In modern times the c-word has become a dirty word and given a bad rap. No, not that c-word. I’m talking about colonialism. The Left has vilified colonialism as one of the great “sins” of the West. Their near-sided view of colonialism is that the more powerful and advanced European nations subjugated less powerful nations, oppressed the native populace, and plundered their resources to enrich the West. However, there’s more to it than that.

They present a very one-sided argument against colonialism while ignoring any positive contributions. That’s not to say that there were not wrongs done. Imperfect human beings will rule imperfectly, as history has shown. There were certainly instances of oppression, slavery, and exploitation to be found. King Leopold’s II rule of the Congo is a prime example of that. However, not all colonies were created equal, and in general colonies under British rule fared the best.

The Left’s disdain for Western culture is apparent. They see how the West advanced far past the rest of the world and has been the dominate power for the last 400 years. Starting with the British Empire and then continuing with the United States. Instead of attributing the West’s success to better ideas, free markets which fostered competition and technological advancements, intellectualism that started in Greece, and Christianity which paved the way for social unity and universities, which paved the way for science, instead they attribute the West’s success to empowering and enriching themselves through colonialism. But how accurate is that?

In truth, colonialism is an expensive endeavor. While some individuals and companies did profit, most did not. The European nations themselves typically lost money to maintain and defend a colony. In fact, this was the reason the British Parliament imposed taxes on the thirteen colonies, which culminated in the American Revolution. Any profits made from colonies were too small to have any substantial impact on the economic growth of the West. Moreover, even when colonies did plunder their colonies it didn’t always empower them. Take Spain for instance. Between 1521 and 1590 they exported two hundred tons of gold and more than eighteen thousand tons of silver exported from the New World. Yet, despite this massive influx of precious metals Spain went bankrupt eight times from 1557 to 1653. Spain today is a shell of its former self.

And what of the positive contributions that colonialism left behind that is never acknowledged? Colonialism brought with them civilization to the underdeveloped parts of the world. They created infrastructure that did not exist before, and introduced Western medicine, science, education, and law that benefited the native populace. In India, for example, they still retain the British legal system, despite having gained their independence from the British in 1947. Colonialism is responsible for ending barbarianisms. In the New World, Spanish conquistadors ended millennia of human sacrifice and cannibalism that were rampant among the Aztecs, Mayans, Incas, and other native tribes. Missionaries in China helped to end the age old practice of foot binding in China, which left women with lifelong disabilities. Likewise in India, European influence helped to end the barbaric practice of burning widows alive.

And what of countries that have never been touched by colonialism? Consider Iran and Saudi Arabia. These are two countries that have never been colonized, yet today remain among the least moderate countries in the middle-east. In Saudi Arabia up until recently women were not even allowed to drive. They continue to have some the harshest laws and worst human rights abuses. The same can be said of Iran as well where talking against the government can get you 74 lashes across the back.

And what of post-colonial countries, are they any better off today now that they have their independence? At one point Europeans controlled nearly all of Africa, yet Africa today isn’t any better off. Despite being rich in resources, it is among the poorest continent in the world. It is riddled with social\economic problems, wars, diseases, and in parts slavery is still practiced. Likewise, Latin America also has some of the poorest and crime ridden countries in the world.

Colonialism was a mixed bag. There were certainly some bad things, but there were some good things too and they shouldn’t be forgotten. The Left would like to portray a very one-sided argument and use colonialism to demonize the West. But the truth is more balanced than they present. We shouldn’t be afraid to defend colonialism while acknowledging its wrongs as well. And we certainly shouldn’t let the Left beat us over the head with it. 

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