From Cromer to Romer and back again: colonialism for the 21st century
In a rare interaction between the muscarinic megalomania of Mencius Moldbug and that masterpiece of mendacity that is your authorized reality, one Paul Romer has emitted—after, we are told, years of grueling and solitary thought—this TED talk.
If you don’t have 18 minutes to wish you hadn’t wasted, you can read Patri Friedman’s pithy analysis. Or you can take my word for it: what we’re looking at here is UR Lite—very lite.
So who is this neighbor, Romer? In Wikipedia, his flacks write:
Paul Romer is an economist and Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Development and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research… Romer was named one of America’s 25 most influential people by Time Magazine in 1997… He has been awarded the Horst Claus Recktenwald Prize in Economics in Nuremberg, Germany… Romer is the son of former Colorado Governor Roy Romer.
Said flacks have also created what Richard North calls a clog, called Charter Cities. Take just a brief look at the latter. Note the top-shelf graphic design—typical of the finest, most expensive flacks. (If strangely framinated—perhaps it’s always 1997 in Professor Romer’s office.) Similarly, if you do have 18 useless minutes, watch the TED talk. Marvel both at the production values, and at the adoration with which Davos Man laps up this “radical idea.” This, truly, is reality.
But 1997 was a long time ago. Professor Romer is hungry. So are his flacks. Has he been reading UR? It’s possible, but I doubt it very much. It’s also possible that some replicating fragment of moldbuggery oozed into his ear through the random sewers of the Internet. Mutating along the way, as we’ll see, into harmless Unitarian banality.
But the simplest explanation of the coincidence is always that, since reality is everywhere, anyone is free to notice any aspect of it at any time. Truth is discovered, error invented. Fiction spreads locally, like a virus. Reality is universally available—to those who can handle it.
So the most plausible interpretation is that Professor Romer discovered “charter cities” all by himself. The idea is in the domain of mere common sense, a set of thoughts which are sensible even if no one thinks them. City-states exist and have always existed. It is no feat of imagination, “radical” or otherwise, to project them into the 21st century.
As I said in my own proposal, the devil is in the details. And Professor Romer’s details are nothing like mine. My city-states are sovereign joint-stock corporations. Note that no such thing exists, or ever has—hence the neologism, “patch.” Whereas there’s already an English word meaning “charter city.” It’s… but we skip ahead.
So why—my neighbors—am I so cross with Professor Romer? Because he is indeed a plagiarist. His “radical idea” is not in any way, shape or form his own. By presenting it as such, he has consciously and maliciously breached the most sacred rules of Western scholarship. He should be fired, and have to find new work as a pimp.
No, it’s not my work that our pedigreed charlatan has stolen. But I am no less entitled to make the arrest. Who else will? All the victims of this intellectual Verres are dead. They can hardly prosecute pro se. Do they cry out less for justice? This game of ripping off the past, while hardly Professor Romer’s invention, is almost up. When it ends, there will be consequences.
Philosophical plagiarism, the appropriation without attribution of others’ ideas, takes two forms: the intentional, and the unintentional. The first arises from malice; the second from ignorance. But since we cannot know the writer’s mind or search his Web history, there is no sense in discriminating between these offences. It is simply his responsibility to know. Professor Romer is no longer on the bunny slope.
Again: it is not I whose work this charlatan has stolen. I am just some neighbor with a blog. Rather, our dear professor’s victim is an entire field of Western learning, including both praxis and scholarship. That in the 20th century this branch was terminated, and has no present-day students or significant practitioners, does not in the slightest excuse Professor Romer from understanding, attributing and thanking the scholars whose work he borrows and/or parodies. He has a library card, after all.
Moreover, since far from thanking and describing said field, he explicitly names and condemns it, ignorance cannot possibly be his excuse. I wonder what is. Here, at 10:45 for the impatient, is this self-incriminating condemnation. Note the odd, guilty way in which the professor races past this delicate and lethal point.
In a sense Britain, through its actions in Hong Kong, did more to reduce world poverty than all the aid programs that we’ve undertaken in the last century. So—if we allow for these kinds of partnerships to replicate this again—we can get those kinds of benefits scaled throughout the world.
In some cases this will involve a delegation of responsibility—a delegation of control—from one country to another to take over certain kinds of administrative responsibilities.
Now, when I say that—some of you are starting to think—well—is this just bringing back colonialism?
It’s not. But it’s important to recognize that the kind of emotions that come up when we start to think about these things can get in the way—can make us pull back—can shut down our interest in trying to explore new ideas.
Why is this not like colonialism? The thing that was bad about colonialism, and the thing which is residually bad in some of our aid programs, is that it involved elements of coercion and condescension. This model is all about choices—both for leaders and for the people who will live in these new places. And choice is the antidote to coercion and condescension.
What a faggot! What Professor Romer is proposing is exactly colonialism. What’s worse—he says that like it’s a bad thing. In one breath, he steals the idea and slanders its real authors. Unbelievable.
The English word for “charter city” is colony. As La Wik puts it:
A ‘colony’ is a territory which is mostly ruled by another state or can be run independently. A colony differs from a puppet state or satellite state in that a colony has no independent international representation, and the top-level administration of a colony is under direct control of the metropolitan state.
The Jedi mind trick is revealed. Professor Romer is digging up ancient chestnuts from the graveyard of history, repainting them slightly, and selling them to Davos Man as his own work. Nice job if you can get it. Would you trust this man with your daughter?
The fundamental observation of colonialism is that non-European societies thrive under normal European administration, at least in comparison to their condition under native rule. This observation was obvious during the colonial period. Since, it has only grown more so—at least, to those who can handle the truth.
If this observation is “condescending,” so is Professor Romer’s proposal. If it is invalid, so is Professor Romer’s proposal. If it is neither, Professor Romer’s 18 minutes should be invested in introducing, explaining, and defending the original observers—not on passing it off as his own “radical idea.”
The most casual inspection of history reveals the observation’s truth. By any comparison with colonial government, precolonial regimes provided extremely poor service. Spend a little time with the Ashanti or the Mahrattas. So have postcolonial regimes. Rent a room at the Grande Hotel Beira sometime. If you remain trapped in your outdated, 20th-century thinking and prefer statistics to intuition and narrative, the observation is still so obvious that it is impossible for me to imagine any set of governance metrics which could conceal it.
Moreover, Professor Romer’s other distinctions are obviously without substance. The claim that there is any serious distinction between a “colony” and a “charter city” founded on “uninhabited land” is preposterous. Many great colonial cities, such as Bombay, Calcutta, and Singapore, were founded on uninhabited land. So in general were the original colonies of the antique era—the Phocaeans didn’t conquer Marseilles, they created it.
