Economics

Colonialism Was a White Elephant


Kristian Niemietz writes for The Telegraph

IEA Editorial Director Kristian Niemietz has written for The Daily Telegraph arguing that Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch was correct to argue that colonialism is not the key cause of Britain’s historic wealth.

Kristian wrote:

“You can see why the Left are incensed about this. The idea that slavery and imperialism kickstarted Britain’s Industrial Revolution serves as an ‘original sin’ story for them in a dual sense: it is the original sin of modern Britain, which also doubles up as the original sin of capitalism. Both Britain and capitalism are, in that version of events, forever tainted with that sin.

“The economic benefits of the Empire, then, were modest at best. Its economic costs, on the other hand, were substantial. Britain had higher levels of military spending than most of its European peers, and consequently, higher tax levels. Dissolving the Empire, replacing it with a policy of free trade, and passing on the cost savings to British citizens in the form of broad-based tax cuts, would probably have been sound economics. 

“Of course, some individuals got extremely rich through colonial trade. But Britain as a whole did not. The Empire was a White Elephant project, the HS2 of its day, a prestige project which benefitted some at the expense of others.”

Read Kristian’s full piece here.



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