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It's just a statement of fact with a lot more reality behind it than your silly Calvinist notion that the Bangladeshi could construct a comprehensive levee system to keep the sea out if only they were as disciplined as the good old Dutch.

Claiming that the West is rich because of colonialism flies in the face of the facts, given that the colonies were money losers and that lots of western nations never had colonies. But I guess the wealth of Sweden is built on the backs of the poor sods of St. Barth...


The coastline of the Netherlands is 451 kilometres, the coastline of Bangladesh is 710 kilometres. The Rhine/Meuse delta makes up about a third of the Dutch coastline, whereas the Ganges/Brahmaputra delta makes up most of the Bangladeshi coastline, and stretches into the neigbouring state of West Bengal in India. The peak discharge of the Rhine and Meuse combined is 16,000 cumecs, the combined peak discharge of the Ganges and Brahmaputra is 106,000 cumecs (the Missisippi has 56,000). Those are averages. The Netherlands had a per capita income of $6000 in 1950, when it was just rebounding from WWII, going up to $26000 in 1997, when the Delta Works were completed (estimates using y 2000 dollars). Bangladesh has a per capita income right now of somewhere around $450 using the same measure.

But Bangladesh has a far greater population as well. Total real GDP is the thing (PPP if there is lots of manual labour involved I guess), not GDP per capita. And as I mentioned, the Bangladeshis have a far greater incentive of getting it done.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Wed Sep 9th, 2009 at 12:44:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Starvid:
Claiming that the West is rich because of colonialism flies in the face of the facts, given that the colonies were money losers and that lots of western nations never had colonies
Have some Adam Smith:
The difference between the genius of the British constitution which protects and governs North America, and that of the mercantile company which oppresses and domineers in the East Indies, cannot perhaps be better illustrated than by the different state of those countries.
In other words, the Bengal famine of 1770 was a consequence of the policies of the East India Company, and not because the Bengalis couldn't get their shit together.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 9th, 2009 at 12:53:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In other words, the Bengal famine of 1770 was a consequence of the policies of the East India Company, and not because the Bengalis couldn't get their shit together.

And when, pray, did I claim otherwise? Or do you think the lack of dikes in Bangladesh is the fault of the East India Company?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Wed Sep 9th, 2009 at 01:23:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If my geography does not fail me, Bangladesh is in the former French Indochina. So that would be any combination of French, Japanese and American colonial administrations, rather than the British East India Company.

Also the fact that subtropical and tropical climates and a comparatively straight coastline (or absence of coast) do not facilitate the kinds of urbanised, agrarian societies that have historically been able to subjugate empires and engage in large-scale engineering works.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Sep 9th, 2009 at 06:49:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bangladesh is on the Bay of Bengal, is the former East Pakistan and was part of the British Raj,

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 9th, 2009 at 07:09:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The idea that the colonies were money losers is an empirical claim, which in the case of the Netherlands as in case of the UK is completely off base. Some colonies in Africa in the late imperial age may have been money losers, but most colonies definitely were money producers. Just start looking into the kind of active industrial destruction the British enacted in their Indian colony to enhance their early domestic textile production to get a historically accurate idea (in place of an a-priori reasoned free marketeer idea) of the situation.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Sep 9th, 2009 at 06:40:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I recall having recounted to me, (but don't have the reference), the story of how the British East India Company succeeded in convincing the residents of Calcutta to purchase cotton cloth made on British power looms in place of their own home spun.  They rounded up the home weavers and cut off their thumbs!

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Sep 10th, 2009 at 12:42:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But Bangladesh has a far greater population as well. Total real GDP is the thing (PPP if there is lots of manual labour involved I guess), not GDP per capita. And as I mentioned, the Bangladeshis have a far greater incentive of getting it done.

They also have far greater disincentives to get it done, as in, the situation in their delta is completely different from the Dutch delta (which isn't much of one), and you have no idea of the differences.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Sep 9th, 2009 at 06:42:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Starvid:
Claiming that the West is rich because of colonialism flies in the face of the facts, given that the colonies were money losers and that lots of western nations never had colonies. But I guess the wealth of Sweden is built on the backs of the poor sods of St. Barth...

Sweden built its initial 19th century wealth on selling timber and iron, necessary ingredients for ships and cannons.

You do not have to rob people to get rich, selling weapons or other stuff to robbers also works. Does not change that you would not have it if there had been not robbery.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Sep 10th, 2009 at 07:48:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sweden built its initial 19th century wealth on selling timber and iron, necessary ingredients for ships and cannons.

That argument is about as logical as: I eat bread. Hitler ate bread. Hence, I am Hitler.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Thu Sep 10th, 2009 at 11:29:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
More like "I make bread, Hitler eats bread, therefore I enable Hitler".

