Free Trade in Asia

When you get the chance, check out this working paper on market integration and Asia during the 19th and early 20th centuries by David Chilosi and Giovanni Federico. The abstract:

This paper contributes to the debate on globalization and the great divergence with a comprehensive analysis of trends, causes and effects of the integration of Asia in the world market from 1800 to the eve of World War Two, based on a newly compiled data-set. The analysis finds that: most price convergence occurred before 1870, with only little disintegration in the inter-war years; market integration was determined to a large extent by the fall of Western trading monopolies; it implied significant static welfare gains and emerges as a major cause of substantial improvements in the terms of trade.

Again. the whole paper is worth reading. I think I might be more interested in it because of my own work on Dutch colonialism in southeast Asia and the collapse of the Dutch East Indies Company (a state-sponsored monopoly). With that being said, the paper is one of those “big picture” reads that folks of all disciplines ought to be interested in.

One of the most interesting aspects I found in the paper had to do with foreign trade. It has become popular nowadays to focus on institutions within a society for explanations on why some nations are rich and others are poor. This paper suggests that while institutions may be important, it is just not institutions that are careful to include domestic factions that are important for prosperity. The institutions that are created to deal with foreign affairs (mostly trade and diplomacy) also play an important role in the health and wealth of societies. (h/t goes to co-blogger Claudio Shikida)

Colonialism: Myths and Realities

My only claim to fame in regards to colonial scholarship rests on a paper I wrote for an Honors course in Western Civilization as an undergraduate. The paper won a spot at an Honors consortium held at Stanford, so I was able to do even more research on the subject. The following post is a summation of my research in blog form.

The first task I have is to explain what colonialism is not. Colonialism is not a European invention or concept designed specifically to keep non-white people down. The myth of the evil white colonialist is one of the most pernicious myths espoused today, and for a couple of big reasons. The first reason is that colonialism has been around for a long time. Today, the Han practice colonialism through the fascist Chinese state. In the 19th century, the Ashanti practiced colonialism throughout their slave-trading empire. The Ottoman Turks practiced colonialism until their empire collapsed in 1923 (and with it a 600 year period of colonialism). The theocratic Javanese state of Mataram practiced colonialism until its demise in the 17th century. The Incan state was also well-versed in colonial practices.

It is important to remind readers of colonialism’s history because of a lack of criticality on society’s part. This lack of critical thinking skills stems from the condescending view of non-Western societies that the modern Western citizen has adopted. As co-blogger Jacques Delacroix so eloquently states:

Liberals profess to reject American military intervention abroad because of a strong myth of people of color’s virtuousness. According to this liberal myth, people of color, non-whites, seldom ever do anything wrong by any standard. When they do, as when they eat their neighbors, for example, it’s always somehow because of something or other that Westerners, Whites, usually Americans have done to them, or to someone else. Or something. And then, of course, you shouldn’t do anything to them or in connection with them.

The idea that Western civilization is somehow responsible for inventing and propagating colonialism is actually a condescending one, and, conveniently enough, permits me to segue into reason number two for combating the pernicious myth that White European society is to blame for all the world’s problems: the myth doesn’t allow for any intrigue or guile or cunning or Realpolitik on the part of colonized societies. Continue reading