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Colonialism/imperialism

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I have a very difficult question which I have been unable to answer. Is Colonialism moral? I define colonialism as follows:

"Colonialism is the extension of a nation's sovereignty over territory and people outside its own boundaries, often to facilitate economic domination over their resources, labor, and often markets. The term also refers to a set of beliefs used to legitimize or promote this system, especially the belief that the mores of the colonizer are superior to those of the colonized."

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonialism)

Imperialism? -

"Imperialism is a policy of extending the control or authority over foreign entities as a means of acquisition and/or maintenance of empires, either through direct territorial or through indirect methods of exerting control on the politics and/or economy of other countries. The term is used by some to describe the policy of a country in maintaining colonies and dominance over distant lands, regardless of whether the country calls itself an empire."

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperialism)

3 Questions:

1. AR has stated (and Thomas Bowden) that the removal of Native Americans was moral. Now, whether one considers this colonialism or not, was it moral?

2. British hegemony in India, "The Scramble for Africa", "The White Man's Burden" -> (Rudyard Kipling's invention); were these moral in general?

3. If/if not for the cases listed, when is it moral?

Edited by Free Thinker

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1. AR has stated (and Thomas Bowden) that the removal of Native Americans was moral. Now, whether one considers this colonialism or not, was it moral?

Where did Ayn Rand state this? What were both Ayn Rand and Thomas Bowden's words?

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Where did Ayn Rand state this? What were both Ayn Rand and Thomas Bowden's words?

Oh come on...I am giving you verbatim quotes from their works. I have nothing of AR, but the book "The Enemies of Christopher Columbus" written by Thomas Bowden is in essence a defense of this. Are you doubting what I am saying is correct? I would imagine as an Objectivist such is common knowledge.

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As an Indian, I will say this about the British in India: Thank you.

In many ways, the British acted as white emperor's when they were in India. However, that was nothing new. The predominant empire in India at the time was the Mughal empire -- and they were a muslim branch of Mongols. I'm not racist, so -- at the very least -- I do not believe the British were worse than the Mongols. For that matter, even if the monarch was native, who cares.

It is difficult to say how India would have turned out if not for the British. However, when I look at other muslim countries: the middle east and Iran and Afghanistan, my guess is that India would not have turned out much different. [And, for those who want to stand up and tell me how ancient India had all these great scientists etc., I point to the fact that Aristotle's works survived by transitioning through the Arab world. The glory, in other words, belongs to our ancestors!]

The British brought railways, industry, telegraph. Most important, they brought an whole organized civil-service bureaucracy. For all it's socialist faults, this infrastructure slowed the ever-growing tide of native thugs who sought to take power for many years. The British brought the rule of modern law.

I am pretty clear in my own mind that I would not be where I am today (assuming I was born in the first place) if the British had not colonized India. More, I have always rued the fact that the British gave up and left India in 1997 1947, leaving us to native-born socialists.

(Edited to correct date. Thanks to shakthig for pointing it out. - sNerd)

Edited by softwareNerd

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1. AR has stated (and Thomas Bowden) that the removal of Native Americans was moral. Now, whether one considers this colonialism or not, was it moral?

In a number of early American colonies, such as Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Pennsylavnia, land was acquired through voluntary transactions with the Indians. In other cases, such as the eviction of the Cherokee from the Southeast, land was acquired by theft pure and simple. This is not to say that all Indian land claims were necessarily valid. But certainly any Indian family would be morally entitled to keep the home it has built, the land it has tilled and the livestock it has raised.

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As an Indian, I will say this about the British in India: Thank you.

In many ways, the British acted as white emperor's when they were in India. However, that was nothing new. The predominant empire in India at the time was the Mughal empire -- and they were a muslim branch of Mongols. I'm not racist, so -- at the very least -- I do not believe the British were worse than the Mongols. For that matter, even if the monarch was native, who cares.

