The Instigator
Napier
Con (against)
Losing
3 Points
The Contender
TheLibertarian
Pro (for)
Winning
9 Points

Imperialism is bad for either the imperialist or the conquered.

Do you like this debate?NoYes+0
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Vote Here
Con Tied Pro
Who did you agree with before the debate?
Who did you agree with after the debate?
Who had better conduct?
Who had better spelling and grammar?
Who made more convincing arguments?
Who used the most reliable sources?
Reasons for your voting decision
1,000 Characters Remaining
The voting period for this debate does not end.
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/11/2007 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 12,614 times Debate No: 242
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (4)

 

Napier

Con

Human history has been characterized by the physical growth of states, by powerful states expanding their borders at the cost of weaker states. Since about the 19th Century, all states in the world have been more or less defined and expansion became a zero-sum game (in the eyes of all nations of the world). In order to expand, European powers had to attack and subjugate recognized sovereigns.

However, the 19th Century, largely characterized by imperialism, was not in fact the darkest era of human history. In fact, it was marked by rapid progress not only of the European industrial nations, but also their colonies. Until the Age of Imperialism, the small and undeveloped nations of Africa, Asia, and Oceania had not had very large economic communities. Poor technology and under-development had restricted their areas of trade to their immediate neighbours. Basic economic sense dictates that their more exotic commodities were of little value to their immediate neighbours, where they similarly abounded.

The imperialistic conquest of states in the 19th Century marked the end of this economic dark age. The military conquest and subjugation of African, Asian, and Oceanian peoples opened up a distant and wealthy market for their exotic goods. Unfortunately, this trade was generally monopolized by government-chartered European companies, but that monopoly did not extinguish economic growth. Contrarily, the monopolist companies generally had a great incentive to invest in infrastructure to increase the production of their holdings. The results of these investments included railroads in Kenya, mines in the Cape Colony, and oil wells in the Dutch East Indies.

Similarly, the conquered had the good fortune to no longer be responsible for their own defence. With the vast technological differences between Europe and the rest of the world, it would undoubtedly have taken an exorbitant investment in order to compete with wealthy Europe. However, the cost for Europeans to defend their colonies was usually so small that they did not even bother to tax their colonies for the greater part of the expence. Such an alleviation of defense spending allowed the third world economies (if one believes in supply-side economics) to grow, or (if one does not) to at least raise the standard of living.

Similarly, the Europeans benefited tremendously from the forcible subjugation of peoples around the world. It first and foremost opened up a source of exotic goods for which there was a demand. Secondly, it created a hungry market for the utilitarian sorts of goods that Europeans were accustomed to producing. And finally, it allowed for the strategic placement of European troops. For example, the British colonies of Sudan and Palestine shielded the Suez Canal, a vital artery of British trade. Similarly, the capture of islands throughout the Pacific secured American trade routes with China.

Though the primary benefits of imperialism were economic, it undoubtedly provided great societal and political benefits as well. The English in particular often educated the best and brightest of their colonies, to create a caste of native administrators that could be trusted to be loyal to the Empire. Similarly, imperialism wiped out cultural and social institutions that were fatal to economic and political success, such as deep misgivings about trade and commerce. Imperialism also created successful administrative structures, that could be easily replicated after the imperial powers left.

I anticipate that there shall be a good deal of ethical argumentation about the morality of imperialism, but there is no doubt that when one looks at the evidence, without predisposition or emotional bias, both the conqueror and the conquered come out ahead.
TheLibertarian

Pro

I understand what you are saying, and I agree, when looked at in a solely analytical way, there is evidence leading one to believe that imperialism is good for everyone. However, I strongly feel that imperialism is a truly awful thing, and, if pursued as fiercely as it is by America, will lead to our downfall. Though I do have some arguments against it that are moral or ethically based, I appreciate your desire to solely stick with facts, as there is nothing I hate more than an argument based only on feelings and emotions. The first thing that came to mind when reading your argument, was the Roman Empire. They were amazingly successful, politically, militarily, and economically. However, they became too stretched thin, which led to their collapse. This is happening to America currently, and is critical that we end this policy. One form of American imperialism has been happening for the past fifty years, and takes the form of our military. We have bases all over the world in a variety of defeated countries, such as Japan or Germany. You commonly see on the news how our army is having trouble reaching recruitment quotas and our force in Iraq is too small. However, our army is amazingly large, and one of the, if not the biggest in the world. However, a vast amount of our troops are stationed in these bases, and serving very little purpose. This is causing the collapse of our military and will lead to the lengthening, or defeat, in Iraq. Another form of American imperialism that is occurring right now is globalization. While this is a relatively good thing for the sake of the world, we are spreading our economy too much, and producing fewer and fewer things here in America. This is going to lead to our obtaining resources and products solely through imports, and when an economic collapse happens in America, (which, unfortunately will happen inevitably, what with the deficit, the Fed etc.) America, and all of it's trading partners will be SCREWED. Just look at what happened after the Great Depression. There was in essence no globalization, and Europe still felt major effects. So no, I feel that imperialism, is not only bad for the conquered, but also for the conquerors themselves.
Debate Round No. 1
Napier

Con

I too appreciate that your arguments are based primarily on empirical evidence, however some of your foundations are misplaced. I suspect that is more a result of popular misinterpretation of history rather than your own error.

