral sciences – particularly from political economy – and, on the other hand, from the natural sciences – particularly from biology. This new science is Viriculture (p. 134).
GM-VC.3 It will be the office of this new science to find a remedy for the three grave difficulties of the present situation: (1) surplus or deficit of population, (2) degeneration, (3) prostitution. There are but the barest and most general indications given of the outlines of the new science. Under the first head there is a tentative suggestion that something might be accomplished by an intelligent and concerted statistical determination of the “demand” for population and the establishment of an equilibrium through the peoples’ taking thought to multiply only up to the limit. Under the second it is likewise suggested, in similarly general terms, that something may be done toward a maintenance of the present standard of the population, if not toward its improvement, by extirpation of disease and through selective breeding.
GM-VC.4 The appendix (pp. 163-250) is made up of notes drawn from a great variety of sources and of very diverse value. For the most part they comprise facts more or less familiar to all readers, and betray no eagerness in the writer to parade a recondite erudition.


Journal of Political Economy 5, no. 2 (March 1897), p. 273-275.

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