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Benjamin Franklin and the Politics of Improvement$
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Alan Houston

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780300124477

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300124477.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM YALE SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.yale.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Yale University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in YSO for personal use.date: 28 September 2021

. Population

. Population

(p.106) 3. Population
Benjamin Franklin and the Politics of Improvement

Alan Houston

Yale University Press

This chapter describes Benjamin Franklin's thought on population in America. Population has a bearing on many crucial features of modern life such as laws and customs governing reproduction, and the size of budgets for schools, hospitals, roads, and police. The politics of improvement was based on the belief that humans can shape their world through judgment and choice. Political arithmetic sought to identify limits to agency, the boundaries that separated what was contingent from what was necessary. Improvement required a keen appreciation of the limits and possibilities of population growth. Franklin reflected on immigration as well as natural increase in his observations. The importance of population helped spur the emerging discipline of political arithmetic, or the art of reasoning by figures, upon things relating to government.

Keywords:   Benjamin Franklin, population in America, laws, politics of improvement

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