Reparations!

I had thought the concept of reparations was a silliness limited to the United States, but no: it has caught on elsewhere. A movement has arisen in India to make Britain “pay reparations for 200 years of colonial rule.” My own view is that the colonial era brought the region that became India and Pakistan out of barbarism and into the light, but that opinion is not universally held:

India’s prime minister has praised an opposition MP who made an impassioned appeal for Britain to pay reparations for 200 years of colonial rule. …

Mr Tharoor, a Congress MP, writer and former UN under-secretary general, said that “Britain’s rise for 200 years was financed by its depredations in India.”

“We paid for our own oppression,” he said “It’s a bit rich to impress, maim, kill, torture and repress and then celebrate democracy at the end of it.”

Britain’s rule in India, while not spotless by any means, was generally noteworthy for its lack of repression. The local rulers who preceded the British were much more likely to “maim, kill, torture and repress.” And they had no intention of bringing “democracy at the end of it.”

18th Century India

18th Century India

“India’s share of the world economy when Britain arrived on its shores was 23 per cent. By the time the British left it was down to below four per cent,” Tharoor said in the May 28 debate.

Wow. I would really like to see the source for those statistics!

Mr Tharoor added that Indians had “literally paid for our own oppression,” as by the end of the 19th century they were the world’s biggest purchasers of British goods as well as providing employment for highly paid civil servants.

“In fact, Britain’s industrial revolution was actually premised upon the de-industrialisation of India,” he said.

So India was an industrialized subcontinent (it was not a country) prior to British rule? That is a scoop that has somehow escaped the notice of not just all historians, but all contemporary observers.

This is craziness, of course. It would make more sense for Britain to sue for damages caused by the Indian Mutiny.

The massacre of English officers and their wives at Jhansi

The massacre of English officers and their wives at Jhansi

Why do people do this kind of thing? Do they actually think there might be money in it someday, or are they just trying to rile up followers who are foolish enough to believe that there might be money in it someday? I assume the latter.

The reparations game is kind of fun, though. If the idea continues to spread, imagine the possibilities. Spain could sue Arab countries for the Moorish invasion and occupation that lasted for centuries.

The Muslim conquest of Spain

The Muslim conquest of Spain

The Balkan countries could sue Turkey. Just about anybody could sue Russia. The Sioux could sue the Ojibwa for driving them out of the forests of Wisconsin and Minnesota in the 18th century, and the Pawnee could sue the Sioux for trying to exterminate them (almost successfully) in the 19th century. And just about everyone could sue the Iroquois.

The Iroquois often burned their enemies alive, but the fate of the individuals shown here was actually far worse.

The Iroquois often burned their enemies alive, but the fate of the individuals shown here was actually far worse.

The United States could sue Japan to recover the entire cost of the war in the Pacific. The U.S. could also sue Great Britain for burning down the White House (and much else) in the War of 1812. Ireland could sue Norway to recover the value of the Irish slaves that my Viking ancestors stole more than a thousand years ago, as I like to remind my Irish friends.

Vikings take Irish women as slaves.

Vikings take Irish women as slaves.

And Norway could sue both Denmark and Sweden for their imperial control over Norway that extended for centuries.

As I say, it is a fun, but basically stupid, game to play. It is harmless enough as long as no one takes it seriously–like a lot of liberal ideas, I suppose. In the meantime, for a more sober commentary on “colonialism” as it relates to the Middle East, see Bruce Thornton’s The Truth About Western “Colonialism.”

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