It is difficult to say how India would have turned out if not for the British. However, when I look at other muslim countries: the middle east and Iran and Afghanistan, my guess is that India would not have turned out much different. [And, for those who want to stand up and tell me how ancient India had all these great scientists etc., I point to the fact that Aristotle's works survived by transitioning through the Arab world. The glory, in other words, belongs to our ancestors!]

The British brought railways, industry, telegraph. Most important, they brought an whole organized civil-service bureaucracy. For all it's socialist faults, this infrastructure slowed the ever-growing tide of native thugs who sought to take power for many years. The British brought the rule of modern law.

I am pretty clear in my own mind that I would not be where I am today (assuming I was born in the first place) if the British had not colonized India. More, I have always rued the fact that the British gave up and left India in 1997, leaving us to native-born socialists.

Interesting. So you think it was more of a net benefits issue?

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In a number of early American colonies, such as Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Pennsylavnia, land was acquired through voluntary transactions with the Indians.  In other cases, such as the eviction of the Cherokee from the Southeast, land was acquired by theft pure and simple.  This is not to say that all Indian land claims were necessarily valid.  But certainly any Indian family would be morally entitled to keep the home it has built, the land it has tilled and the livestock it has raised.

What determines a people's right to land?

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What determines a people's right to land?

Original use and improvement. If I enter the wilderness, make a clearing, build a cabin, plant a garden, dig a well, then the land where those improvement are made belongs to me because I have mixed my labor with it, as Locke would say.

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Interesting. So you think it was more of a net benefits issue?
I think that even terming it a "net benefit" is an injustice to the British. The British ruled like monarchs. Previously, India had brown-skinned monarchs. In most ways, the British were an improvement on the status quo. Edited by softwareNerd

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Original use and improvement.  If I enter the wilderness, make a clearing, build a cabin, plant a garden, dig a well, then the land where those improvement are made belongs to me because I have mixed my labor with it, as Locke would say.

I agree. What about colonialization of Africa then? Would you call that an injustice overall? Did not, for example the Egyptians, create and produce a lot? What is a standard way of applying the aforementioned idea?

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I agree. What about colonialization of Africa then? Would you call that an injustice overall? Did not, for example the Egyptians, create and produce a lot? What is a standard way of applying the aforementioned idea?

I can't give you a single answer for a whole continent. As I pointed out with regard to American Indians, some land was acquired through voluntary exchange, some was not. We have to examine claims individually and use historical documents to assist in determining legitimacy of titles. Certainly Portuguese Angola, the Belgian Congo and Italian Ethiopia were particulary nasty examples of European conquest and are indefensible from any perspective that takes individual rights seriously.

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Colonialism is the extension of ... etc.

Providing a definition was a good starting point. I'd like to ask whether certain examples would be subsumed under the concept of "colonialism". I'm simply choosing two examples of conquest that are typically not termed "colonial".

1) The Hun invasion of Europe (c. 433)

2) The Norman conquest of England (c. 1066)

Are these examples of colonialism, if not, what distinguishs them from colonial conquest?

Edited by softwareNerd

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Providing a definition was a good starting point. I'd like to ask whether certain examples would be subsumed under the concept of "colonialism". I'm simply choosing two examples of conquest that are typically not termed "colonial".

1) The Hun invasion of Europe (c. 433)

2) The Norman conquest of England (c. 1066)

Are these examples of colonialism, if not, what distinguishs them from colonial conquest?

Are you asking me? I don't know, to be honest. :)

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Maybe colonialism is a special type of conquest. So, conquest is the genus. The differentia would be that in colonialism the conqueror (and new ruler) has a political system that is more rational than the one that previously existed in the nation being conquered.

For now, that's my "working definition" until someone can provide a better one. (No, I'm not committed to it; just using it as a starting point.)

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I don't know...I am a bit hesitant to say colonialism is positive. Granted, when the transaction was voluntary (NA selling/trading land or becoming citizens), it is very good. But are you guys suggesting that as long as a nation has not used the land to its potenial, its okay to attack them and take their land? I would disagree.