And so was Hong Kong, a Crown Colony of the British Empire. Which, built on uninhabited land, by some miracle survived almost intact into the 21st century. It is not that the fluke of history which preserved this living fossil “reduced world poverty.” It’s that the destruction of all the world’s other Hong Kongs—i.e., “decolonialization”—created “world poverty” as we know it.
More precisely, decolonialization created the Third World. The project of Professor Romer’s own intellectual and political establishment, the American and Americanized “scientific” experts in growth and development. What we need here is not a “radical idea.” It is a simple apology. Alas, hell will freeze over before.
As for “coercion,” of course charter cities govern by coercion. All governments do. The subjects of Professor Romer’s colonies may arrive by consent. But it is not consent which prevents the Haitians of Guantanamo City from all getting together one day with their axes and clubs, and converting their blonde proconsuls into Canadian bacon. It is General Dyer or Governor Eyre. Whose names may mean nothing to Professor Romer—but we can let them stand for the principle by which every government retains its position: force. I.e., “coercion.”
So let’s look a little more closely at this alleged monster. “Colonialism” was a great epoch of history that lumps together a remarkable constellation of governments—from Leopold’s Congo at the worst, to Cromer’s Egypt at the best. But picking the worst is easy; picking the best is hard. There were a lot of Egypts and not a lot of Leopolds.
But fine. We’ll start with the worst. Or after it, anyway. Our case study in colonialism: the Belgian Congo, aka Zaire. There is no defending the Congo Free State—but 1960 minus 1908 is quite some time. Observe the sinuosity with which this propagandist redacts an inconvenient half-century:
Government as a system of organized theft goes back to King Leopold II, who made a fortune [in the Congo] equal to well over $1.1 billion in today’s money, chiefly in rubber and ivory. Then for fifty-two years this was a Belgian colony, run less rapaciously, but still mainly for the purpose—as with colonies almost everywhere—of extracting wealth for the mother country and its corporations. The grand tradition was continued by Mobutu Sese Seko…
In other words: skip from Leopold to Mobutu as fast as possible, noting only that the Congo under Belgian administration was… gasp… profitable. Sacre bleu! Another of those nitroglycerines, nurse—I think my heart just skipped a whole bar. Profitable government! Why, it’s practically a second Holocaust.
And what did this astonishing crime against humanity involve? Let us consult our favorite source—the New York Times. From 1991:
Nearly a century ago, when the first Europeans ventured into Zaire’s vast interior, Kikwit was a small village whose people and institutions existed in a quiet, self-contained world wholly uninterrupted by the frenetic rhythms of modernity.
The village gradually disappeared as a social and cultural force as Belgium, Zaire’s colonial ruler, exploited the region’s mineral and agricultural wealth, transforming Kikwit into a provincial trading center. A paved highway was built to speed diesel trucks hauling cassava and corn to other regions.
While the Belgians were often consummately patronizing to their African subjects, they installed an efficient colonial administration. In time, they introduced health care, water projects, education, telephones and power lines, helping to turn this once isolated village into one of the most affluent and best-tended cities in the core of equatorial Africa.
Today, the legacy of Kikwit’s colonial past is swiftly disappearing.
“Civilization is coming to an end here,” said Rene Kinsweke, manager of Siefac, a chain of food stores, as he spoke of how Kikwit has become a dispiriting tableau of chaos and catastrophe. “We’re back where we started. We’re going back into the bush.”
It is difficult to exaggerate the dizzying pace of decay in this city of nearly 400,000 people. Six months ago, the Siefac food conglomerate consisted of 21 stores in Bandundu Province. Today, a single store is left, and it is to close as soon as its remaining stock is sold, Mr. Kinsweke said.
The main road to Kikwit is now rutted and crumbled, and for most of the year the city can be reached from Kinshasa, Zaire’s capital, only by a four-wheel-drive vehicle. In 1960, when Zaire gained independence, a visitor could drive the 300 miles in six hours. Today the same drive takes at least 10 hours.
Elsewhere in town, squatters have moved into homes that once belonged to the Belgian colonials. Entire families now camp on sidewalks, in parks and even in cemeteries. Streets and backyards are littered with indescribable filth, and toward the edges of the city the roads crumble into dirty sand and then disappear altogether. Rats and flies are breeding as never before, adding to critical sanitation and hygiene problems.
It is at night, though, that Kikwit’s seemingly inexorable roll toward ruin is felt the strongest. The sky of this sprawling city is lit with exactly two street lights, one for each of the city’s remaining nightclubs. Aside from private generators, there is no electricity; nor is there running water. The postal, telex and telephone offices have been on strike for months, and no one seems able to recall when the regional radio station made its last broadcast.
Since 1991, of course, the Congo has made a dramatic turnaround. Not! But at least no one is “consummately patronizing” the Congolese, or “exploiting” their “mineral and agricultural wealth.” At least, no one white. As for the “frenetic modernity,” perhaps the next Ebola epidemic will get Kikwit back to that “quiet, self-contained world.” More cake, Mrs. Antoinette?
And how do the Congolese themselves feel about this victory of social justice? That infamous hotbed of reactionary imperialism, Time magazine, tells us:
Come Back, Colonialism, All Is Forgiven
Le Blanc and I are into our 500th kilometer on the river when he turns my view of modern African history on its head. “We should just give it all back to the whites,” the riverboat captain says. “Even if you go 1,000 kilometers down this river, you won’t see a single sign of development. When the whites left, we didn’t just stay where we were. We went backwards.”
Of course, we learn “Le Blanc” is actually… part-white. So maybe he’s just another exploiter:
Le Blanc earns his keep sailing the tributaries of the Congo River. He’s 40 years old, and his real name is Malu-Ebonga Charles—he got his nickname, and his green eyes and dark honey skin, from a German grandfather who married a Congolese woman in what was then the Belgian Congo. If his unconventional genealogy gave him a unique view of the Congo’s colonial past, it is his job on the river, piloting three dugouts lashed together with twine and mounted with outboards, that has informed his opinion of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s present. “The river is the artery of Congo’s economy,” he says. “When the Belgians and the Portuguese were here, there were farms and plantations — cashews, peanuts, rubber, palm oil. There was industry and factories employing 3,000 people, 5,000 people. But since independence, no Congolese has succeeded. The plantations are abandoned.” Using a French expression literally translated as “on the ground,” he adds: “Everything is par terre.”
