Was British rule bad or good for India? (was: The rhetoric of liberation...)

johnhall johnhall@isomedia.com
Fri, 21 Mar 2003 10:17:09 -0800

I don't think you can say "it makes no difference".  There is a profound
difference for most people in how they feel about a decision imposed
versus a decision freely chosen -- even if the decision is exactly the

More likely, though, the point is that "good government", "freedom", and
a whole set of things we label 'good' are the social results that we
wish to obtain.  Democracies or at least Anglo-Saxon ones, have proven
to do systematically better in delivering those things than all others.

It is fairly easy to argue that a benevolent dictator could achieve the
same results, or even better results.  The problem is selecting a
'benevolent' one, making sure they stay that way, and making sure their
successor is the same.  The incentives all run the wrong way, which is
why you are hard pressed to find any examples.  All you can say is that
some are better than others and (perhaps) better than the popular
democracy which would exist at the time.

As to India being better after Britain than before, that is a given.  As
to India being better off than if the British never came, I'd just
compare those things that India points to with pride in comparison to
other non-European countries.  Almost all of them derive from the
British ...

[The railroads, postal system, education, functioning democracy, etc.]

> From: fork-admin@xent.com [mailto:fork-admin@xent.com] On Behalf Of
> Russell Turpin
> Sent: Friday, March 21, 2003 7:30 AM
> To: fork@xent.com
> Subject: Q: Was British rule bad or good for India? (was: The rhetoric
> liberation...)
> Embarrassingly, I don't know enough of the
> relevant history to mount much of an argument
> either way. Does anyone want to take a stab
> at it?
> >"When important issues affecting the life of an individual are
decided by
> >somebody else, it makes no difference to the individual whether that
> >somebody else is a king, a dictator, or society at large."
> Hmm. Hollywood at least thinks there is a
> difference between "Married by America" and
> married by Rev. Moon.
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