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...are you guys suggesting that as long as a nation has not used the land to its potenial, its okay to attack them and take their land?

Consider the case of the British coming to India. Think of it in terms of individuals. The British nation did not actually come and take over the Indian nation. British individuals -- supported by British people in Britain -- came and displaced the Indian kings of the time. [Actually, they did not do so to begin with -- they came to trade -- but (for now) we'll assume that conquest and taxation was their purpose.]

Think of it from the point of view of individual Indians. In what way and to what extent was an Indian person harmed when one emperor was replaced by another? Was any additional injustice done when taxes had to be paid to the British rather than to the Mughals?

If British taxes were less than the Mughals, if they fostered rule of law, if they outlawed the burning of widows... did they bring more justice or take it away?

Edited by softwareNerd

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Oh come on...I am giving you verbatim quotes from their works. I have nothing of AR, but the book "The Enemies of Christopher Columbus" written by Thomas Bowden is in essence a defense of this. Are you doubting what I am saying is correct? I would imagine as an Objectivist such is common knowledge.

I asked for the source because "...the removal of native Americans..." was the vaguest thing I've heard attributed to Ayn Rand in a while. It dosn't mention any instances or contexts.

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Consider the case of the British coming to India. Think of it in terms of individuals. The British nation did not actually come and take over the Indian nation. British individuals -- supported by British people in Britain -- came and displaced the Indian kings of the time. [Actually, they did not do so to begin with -- they came to trade -- but (for now) we'll assume that conquest and taxation was their purpose.]

Think of it from the point of view of individual Indians. In what way and to what extent was an Indian person harmed when one emperor was replaced by another? Was any additional injustice done when taxes had to be paid to the British rather than to the Mughals?

If British taxes were less than the Mughals, if they fostered rule of law, if they outlawed the burning of widows... did they bring more justice or take it away?

Don't you consider the NA people a nation?

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"Free Thinker", please define the word "nation".

1. A relatively large group of people organized under a single, usually independent government; a country.

2. The territory occupied by such a group of people: All across the nation, people are voting their representatives out.

3. The government of a sovereign state.

4. A people who share common customs, origins, history, and frequently language; a nationality: “Historically the Ukrainians are an ancient nation which has persisted and survived through terrible calamity” (Robert Conquest).

(dictionary.com)

Edited by softwareNerd

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Don't you consider the NA people a nation?

... ... ...

1. A relatively large group of people organized under a single, usually independent government; a country. ... ... ...

I do not know much the Indians; however, I would guess they lived in tribal groups with some political system -- probably monarchial. Prima facie, I'm fine with calling these political units nations, if all that means is that it is a particular political group. What follows from terming these groups "nations"?

Edited by softwareNerd

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On the War of the Worlds thread Felipe had said that it's okay for a group of people to come into a new territory and take the land if it is not owned or if no value had been created upon it. Essentially, it was implied that owning the land and creating value on it were synonymous. I know people who own acres and acres of land but do nothing with it, just as, perhaps, tribesmen or Native Americans may have owned land that they did nothing with. Would it be okay for someone to come in a take that land? Correct me if I misinterpreted what he said.

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Ah, but this was with reference to "unowned land." Your friends own their land. Now, whether or not they can keep that land is contingent on the terms of use on the deed they got when they first purchases it. If it said, you may leave this land undeveloped, then that's fine.

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[Mod's note: Split from a different thread. - sN]

And what exactly are the (alleged) fundamental similarities between the British then and the terrorists now ? For the life of me, I can't think of any!
Indeed, the British were instrumental in modernizing India. Edited by softwareNerd

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And what exactly are the (alleged) fundamental similarities between the British then and the terrorists now ?

For the life of me, I can't think of any!

Power at any cost and by any means.

Indeed, the British were instrumental in modernizing India.

Do be labelled 'good' one has to be good always consistently. But one act of evil is enough to label one evil. Remember?

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