It’s true that our journey through 643 kilometers of rainforest to where the Maringa River joins the Congo at Mbandaka, has been an exploration of decline. An abandoned tugboat here; there, a beached paddle steamer stripped of its metal sides to a rusted skeleton; several abandoned palm oil factories, their roofs caved in, their walls disappearing into the engulfing forest, their giant storage tanks empty and rusted out. The palms now grow wild and untended on the riverbanks and in the villages we pass, the people dress in rags, hawk smoked blackfish and bushmeat, and besiege us with requests for salt or soap. There are no schools here, no clinics, no electricity, no roads. It can take a year for basic necessities ordered from the capital, Kinshasa, nearly 2,000 kilometers downstream, to make it here—if they make it at all. At one point we pass a cargo barge that has taken three months to travel the same distance we will cover in two days. We stop in the hope of buying some gasoline, but all we get from the vessel are rats.
Even amid the morbid decay, it comes as a shock to hear Le Blanc mourn colonialism. The venal, racist scramble by Europeans to possess Africa and exploit its resources found its fullest expression in the Congo. In the late 19th century, Belgium’s King Leopold made a personal fiefdom of the central African territory as large as all of Western Europe. From it, he extracted a fortune in ivory, rubber, coffee, cocoa, palm oil and minerals such as gold and diamonds. Unruly laborers working in conditions of de facto slavery had their hands chopped off; the cruelty of Belgian rule was premised on the idea that Congo and its peoples were a resource to be exploited as efficiently as possible. Leopold’s absentee brutality set the tone for those that followed him in ruling the Congo—successive Belgian governments and even the independent government of Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled from 1965 to 1997 and who, in a crowded field, still sets the standard for repression and corruption among African despots.
Observe the Jedi mind tricks again, as our journalist skips straight from Leopold to Mobutu. Obviously, nothing interesting could have happened in the Congo between 1908 and 1960.
Or could it? We set our time machine for 1955, and see…
In the Belgian Congo last week massed tom-tom drummers practiced a welcome tattoo. Prosperous Negro shopkeepers climbed up wooden ladders and draped the Congolese flag (a golden star on a blue field) from lampposts and triumphal arches set up along Boulevard Albert I, the spanking concrete highway that bisects the capital city of Leopoldville. In far-off mission churches, encircled by the rain forest that stretches through Belgian territory from the Atlantic to the Mountains of the Moon, choirs of Bantu children rehearsed the Te Deum. African regiments drilled, jazz bands blared in the bush, and on the great brown river that drains the middle of the continent Negro captains tooted the raucous steam whistles on their swiftly gliding paddle boats.
The toots and Te Deums were all in preparation for the arrival this week of the slim, spectacled young man who is King of the Belgians and, as such, the sovereign lord of 14 million Congolese. It will be his first state visit to his African Empire.
The Congo is King Baudouin’s richest, widest realm. It is eighty times the size of the mother country, and half again as populous. Booming Congo exports provide the dollars and pounds that make the Belgian franc one of the world’s hardest currencies. Belgians drink Congo coffee, wear shirts made of Congo cotton, wash them with soap made from Congo palm kernels. Without the mighty Congo, little Belgium might go broke; with it, a nation of 9,000,000 still counts as a world empire.
To novelist Joseph Conrad, the Congo River was “an immense snake uncoiled” curving through “joyless sunshine into the heart of darkness.” There was plenty of darkness in the Congo during the 19th-century “scramble for Africa,” when Baudoin’s great-granduncle, Leopold II, staked out his monarchical claim to the uncharted Congo Free State. Leopold’s rubber gatherers tortured, maimed and slaughtered until at the turn of the century, the conscience of the Western world forced Brussels to call a halt.
Today, all has changed. Nowhere in Africa is the Bantu so well fed and housed, so productive and so content as he is in the Belgian Congo.
In little more than a generation of intense economic effort, the Belgians have injected 20 centuries of Western mechanical progress into a Stone Age wilderness. The results are staggering: in forests, where 50 years ago there were no roads because the wheel was unknown, no schools because there was no alphabet, no peace because there was neither the will nor the means to enforce it, the sons of cannibals now mine the raw materials of the Atomic Age.
Belgian brains and Bantu muscle have thrust back the forest and checked the dread diseases (yaws, sleeping sickness, malaria) which sapped the Bantu’s strength. In some areas, the Congo’s infant-mortality rate is down to 60 per 1,000—better than Italy’s figure. More than 1,000,000 children attend primary and secondary schools—40% of the school-age population (compared with less than 10% in the French empire).
The Belgians taught the Bantu to run bulldozers, looms and furnaces, to rivet ships, drive taxis and trucks. Girls with grotesque tribal markings etched into their ebony foreheads sell in shops, teach in schools, nurse in hospitals. Already thousands of natives in the Congo’s bustling cities earn $100-$150 a month —more than most workers in Europe, and small fortunes by African standards. They buy sewing machines, phonographs and bicycles in such profusion that Sears, Roebuck has recently put out a special Congo catalogue.
The Belgians compare the Congo with the state of Texas, though in fact the Congo is bigger and far richer in its natural resources. The Congo’s gross national product has tripled since 1939. Money is plentiful. Belgian investors take more than $50 million a year in dividends alone. Once the Congo depended exclusively on mining and farming; today it manufactures ships, shoes, cigarettes, chemicals, explosives and photographic film. With its immense reserves of hydroelectric power (a fifth of the world’s total), the Belgians expect the Congo to become “the processing plant for all Africa.”
The Congo boom makes its cities grow like well-nourished bamboo shoots. In six years the Negro population of Elisabethville has jumped from 40,000 to 120,000, Costermansville from 7,000 to 25,000, Stanleyville from 25,000 to 48,000. But the pride of the Congo is Leopoldville (pop. 370,000), a bustling, modern metropolis that is spreading along the south bank of Stanley Pool (see map).
Leo, as the Belgians call it, has tripled its population in the past six years. Its 20,000 whites live apart in a suburb that seems far too big for them. There are broad, empty boulevards and a scattering of modern skyscrapers, but the buildings seem isolated amid the mango palms and yellow-flowered cassia trees where the red-tailed parrots roost. Many streets are unpaved and unlighted; in heavy rain they turn to quagmires. Leo’s whites are mostly officials or highly trained business executives—managers, engineers, sales agents. They are a hardworking, hard-drinking crew, and they have plenty of money to spend on oysters, Scottish salmon and French wine, served in Leo’s nightclubs. The Belgians drive American cars, particularly Buicks, and wear colorful combinations of sun helmet, khaki shirt, pink shorts, bright green woolen socks and beige suede shoes. “They have two kinds of conversation,” gibes an English-born resident of Leo. “One is an offer, the other a counter-offer.”