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Sep 10th, 2009 at 11:39:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Iron and timber were not exclusively used for military purposes. It's just an absurd point of view. It's like saying that StatoilHydro exports oil, hence they are war criminals as oil is a necessary and crucial ingredient of warfare.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Thu Sep 10th, 2009 at 12:27:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would say it is more like: Hitler needs iron, I sell him iron. Hence, I profit from his crimes he commits with the iron.

But to return from Godwin territory, do you seriously question that the countries in Europe that traded with the colonial powers did not benefit from the latters access to cheap resources?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Sep 10th, 2009 at 03:30:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That might or might not be the case to a certain degree. If you recall, wages were low in Sweden as well, and having a greater labour pool to compete with might not have been a positive thing.

No matter what, the effect is marginal compared to all the things that actually did make Sweden (and other western countries) rich.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Sep 10th, 2009 at 06:22:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting, what would those things be?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Fri Sep 11th, 2009 at 07:15:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to my textbook in economics (Vår ekonomi by Klas Eklund, page 375 and forward) there were several reasons, mainly industrialisation which began in Sweden around 1870.

  • Growing agricultural productivity because of the skiftes reforms.

  • The Peoples School reform which improved general education.

  • Freedom of trade had been introduced and guilds were abolished. Pro-growth and pro-business institutions were established.

  • The igniting spark came from abroad as European industrialisation and urbanisation led to highly increased demand for Swedish exports like iron, wood anf farm produce.

  • During the 1890's three new dynamic industries surfaced: the pulp industry which was spurred by an explosive growth in the demand for newsprint and improved wood resource use technology. Iron and ore industry, where new technology had made the Lappland ore fields exploitable. At the same time ingenuity and development made Sweden a leader in high quality steels. Finally, from the 1890's to WW1 saw the rise of the manufacturing industry, based on many new inventions like the separator, turbine, ICE, ball bearing, of which many were Swedish. The telephone industry expaned strongly as well.

After that, it was just full speed ahead and here we are today.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Sep 11th, 2009 at 11:10:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I get where you're coming from, but attempting to write the economic history of any European country in the 19th century without mentioning colonialism is simply nonsense. It is comparable to writing the economic history of any European country in the 11th century without mentioning the Crusades - even those countries that never seriously participated first hand were deeply and broadly affected by these events.

We can argue about how and where to assign blame until we go blue in the face, but that does not detract from the fact that Sweden had a privileged position relative to Bangladesh. If for no other reason then because it had enough rifles and gunpowder to stop other European powers from bashing it over the head, dismantling its political structure and stealing its stuff.

Similarly, we can argue about the economic benefits (or not) of having colonies in general, or specific colonies in particular. But this does not detract from the fact that whatever hypothetical net burden upon European countries the colonies might have been, it does not compare - not even within an order of magnitude - to the burden imposed on the colonies by having their social, political and economic system deliberately demolished.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Sep 13th, 2009 at 06:03:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Starvid
If you recall, wages were low in Sweden as well, and having a greater labour pool to compete with might not have been a positive thing.

If we are talking about "non-colonial European countries" in the period before WW II, the issue of competing with cheap labor from the colonies of colonial powers was not an issue.  Colonies were seen as natural resource providers, as providers of goods unobtainable in Europe, such as spices, and as markets for European manufactured goods, such as cloth, railroads and locomotives along with telegraphs, the metal blades for Zulu spears, etc. etc.  Another colonial play was to obtain goods, such as opium, in one colony, such as Burma, and use the superior military power of the colonial mother country, such as Great Britain, to facilitate access to the interior markets of, for example, China, where that opium could be sold to landowners, who became addicted, as a means of extracting gold and silver from China for shipment back to, for example, Great Britain.  This led, of course, to the infamous Opium Wars between Britain and China when the Chinese Emperor and the Mandarins took a dim view of this process.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Sep 11th, 2009 at 09:20:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The sole reason opium was exported was because of the huge bullion deficits created by the massive imports of tea from China, with China being uninterested in any imports of its own from the West, except bullion. A lot like the current situation actually, with China holding a trillion dollars of IOU's, the modern equivalent of bullion.

Anyway, it was to even the balance of trade that the opium trade began, to stem the outflow of bullion.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Sat Sep 12th, 2009 at 06:56:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mercantilism forever!

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Sep 12th, 2009 at 10:08:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In other words, Britain (and France, and later Germany) bashed China over the head and looted their stuff. After all, "looting their stuff" is what happens when you "buy" their goods and "pay" in toxic crap like opium.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Sep 13th, 2009 at 06:08:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
After all, "looting their stuff" is what happens when you "buy" their goods and "pay" in toxic crap like opium subprime mortages.

And history just keeps repeating itself...

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Mon Sep 14th, 2009 at 01:46:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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