Is the Empire really to blame for impoverishing India?
By Tim Worstall
- There are things we should apologise for, but making India poorer isn't one of them
- The Licence Raj was an attempt to grow the Indian economy using Fabian Socialist tactics
- India's economy tripled during the Raj - but so too did its population
Another collective apology is being demanded of us. This time for making India poor. That’s the message from Shashi Tharoor, whose new book, Inglorious Empire, is calling for reparations. He claims we invaded, added the sub-Continent to the Empire, impoverished the place and the people.
There is only one slight problem with this analysis – which is that the Indian economy tripled in size between Clive slashing his way through the Maharajahs and Partition. You can call me a detail-obsessed fuddy duddy if you like but that’s not leaving a place poorer.
While there are most certainly things we should and could apologise for – Matt Ridley details some of the horrors in The Times as does David Olusoga over in The Guardian – making India poorer isn’t one of them.
We can point to unfair trade terms for cotton or locomotives, we can even point out that the average living standard of an inhabitant didn’t increase very much over those centuries. But the place didn’t become poorer.
The standard measurements of historical living standards come from Angus Maddison. If you’ve haven’t done so, it’s most informative to download that spreadsheet and have a look. While these numbers aren’t accurate to the last cent, it’s generally accepted that they’re a pretty good guide. The measurement is in US$ of 1992 vintage, adjusted for price differences across time and geography in order for us to be able to compare living standards not cash income before inflation or anything
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Read more: capx.co