Adjoining “white Leo” is the teeming “native town,” known to the Negroes as Le Beige. Without its 350,000 Africans, Leopoldville would crumble in the tropical sun. Each morning, thousands of Negroes bicycle into downtown Leo to work in the shipyards and offices. Evenings, they stream homeward to the jumble of shacks, tenements, modern homes and tastefully built hospitals that make up “black Leo.” In the darkness, millions of candles glow under the mango trees where Negro market women do a roaring trade in bread, beer and dried fish, green-and-brown-striped caterpillars (a delicacy when fried in deep fat) and blackened lumps of elephant meat…
And the source? Time magazine. We have always been at war with Eastasia.
The various colonial regimes were by no means perfect. But to assert that their average quality of government service was anything but far better than either their predecessors, or their successors, is a political distortion of history which I have no trouble at all in comparing to Holocaust denial. Far more people were murdered in decolonization and postcolonial violence than in the Holocaust. Moreover, only a few fringe nutcases deny the Holocaust—whereas anticolonialism is a core tenet of everyone’s college education. Oops.
Even the idea of government by international coalition, which has worked out so well in Afghanistan, is not even slightly new. It is recognized instantly as the original design for decolonization, created by Davos Man’s grandfathers in San Francisco: UN trusteeships. Perhaps Professor Romer could go back to his map of the world at night, and find all the UN trusteeships. Multinational colonialism is a contradiction in terms.
Basically, wanting to confiscate the British, French, Dutch, Belgian and Portuguese empires, but not wanting to be too obvious about it, and retaining the shred of sanity required to see that “independence” would produce tremendous bloodshed and vast suffering, the original plan of the New Deal internationalists was to transfer the colonies of America’s defeated allies to apparatchiks of the new world government. I.e.—them. More jobs for us!
But the UN never quite became functional, and that wind of change blew faster every year. So they shrugged their shoulders and went with plan B: tremendous bloodshed and vast suffering. Decolonialization. And sixty years later, some asshole in thousand-dollar glasses is standing on a million-dollar stage, reminding the world’s good and great what a great idea that was. Except, well, that it wasn’t…
So Professor Romer is like a mainstream Holocaust denier. A phenomenon that might well exist, had Hitler won the war. Hitler didn’t win the war, but his enemies did. And the destruction of European government in the non-European world was a core point of their program for “a moral way of international living.” Well, it sounded nice in 1942.
But I want to get back to my original point—the scholarly malfeasance of Professor Romer. UR is not in the atrocity-mongering business. History is a nasty affair. Someone always has to win the war, and that someone will have a skeleton or two in their closets. It’s far more interesting to look in the winners’ closets than the losers’. But after a while, you’ve seen enough skeletons.
To understand the depth of this violation of academic integrity, let’s try a thought-experiment. In our thought-experiment, Professor Romer’s intellectual victims come to life and confront him. Properly executed, this zombie cagefight metes out the full punishment of history, which has no patience at all with ignorance or mendacity.
By sheer will, diligent research and/or pharmaceutical animation, compel the inside of your forehead to display a similar slick video in which Professor Romer does not speak alone—but must share the stage with one of the dead men whom he has simultaneously insulted and robbed, exhumed and reanimated by prodigious doses of formaldehyde, caffeine and Wikipedia.
There are many candidates for the position of opponent. But the obvious winner is Evelyn Baring, first Lord Cromer—if nothing else, for the rhyme alone.
To be fair, we’ll give Professor Romer his own few days to prepare, by reading Lord Cromer’s works—or at least, Modern Egypt (vol. 1, vol. 2), and Ancient and Modern Imperialism (which he will have to buy from the thieves at Kessinger). He can probably afford to skip, say, Paraphrases and Translations From the Greek.
You see, our two contestants, Romer and Cromer, have some things in common. Both are men of genuine importance in the real world, and both can at least pretend to scholarship. Lord Cromer would have no trouble in adjusting his attitude to fit either Davos or the Stanford faculty lounge, assuming no one minded the reek of formaldehyde and the awful, staring eyesockets. How would Professor Romer adjust to Lord Cromer’s world? Just as well, I suspect.
But the grand presence of such an old, noble corpse may just be too much. So let’s adjust the experiment and fill a whole panel with fresher meat. I nominate Philip Larkin and Evelyn Waugh. Against Cromer, Larkin and Waugh, I doubt Professor Romer will last the full 18. If the fight isn’t stopped, I won’t be surprised if he feels morally compelled to hang himself with his own tie.
Let’s ring the bell and see where this goes. The last to die is the last to speak:
First, I’d like to apologize for our young, excitable promoter, Mr. Moldbug. His heart may be in the right place, but his tongue could use some soap.
I myself have no hard feelings, Professor Romer. I find it admirable that, considering the dark ages of the mind in which you live, you have come to the difficult realization that non-Europeans can benefit from the blessing of European government, a thought which I’m not surprised to see has become forbidden in your time.
It’s even more impressive that you have come to this realization despite an apparent ignorance of both modern history and human biology. I hope that you will continue to learn and grow in your work. Surely your position is such that you have nothing to fear from speaking the truth as you see it, or seeking it wherever you might find it.
It may surprise you to know that even we struggled with this same taboo, which was perhaps my most difficult problem in governing Egypt. As I wrote:
British policy in Egypt since the year 1882 may be said to constitute a prolonged and, so far, only partially successful effort to escape from the punishment due to original sin. The ancient adage that truth is a fellow citizen of the gods is as valid in politics as in morals. British statesmen were continually harassed by a Nemesis in the shape of the magna vis veritatis, which was for ever striving to shatter the rickety political edifice constructed at the time of the occupation on no surer foundations than those of diplomatic opportunism. At every turn of the political wheel fact clashed with theory.
In plain English, to make Egypt a success in the political climate of the Gladstone era, we had to combine the pretence of native government with the reality of British government. We had to rule as if we had annexed Egypt, like India—but we could not annex Egypt, like India. We thus assumed the additional burden of thespianism, having to rule while acting the part of advisors. It worked, but for the last time.
Despite the optimism expressed in my memoirs, I cannot be surprised that this dishonesty eventually surfaced and Nemesis triumphed, destroying British Egypt and returning it to the expected tyranny of the Arab ruling caste. Which promptly got down to the important work of ethnic cleansing, pervasive corruption and incompetence, and international aggression. At least some of the buildings remain, and the Copts have not yet been expelled en masse. However, it strikes me as likely that the successor to the Mubarak dynasty will be revolutionary Islam. Egypt has not yet seen her nadir, I fear.
The failure of this advisory role is easily seen in the American or “postcolonial” era. Egypt worked because we ruled, while pretending to advise. But this was a sham, and the sham revealed itself. In Vietnam or in Afghanistan today, or anywhere in the postcolonial world, Americans (and their British and European poodles, now thoroughly housebroken and re-educated) practice no such mendacity. Natives truly rule; Westerners truly advise. And give, give, give.
