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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Non-colonial legacies

Tyler Cowen has a withering review of leftist documentary The End of Poverty. (Via Brian Doherty.) Sounds like even when it's right, it's wrong. Excerpt:
Does The End of Poverty get anything right? Sure: The film’s critiques of colonialism are mostly spot on, but this is too easily carried off to merit praise. Of course colonialism was an immoral and impractical enterprise, and the movie serves up good evidence to make the point. But colonialism didn’t have the long-run impact that the film argues. The film, speaking through [narrator Martin] Sheen, never mentions that a number of countries or regions from the South were never colonized. Thailand was never colonized. Ethiopia was invaded by Italy but not colonized in the formal sense. Liberia was never colonized. Afghanistan and most of Central Asia were never colonized, at least not until Soviet times. These countries are hardly the major economic success stories of the South; if anything, their economic performance has been below average. China and Japan, on the other hand, started to do well once each aimed its targets on developing some version of Western capitalism.
This rings particularly true to me having recently come back from never-colonized Nepal, where most of the population lives on a few dollars a day while water and electricity are in short supply.

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