The inventions of paper and printing gave enterprising governments, always looking for new sources of revenue, an “Open Sesame” to previously unimagined sources of wealth. The kings had long since granted to themselves the monopoly of minting coins in their kingdoms, calling such a monopoly crucial to their “sovereignty,” and then charging high seigniorage prices for coining gold or silver bullion. But this was piddling, and occasional debasements were not fast enough for the kings’ insatiable need for revenue. But if the kings could obtain a monopoly right to print paper tickets, and call them the equivalent of gold coins, then there was an unlimited potential for acquiring wealth. In short, if the king could become a legalized monopoly counterfeiter, and simply issue “gold coins” by printing paper tickets with the same names on them, the king could inflate the money supply indefinitely and pay for his unlimited needs.
It’s still widely accepted that having Colonies was a main source of wealth and welfare for the former Empire. This misleading idea, which comes from marxist tradition, is somehow still alive when it’s applied to modern geopolitics, despite the fact that the idea that economic progress was due to colonies (imperialism, colonialism) seems to have very little foundation.
Imagine you own an important highway, used by countless drivers. Since yours is a private one, consumers forcefully have to pay you a toll everytime they want to drive down there. Which would be the optimum price that should be charged?