The results are apparent to all, or should be. Frankly, a return to true native rule, without patronizing advice or insidious dependency, would be healthier. A painful step no doubt, but I feel for your understanding or mine to make any real headway in the world, it may be a necessary start.
I’d like to close with a pair of passages from Modern Egypt, which highlight the difficulty we experienced in converting Egypt from Oriental despotism to one of the most promising and prosperous regions of the world, a place so pleasant that bohemians like Lawrence Durrell moved there just to live—as though it was Prague. Alas, it is no longer Prague.
You may have it easier with your “uninhabited land,” but I suspect not. Non-Europeans are not Europeans; to govern them, you must rule them; to rule them, you must know them. Take a small lesson from my experience:
When it is remembered that, in addition to the difficulties arising from the causes to which allusion is made in this chapter, the country had, for at least a century previous to 1882, been governed under a system which exhibited the extremes of savage cruelty and barbarity; that the impulse towards civilisation first imparted, and not unintelligently imparted by the rough men of genius who founded the Khedivial dynasty, was continued on principles, which may almost be characterised as insane, by the incapable Said, and the spendthrift Ismail; that under their auspices all that was least creditable to European civilisation was attracted to Egypt, on whose carcase swarms of needy adventurers preyed at will; that, as a consequence of these proceedings, the very name of European stank in the nostrils of the Egyptian population; that whatever European ideas had taken root in the country had been imported from France; that the French Government and French public opinion were at the outset bitterly opposed to the action of England in Egypt; that, through the medium of an unscrupulous press, Englishmen were vilified and their actions systematically misrepresented; that, under the pressure of Europe and the European creditors of Egypt, a variety of complicated institutions had been created which were in advance of the requirements and state of civilisation of the country; that the Treasury was well- nigh bankrupt; that the army had been disbanded; that no law-courts worthy of the name existed; that the Englishman’s own countrymen, who, according to their custom, judged mainly by results, expected that at the touch of his administrative wand all abuses would forthwith disappear; that the fellah expected immediate relief from taxation and oppression; that the Levantine contractor expected to dip his itching palm into the till of the British Treasury ; that the English man’s position was undefined, and that he was unable to satisfy all these expectations at once ; that, having just quelled a rebellion in Egypt, he was confronted with a still more formidable rebellion in the Soudan; and, lastly, that before he had seriously begun the work of reform, he was constantly pressed by Frenchmen, and by some of his own countrymen, to declare his conviction that the work was accomplished, —when all these points are remembered, the difficulty of the task which England undertook may be appreciated in its true light. But the task was ennobled by its difficulty. It was one worthy of the past history, the might, the resources, and the sterling national qualities of the Anglo-Saxon race. I shall presently endeavour to show how it was accomplished.
Care to know how it was accomplished, Professor Romer? Read my book. But here is what I had to deal with:
The duty of a diplomatic agent in a foreign country is to carry out to the best of his ability the policy of the Government which he serves. My main difficulty in Egypt was that the British Government never had any definite policy which was capable of execution; they were, indeed, at one time constantly striving to square the circle, that is to say, they were endeavouring to carry out two policies which were irreconcilable, namely, the policy of reform, and the counter-policy of evacuation. The British Government are not to be blamed on this account. The circumstances were of a nature to preclude the possibility of adopting a clear-cut line of action, which would have enabled the means to be on all occasions logically adapted to the end.
I never received any general instructions for my guidance during the time I held the post of British Consul-General in Egypt, and I never asked for any such instructions, for I knew that it was useless for me to do so. My course of action was decided according to the merits of each case with which I had to deal. Sometimes I spurred the unwilling Egyptian along the path of reform. At other times, I curbed the impatience of the British reformer. Sometimes I had to explain to the old-world Mohammedan, the Mohammedan of the Sheriat, the elementary differences between the principles of government in vogue in the seventh and in the nineteenth centuries. At other times, I had to explain to the young Gallicised Egyptian that the principles of an ultra-Republican Government were not applicable in their entirety to the existing phase of Egyptian society, and that, when we speak of the rights of man, some distinction has necessarily to be made in practice between a European spouting nonsense through the medium of a fifth-rate newspaper in his own country, and man in the person of a ragged Egyptian fellah, possessed of a sole garment, and who is unable to read a newspaper in any language whatsoever. I had to support the reformer sufficiently to prevent him from being discouraged, and sufficiently also to enable him to carry into execution all that was essential in his reforming policy. I had to check the reformer when he wished to push his reforms so far as to shake the whole political fabric’ in his endeavour to overcome the tiresome and, to his eyes, often trumpery obstacles in his path, and thus lay bare to the world that measures which were dictated in the true interests of Egypt were opposed by many who had, by accident or by the political cant of the day, been elevated to the position of being the putative representatives of Egyptian public opinion. I had to support the supremacy of the Sultan and, at the same time, to oppose any practical Turkish interference in the administration, which necessarily connoted a relapse into barbarism. I had at one time to do nothing inconsistent with a speedy return to Egyptian self- government, or, at all events, a return to government by the hybrid coterie of Cairo, which flaunts before the world as the personification of Egyptian autonomy; whilst, at the same time, I was well aware that, for a long time to come, European guidance will be essential if the administration is to be conducted on sound principles. I had at times to retire into my diplomatic shell, and to pose as one amongst many representatives of foreign Powers. At other times, I had to step forward as the representative of the Sovereign whose soldiers held Egypt in their grip. At one time, I had to defend Egypt against European aggression, and, not un-frequently, I had in the early days of the occupation to defend the British position against foreign attack. I had to keep in touch with the well-intentioned, generally reasonable, but occasionally ill-informed public opinion of England, when I knew that the praise or blame of the British Parliament and press was a very faulty standard by which to judge the wisdom or unwisdom of my acts. I had to maintain British authority and, at the same time, to hide as much as possible the fact that I was maintaining it. I had a military force at my disposal, which I could not use save in the face of some grave emergency. I had to work through British agents over whom I possessed no control, save that based on personal authority and moral suasion. I had to avoid any step which might involve the creation of European difficulties by reason of local troubles. I had to keep the Egyptian question simmering, and to avoid any action which might tend to force on its premature consideration, and I had to do this at one time when all, and at another time when some of the most important Powers were more or less opposed to British policy. Lastly, the most heterogeneous petty questions were continually coming before me. If a young British officer was cheated at cards, I had to get him out of his difficulties. If a slave girl wanted to marry, I had to bring moral pressure on her master or mistress to give their consent. If a Jewish sect wished for official recognition from the Egyptian Government, I was expected to obtain it, and to explain to an Egyptian Minister all I knew of the difference between Ashkenazian and Sephardic practices. If the inhabitants of some remote village in Upper Egypt were discontented with their Sheikh, they appealed to me. I have had to write telegrams and despatches about the most miscellaneous subjects—about the dismissal of the Khedive’s English coachman, about preserving the lives of Irish informers from the Clan-na-Gael conspirators, and about the tenets of the Abyssinian Church in respect to the Procession of the Holy Ghost. I have been asked to interfere in order to get a German missionary, who had been guilty of embezzlement, out of prison; in order to get a place for the French and Italian Catholics to bury their dead; in order to get a dead Mohammedan of great sanctity exhumed; in order to prevent a female member of the Khedivial family from striking her husband over the mouth with a slipper; and in order to arrange a marriage between two other members of the same family whom hard-hearted relatives kept apart. I have had to take one English maniac in my own carriage to a Lunatic Asylum; I have caused another to be turned out of the English church; and I have been informed that a third and remarkably muscular madman was on his way to my house, girt with a towel round his loins, and bearing a poker in his hands with the intention of using that implement on my head. I have been asked by an Egyptian fellah to find out the whereabouts of his wife who had eloped; and by a German professor to send him at once six live electric shad-fish, from the Nile. To sum up the situation in a few words, I had not, indeed, to govern Egypt, but to assist in the government of the country without the appearance of doing so and without any legitimate authority over the agents with whom I had to deal.
