Thursday, October 19, 2006

Economic power in the world

Here's the second letter from The Economist. It reminded me of my own awakening to reality when I was a student in London in the early 80s.


Captured markets

SIR – How can your leader on the changing balance of economic power in the world claim that “technology and a spirit of freedom enabled the West to leap ahead” of India and China in the mid-19th century (“Surprise!”, September 16th)? In reality, it was the West's imperial, and often violent, interventions and controls on these two countries that were instrumental in stultifying their economic development. India, for example, had the most advanced steel and textile industries at the beginning of the 19th century. Britain pirated India's technology, shut much of its advanced industries and forbade its exports, forcing it to buy second-rate British products in a closed market. Fertile land was stolen from Indian food farmers and converted to growing opium, which was then forced on the Chinese. Similar situations were repeated in other Asian, African and Latin American countries. In telling the whole story of the West's success, one must talk of stolen resources, forced foreign labour, and suppressed competition from the colonies.

Hendrik Weiler
Cairo

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear All,

I would not oversimplify the economic growth argument. India definitely did NOT have the most advanced steel production technology in the beginning of 19th century…9th century definitely yes, but 19th no. In the 19th century the industrial revolution was well underway and England/UK/Great Britain was the leading light.

You can’t force economics for 200 years even if you are the superpower (eg Soviet Union) therefore it is not possible that the British forced Indian farmers to grow something which did not make economic sense for 200 years. It must have made economic sense to grow opium but maybe it was not ethical to trade in opium.

Best

G.

rama said...

Hullo anon! Thanks for your visit and comment. I put up this letter -because I appreciated the spirit underlying it, even if some of the facts were mis-stated. But the essential point is that: expansionist, exploitative, military conquest set the stage for economic consequences. The colonies in turn were engineered to serve external interests, with severely detrimental long-term impact. Where would Britain's industrial revolution be, without colonies? You might also recall Walter Rodney's "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa".

Anyway, whatever your point is - I do not wish to have any argument. You are entitled to your views. I don't have any views really. Only wishes: for a harmonious, humane world. On that, I find I'm largely alone!

Best, rama

Ghetufool said...

G,
guess you don't know much about the opium or indigo cultivation forced upon us by the western powers. russia was never the master of the whole world, because for two hundred years they couldn't make their subjects to do what they wanted. but britishers were able to do that.

the basic difference was that russians treated counties from a military point of view and britishers treated others from basically the business point of view. by hook or crook, they achieved their objective.

i am not sure whether india had the most advanced steel production capability in 19 th century or not, but Britishers did forced the farmers to work for them, or they were put to rest.

also, i must say, rama is absolutely right when he wrote, "Where would Britain's industrial revolution be, without colonies?"