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.
Yesteryear imperial adventures has been known for a long time as economic disasters. In fact France and England enjoyed a greater prosperity only after losing at the end of the 18th century and the early nineteenth century of some of its richest American colonies. Also, another example, the value of Spanish public debt rose specularly in the stock markets after the defeats in Cuba (obviously, since from there on lenders wouldn’t have to fear insane and expensive military operations) and even my country experienced some economic development.
Nor did the European nations collapse after the loss of their Asian and African domains after the Second World War, quite the contrary. Moreover, some of the richest nations never had colonies, such as Sweden or Switzerland, or they were colonies themselves, like Australia and New Zealand. On the other hand, the country that retained its colonies until later was Portugal and remained one of the poorest in Europe, ruined because of these colonial struggles.
This is due to the fact that imperialism is no more than a form of corporativism in which pressure groups obtain benefits at the expense of extracting resources from the rest of the population, thanks to their proximity or belonging to the groups they hold. Imperialism does not constitute a net economic benefit for the colonizing nation, but it is only for some groups.
Economically speaking, it can be defined as a subsidy by the metropolitan state towards the companies benefiting from the extraction of aforementioned resources. This subsidy operates like all subsidies, benefiting the company favored by the government and harming the taxpayers. The main benefit here is that the company does not have to pay the price of the stolen land that is given or sold at a low price by the contracting state.
Thus, It is not surprising that all the anti-imperialist ideas, including “modern” socialist ones, have an origin in the bourgeois thinkers of the XIX century Manchester school (another bunch of liberal guys who only wanted peace and free markets).
Old and New Imperialism has nothing to do with liberalism. It’s pure statism: theft, assault, looting. War.
Happy New Year.
The Economics of Imperialism by Manuel Fraga is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.