Now all this is forgotten. If I exist at all for you, Professor Romer, it is as a villain—a foil by which you demonstrate how righteous you are, by not being me. Can I take umbrage at this? By no means, for it is the work of every public man. My own professional dishonesty was no less, and for the same good end.
Still, my worry is that you fall between stools. You dissemble far too much for your words to have the real ring of truth, exotic now and almost unheard—magna vis veritatis. But in this real world, the world of lies, your idea is just as advertised—radical. Yours is an age made by radical ideas, but it is no longer an age of radical ideas. If your idea is possible, it is every bit the boon you claim. But is it? Really? And if not, what is the point of your work?
Thank you, Lord Cromer. Unfortunately, I have none of your patience. I too may be a grown man named “Evelyn,” but I am of a later generation. I saw the Third World and its causes. Professor Romer will find no sympathy from me.
He needs to face up to the fact that his school is the problem, not the solution. He needs to apologize for and thoroughly repudiate anticolonialism and democratic evangelism. Until he does so, his “radical ideas” are no more than that staple of the Warsaw Pact—“socialism with a human face.” In the end it was clear that Russian Communism needed to be discarded, not reformed. I predict the same fate for its first cousin, American progressivism.
In the preface to the 1962 edition of Black Mischief (1932), I wrote:
Thirty years ago it seemed an anachronism that any part of Africa should be independent of European administration. History has not followed what then seemed its natural course.
Professor Romer, if you wish to change the course of history, or rather set it back on course, a wink and a nod will not suffice. The wheel is too much for a mere shoulder. You need the lever of truth—the whole truth—or it will roll right over you. It will probably roll over you anyway, but at least you could try.
Even ascribing the success of colonialism to that mystical factor, European administration, is soft-pedaling reality. What worked is not the mystique of having white men in government, for there is nothing unique about either the white man or his presence in the halls of power. Indeed the Third World governments were all the creation of white men—white men like you, development experts. Whatever the cause of “world poverty” may be, it is surely not a shortage of development experts.
Rather, what worked was European rule. The Third World is a world crying out to be ruled. It demands not “good rules,” but good rulers. The myth of rules without rulers is another of your American phlogistons, which keeps almost indefinitely in a complacent temperate clime but melts at once in the tropics.
Since colonialism is so out of fashion, since there are no Cromers anymore, this effect is seen most strongly in native autocrats—a Lee Kuan Yew, a Paul Kagame, an Alberto Fujimori. All three of these men saved a country from anarchy and destruction, and none is even slightly Canadian. If there was anything in your underwear, you might consider praising them.
I wrote of this in Robbery Under Law (1939), which in my humble opinion is not only the first work to describe the coming Third World, but also the best. Read it. Here is my eulogy for Porfirio Diaz:
For thirty-five years Diaz maintained his personal government. He set an example, unique among Mexican rulers, in the integrity of his personal life. He was a faithful husband; he left his country rich, himself poor. He opened up the country with roads and railways, bringing law and wealth to practically unexplored districts. Above all he kept the country’s sovereignty intact—at a time when statesmen were openly claiming that the natural boundary of the United States was the isthmus of Panama. He was only able to do this by maintaining the equilibrium of foreign investment; by getting the English and French to fight his commercial war with the United States. He saved his country from absorption at the very modest price of the dividends that went to European stockholders.
[…] At the end of Diaz’ reign, when his powers were weakened, he began to concern himself with the problem of a successor and for the moment toyed with the idea (as Kemal did, with disastrous results for those who took him seriously) of a constitutional opposition. Mexicans of the time, who had grown up under him, an knew the boredom and inevitable abuses that grow in an autocracy, who had never known the bad days of Juarez, wished to see their country conforming still more closely to the contemporary fashion; they had seen general elections at Stonyhurst and knew them to be lively and bonhomous occasions. So party politics were introduced with pleasant expectations of candidates competing with benevolent projects and a party loyalty finding expression in coloured rosettes and rotten eggs. The result has been twenty-five years of graft, bloodshed and bankruptcy.
Make it a hundred.
Professor Romer, here is a question for you: suppose your good Mr. Castro says yes, and you get your Guantanamo City up and running, with its Haitian population and Canadian proconsuls. It is, of course, a smashing success, with investment galore.
And then, in ten years, a mob of Haitians gathers in the beautifully landscaped central square, wearing coloured rosettes and throwing rotten eggs, all chanting a single demand: democracy for Guanatanamo City. The Canadians, all in a tizzy, call you. It’s the middle of the night in Palo Alto. You pick up the phone. “What should we say?” the Canadians ask. “Yes, or no?”
If they say yes—what, in ten years, will be the difference between Guantanamo and Haiti? If they say no—what do they say next? You’ll notice that you have no answer to this question. Hell has little pity for those who decide to forget history.
Perhaps the reason you have so much trouble imagining this scenario is that your own country has been so successful in suppressing actual political democracy, in favor of the administrative caste of which you are a member. To you, the proposition that “politics” should affect the formulation or execution of “public policy” is no less than heresy—like Velveeta on a communion wafer.
Thus, you reinvent colonialism by simply teleporting this managerial state from Canada, where democracy has been effectively suppressed, to Cuba, where democracy has been effectively suppressed. But the subjects of your new state are not Canadians, or even Cubans. The job has not been done.
