The socioeconomic implications of Thanos’ snap

Image courtesy of CanStockPhoto (

Vinay Pratapa, Lode Writer

Given that the release of Avengers: Endgame is around the corner, we should talk about the logistics and brilliance of Thanos’ snap rather than how our heroes are going to save the world and spoil ourselves of the experience. But first, the back story.

For people living under a rock, at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, the main antagonist, Thanos acquires all the six infinity stones which bestow him with God-like powers that allow him to manipulate and control time, reality, space, soul, mind and power to his will. Combined with the Infinity Gauntlet, a glove-like device he uses to control the stones, he becomes virtually unstoppable.

In an unexpected twist of fate, all of T’Challa’s horses and all of T’Challa’s men could not put the Avengers back again as most of them disintegrate at the end of the movie after Thanos simply snaps his fingers to erase half of the life in the universe. This is where the genius of his character lies. Unlike many of the supervillains, his goal is not to take over and destroy galaxies, he wants life to thrive like many of us. The route he takes, however, is basically genocide, not unlike our real-life mass murderer Genghis Khan, who was responsible for as many as 40 million deaths, which actually reduced global warming.

Thanos is not wrong, however. Earth does have finite resources, like any other planet that is potentially capable of carrying and sustaining life as proposed by Richard Malthus, an 18th-century demographer. He states: “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.” He predicted that there would be an upper limit of 11-12 billion people; beyond which our social and economic models cannot sustain any more growth and thus become stagnant.

Before the Industrial Revolution, the easiest way to increase productivity was to have more manpower, which means more children. Families used to have six or more kids so that they could help with fieldwork, or even marry them off to rich people for a large dowry. Gradually, the growth rates in first-world countries like Japan, Germany, Switzerland and the U.S. plummeted and are barely able to have an optimum number since the 1960s.

As opposed to the exponential growth rate as we expect, it was linear. If the population was really growing exponentially, Thanos’ plan would’ve only offset the growth by a generation and would be pointless. Given our reliance on being able to sustain our current lifestyle of plastics, gasoline and deforestation, the snap does have a permanent effect on our moral and economic sensibilities.

Don’t believe me? Look at the Black Plague, the closest to mass genocide in a short time. About a third of the entire population of Europe at that time, 25 million people, got erased from the face of the earth in a matter of a few years. And guess what happened? The minimum wage raised by 40 percent, house rents dropped and less land was needed for farming. This extra land was used for ranching which increased meat and manure production, and food productivity increased and food prices dropped by 15 percent. You could say that they sort of benefited from all that death. Oh boy, I can actually hear the seething rage from the Sociology and Economics Departments at this point.

Obviously, I’m not encouraging genocide as a method for sustainability, because human life is priceless. And besides, the global economy is a multidimensional labyrinthian web of horrors which will create another problem if you solve one, so snapping and erasing life is probably not the best way to go. But still, it’s a fun thought experiment, at least by Marvel standards.

*Note: This article ran April 11