If you want to suppress their lust for power, a lust which grows in the heart of every man, you can do so. All it takes is a bit of gear and the will to use it. As Wellington said: pour la canaille, la mitraille. But then, my dear professor, you are really reinventing colonialism—not just pretending to do so, for an audience as ignorant, hypocritical and naive as yourself.
Gentlemen, I find this conversation remarkably amusing, but I fear I have little to add to it. However, I should probably at least repeat the poem which I suspect got me summoned here. From 1969:
Homage to a Government
Next year we are to bring the soldiers home For lack of money, and it is all right. Places they guarded or kept orderly, Must guard themselves, and keep themselves orderly. We want the money for ourselves at home Instead of working. And this is all right. It’s hard to say who wanted it to happen, But now it’s been decided nobody minds. The places are a long way off, not here, Which is all right, and from what we hear The soldiers there only made trouble happen. Next year we shall be easier in our minds. Next year we shall be living in a country That brought its soldiers home for lack of money. The statues will be standing in the same Tree-muffled squares, and look nearly the same. Our children will not know it’s a different country. All we can hope to leave them now is money.
What an optimist I was! To think that decolonialization would save money! We British, simple souls, never ran our Empire for profit. But postcolonies are more expensive than colony ever was. Black Ireland needs so much more than pumpkins.
We had an Empire on which the sun never set; we exchanged it, as Muggeridge said, for a Commonwealth on which it never rises. We were colonists; we are colonized. Our children—the few we have—have neither money, nor hope, nor country.
Thank you, America! Enoch was right. Good evening, gentlemen; you’ll have to excuse me. I felt better when I was dead.
I’m afraid our zombies may have exhausted the 18 minutes all by themselves. But fortunately, Professor Romer is alive, and thus entitled to the dignity of composing his own response. If he hasn’t already hanged himself with his tie, that is.
Now, what we’ve seen here is a set of moral and historical arguments against Professor Romer. It should be clear that as a scholar, which is what he claims to be, he has no leg to stand on.
But the professor is not, of course, a scholar. There are no scholars in our day—or few, at least. Not all that glitters is gold; not all that does not, is not.
Organized scholarship in the United States died in 1933, when the Brains Trust was established and the academy put on the Ring, accepting a responsibility for the direction of government which it has never relinquished and never will. Power is a jealous master; like heroin, it demands a complete commitment.
Professor Romer is not a student of history; he is, despite his embarrassing and disingenuous demurral, an architect of public policy. Thus—as Lord Cromer points out—when we evaluate him as a scholar, we subject him to a test he will never pass. He is a bureaucrat, not a scholar, and we should judge him as such.
When we judge “Charter Cities” as a bureaucratic proposal, we must judge it by bureaucratic standards. And we can. The proposal fails not because it is morally obtuse or academically dishonest, though it is both; it fails because it will never be tried, and if it is won’t work.
Why is the Third World a kleptocracy, rather than a capitalist utopia? Let’s take Cuba, renowned worldwide for the purity of its revolutionary ideology. In their promotion of European and Canadian tourism, the Castros have proven canny, avaricious and unromantic businessmen, fine evidence that they were always just thugs and never believed in the whole caper to begin with. Even without Professor Romer, it’s quite clear that the Chinese model is extremely profitable and effective. Cuba doesn’t need Guantanamo, and it doesn’t need Canadians—it has no shortage of competent administrators. It could set up a special economic zone anywhere. Why doesn’t it?
The answer is that the existence of any such entity would constitute an immediate political threat to their regime. Why does socialism abhor private corporations? Because a corporation is a power structure which is not subject to official authority. In a Communist propaganda state, dependent on the continuous mass adulation of its subjects, no such independence is tolerable.
In more kleptocratic regimes, such as are found in Africa, the problem is even simpler and cruder: everyone in government steals. Anyone in government who does not steal is a threat, because his hands are clean while everyone else’s are dirty. He might go to the Americans, and they might make him President. And any enterprise which cannot be stolen from is a threat, because every other enterprise will demand the same privilege.
If Professor Romer expects these types of regimes to cede him a tract of uninhabited land, he is dreaming. All Third World nations are saturated with anticolonialist religion, which will trivially recognize his proposal for exactly what it is, and provides the best possible basis for directing political violence against it. That’s how the Third World got to be the Third World, after all. Look at what happened when the Koreans tried to rent a farm—a mere farm, if a big one—from Madagascar. Fortunately, so far only about 100 people have been killed.
A genuine autocrat, who had completely abolished politics, might be able to pull it off. Of course, a genuine autocrat could just hire Western administrators himself. (More sacrilege!) Indeed, as Waugh points out, a genuine autocrat can generally maintain a decent level of order with natives alone, or he is not much of an autocrat. It does not take a lot of good people to rule a country, and almost every country has a gene pool capable of producing them. Papua New Guinea may be an exception, for example, but Haiti is certainly not. The problem is not natives; the problem is the combination of natives and democracy.
Dubai is an excellent case in point, because the Dubai miracle seems to be fraying a bit. The problem is that Dubai is not a perfect autocracy; it is not Sheikh Mohammed’s private country. He sits at the top of a tribal power structure, which cannot be overly abused. To maintain their position, the sheikhs have to hand out free sinecures—jobs public and private—to the Emirati population, which is world-renowned for its abhorrence of actual work.
The result is that Emirati bureaucrats, especially in security positions, find it relatively easy to abuse the Western guests who actually make Dubai profitable, or at least apparently profitable. (With so many real-estate loans, it’s hard to know.) The entire country is afflicted with this giant deadweight of native parasites, who can easily become sadistic as well as expensive.
Thus, the idea of “charter cities” or special economic zones as a cure for bad government in the Third World is inherently a bad one, because bad governments will not tolerate these entities. Good governments will follow reasonable rules, conducive to business, already—as both China and Dubai do.
Abstractly, a much more reasonable place to put a “charter city” is on First World territory. The US, for instance, has no shortage of uninhabited land. Build a new Guantanamo somewhere in the middle of Montana—call it Montanamo. Residency in Montanamo does not imply residency in the US, and Montanamo has a huge fence around it to make this point clear. Fly in the Haitian helots, bus in the Canadian proconsuls, and you’ve got your city going.
Of course, this will never happen either. Even First World government dislikes competition, because even First World governments these days have more than a little Third World nature. The First World is the past; the Third World is the future. Hello, California.
But let’s suppose it did. In this case, good government would still be unlikely to emerge and persist—because we have neglected the entire reason that the Third World came to be.
Third World countries are “independent,” but they are not in any sense independent. The word “independent,” as you may notice, consists of two parts, “in” and “dependent.” “In” means “not.” “Dependent” means “dependent.”
As we all know, the typical Third World regime is heavily dependent on “aid.” But more subtly, it is also dependent on the military protection of the “international community,” against both internal and external threats. (A while ago, I noticed that the phrase “international community” could be profitably replaced, in all contexts, by “State Department,” without any change in meaning.) The latter is a much more serious form of dependency.
Under classical international law, diplomatic recognition was a de facto judgment; a regime was recognized as a government if it appeared to be in stable control of its country. Under its American replacement, modern “international law,” diplomatic recognition is an attribution of legitimacy—to put it baldly, the decision that a regime is an acceptable American client. Through this mechanism alone, the “international community” can provide extremely effective protection to any “allied” regime, simply by making it clear that any replacement will not be recognized—and is thus unprotected against any contender which is acceptable to Foggy Bottom.
Thus the relationship of genuine independence, as practiced in all previous centuries, is extremely foreign to modern international relations. Countries genuinely independent of America are those few which can enforce their sovereignty by military means: China, Russia, perhaps Iran and Venezuela. But even the last two would cave quickly, I suspect, if treated like Rhodesia or South Africa. This leaves us with: China, Russia. Effectively, there are three true, sovereign nations in the world: China, Russia, and the “international community.”
What this tells us is that whatever decolonialization is about, it is not about the actual political independence of the client country. No such independence exists. For any normal Third World country, Foggy Bottom has all the tools it needs to impose a level of administrative control just as close as any authority Cromer exercised over Egypt. The leaders of these countries do not take all their orders from the American Embassy—but they could easily be made to, at America’s sole discretion.
A so-called country in this state is not a true sovereign. It is at best a protectorate. And that old bugaboo—colony—remains perfectly appropriate.
So why, if the State Department could already rule the Third World or most of it, doesn’t it? Doesn’t this conflict with the principle that all bureaucracies tend to expand their own power?
Actually, the present state of the “international community” is a perfect reflection of bureaucratic imperatives. Bureaucracies tend to maximize their impact. They are often quite shy about expanding their authority, especially if it is formal authority—because once you take authority over something, you have essentially taken responsibility for it. Bureaucracies are not fond of responsibility. Who wants to be responsible for the Third World?
Perhaps the dirtiest secret of decolonialization is that bureaucracies prefer the postcolonial model to the colonial model, “advice” and “aid” to actual rule, because the postcolonial model generates more jobs. Vastly more Westerners are involved in failing to run the Third World, than ran thee same countries successfully when they were colonies.
For example, to run Egypt—a country of 10 million people, then—Cromer had about 1000 British civil servants. If you count all the Western diplomats, development experts, NGOistas, and the like, for whom the present parlous state of Egypt provides employment, how many do you get? A lot more than 1 per 10,000 Egyptians, I suspect. How many Westerners are employed in bandaging and rebandaging the permanent ulcer of Africa? Um, a lot.
The Third World, as a government program, is just another permanent money hole on the balance sheet of the developed world. Just as with any business they operate, governments—Western governments—have turned their colonies into operations whose goal is to employ as many civil servants as possible. Any type of efficiency or success is a menace to these programs, not a boon.
Good government is always small government, and small government does not scale as a jobs program. If you have one Canadian Cromer running Guantanamo City like a startup, there is no room for everyone’s students to go to Toronto and get jobs. You probably don’t need more than a hundred Canadians to rule Guantanamo City. Colonial regimes are simply too good—they achieved remarkable and unprecedented bureaucrat-to-subject ratios.
Whereas if the Canadians say “yes” to the Guantanamo People’s Party, allows elections, and thus replaces the professional Canadian administrators with illiterate Haitian demagogues, they create a jobs boom in the Guantanamo-advising business. For every administrative position that disappears, ten will be created in aid and development assistance. It may not be in the interest of Canada, or Guantanamo City, to bring about this change—indeed, it isn’t. But it is surely in the interest of whatever Canadian agency is running Guantanamo City.
Thus the practical problem with “charter cities” is that no one wants them: not the host regime, not the international regime. For both, they simply work too well. Colonialism had to die not because it didn’t work, but because it worked too well.
Moreover, the democratic political tradition of the Western world, which is fundamentally hostile to any effective authority, is the perfect platform for any attack on colonialism—by any name. Again, this is how colonialism died in the first place. As John Seeley wrote in the bible of the late British Empire, The Expansion of England:
What is unprecedented in the relation of England to India is the attempt to rule, not merely by experts, but by a system founded on public opinion, a population not merely distant, but wholly alien, wholly unlike in ways of thinking, to the sovereign public. Public opinion is necessarily guided by a few large, plain, simple ideas. When the great interests of the country are plain, and the great maxims of its government unmistakable, it may be able to judge securely even in questions of vast magnitude. But public opinion is liable to be bewildered when it is called on to enter into subtleties, draw nice distinctions, apply one set of principles here and another set there. Such bewilderment our Indian Empire produces. It is so different in kind both from England itself and from the Colonial Empire that it requires wholly different principles of policy. And therefore public opinion does not know what to make of it, but looks with blank indignation and despair upon a Government which seems utterly un-English, which is bureaucratic and in the hands of a ruling race, which rests mainly on military force, which raises its revenue, not in the European fashion, but by monopolies of salt and opium, and by taking the place of a universal landlord, and in a hundred other ways departs from the traditions of England.
And it may be asked, For what end? As I have remarked, the connection itself is not directly profitable to England.
Which was exactly the problem. Once Parliament decided that John Company was no more and India must be run for more ethereal reasons than mere profit, the fate of India as a colony was sealed. Once profitable government becomes charitable government, Third World status is only a matter of time. Like private companies, all countries disintegrate into bloated mush when run continuously at a loss.
Thus, colonialism cannot be restored by any mere subterfuge of rebranding. Its death was part of the slow decline of Western government, in which all institutions become larger and weaker. The postcolonial Third World state is a colony—in the sense of its political, military and/or economic dependency. It is just a very bad colony. It is bound no less closely to the West. All that has changed is that it is run as inefficiently as possible, which may cause some heartburn for its burgeoning army of Western managers—but certainly does not produce any hardship for them. The worse the business, the more managers it needs.
But we must remember colonialism, because colonial governments provided some of the highest-quality government in history. And, as Seeley points out, they worked on completely different principles than the democratic regimes from which they sprang. Froude once said that if Ireland could be made a Crown Colony, it would outshine England herself. He didn’t say what would happen if England was made a Crown Colony—but perhaps he was thinking it. Yes, my neighbors, there are lessons here.