The Roman Empire did not fall because it was simply "too large." Contrarily, internal strife was the primary cause of the Roman Empire. A series of civil wars and rebellions, the result of a corrupt, decaying, and decentralised administrative structure rather than national land area, crippled the Roman military, economy, and political structure. Rome decayed on the inside, as a result of poor policy, long before its shear size could contribute to its indefencibility. While internal strife could be connected to size, empirical evidence shows that it is not. Small states frequently suffer from terrible political corruption and internal fracture (take a look at many Latin American states), while the British and American Empires, two of the largest in history, suffered relatively little from internal strife.

I wish to address your claims about the overextension of the American Empire, but I shall first address the trade deficit, the debt, and deindustrialization in America because of their importance and the relative simplicity of explaining them. The trade deficit, first and foremost, is a good thing rather than a bad thing. It is the result of deindustrialization, a transfer from the production of material goods (manufactured and agricultural) to services and wealth. Deindustrialization is the result of a population growing so opulent that it no longer has utility for all of the material goods that its wealth can provide, and consequently must endeavour to move its wealth into the production of unnecessary services. While the production of services certainly has less utility than the production of goods, it is not necessarily a bad thing. Rather, our capital can be employed more efficiently by producing wealth and purchasing goods than producing both. The debt, on the other hand, has grown to large to be beneficial to our economy. However, it is the result of mismanagement that could similarly be done in a smaller country (many smaller countries have far larger debts as a percentage of their GDP than does the United States). It likely will not lead to an economic collapse because the capacity of the United States to produce wealth is too great, and (under better management) fiscal discipline and inflation will, over time, eat the debt away.

The United States is actually not over-extended, and the poor results we have in our modern strategic were commonly felt by Britain and other global empires. The British, like many other European empires, paid the lion's share for the defence of their possessions. Their troops were sent to all corners of the world, and most were from the British Isles themselves rather than the colonies. This did not result in overextension, but rather allowed for the rapid execution of British policy. The British, like the modern United States, could respond to any global crisis far more rapidly than others. They were consequently able to maintain regional balances of power, and keep the seafaring commerce that was so vital to their survival open. Similarly, the United States keeps a wide array of military bases to keep the global trade routes that supply its industry and market open, because without them it could no longer support itself. The idea, however, that the United States could not defend its far-flung empire in conflict is misguided. The British, in times of crisis (such as WWI and WWII), were able to draw extensively from their colonies to fight their enemies. It is very probable that without their empire, the British would have (at most) stalemated in WWI and lost WWII. Similarly, if the existence or the large-scale stability of the American empire were ever in question, it would be able to draw extensively from nations like Germany, Japan, South Korea, Israel, and its other allies to defend the heartland.

As for your contention (implied as a fact) that the United States is an empire, I agree. And with our empire, we have created a sprawling global economy that has enriched the world's third most populous nation to also be amongst the Top 5 wealthiest in per capita income (a feat that could not be accomplished otherwise). It has effectively spread its prized institution, free-market democracy, around the world (and that system is shared by its allies and the next two largest economies, Japan and Germany). Its far-flung military allows it to respond to any threat or disturbance in a matter of hours. I would say that we are not only indisputably an empire, but that we, even more than the British, show just how good imperialism can be.
TheLibertarian

Pro

While imperialism may at first glance be a good thing analytically, one can clearly see, when shown in depth, that it is in fact quite the opposite, and not only has negative effects on the colonies, but on the imperialistic society itself. You mention that one of the main reasons that India became an extremely wealthy country was because of America helping them, and fulfilling the "white man's burden" aided them on becoming a successful capitalism. However, the main reason why India became more successful was because of micro financing, most notably micro loans, where small, low-interest loans are provided to those in poverty, who can use the money to jump start a small business and help the nation as a whole. This system is extremely successful, and has a 99% return rate, meaning that it is, in essence, a no-cost solution that has worked time and again in many developing countries.

The second point that you bring up that I disagree with is about how America's control militarily is a good thing. When America establishes bases around the world, they start to become the world's police, which may at first seem like a good thing, as we are "the home of the free, and the land of the brave". Much to my dismay, however, this has not been the case with our foreign policies. I quote Amnesty International on their US military aid report when they say that "Throughout the world, on any given day, a man, woman or child is likely to be displaced, tortured, killed or disappeared, at the hands of governments or armed political groups. More often than not, the United States shares the blame." One key example of this was the disastrous CONTRA affair, where Reagan sent troops into Nicaragua to overthrow a fairly elected president because it suited their interest. This happens surprisingly often around the world, and though sometimes it will benefit the world as a whole, more often than not, it doesn't.

Another point that hasn't been brought up yet, but I believe is important when debating this is the complete loss of the conquered nation's identity and culture. When European nations colonized Sub-Saharan Africa, they destroyed a great deal of the natives' cultures, and it is now lost to history. While this may be a slightly ethical argument, I feel for a nation to be truly successful and provide new views to the world, it is necessary for them to have a distinct history and culture.

One last contention that you made that I would like to negate is the fact that deindustrialization is a good thing for the imperialist nation. With the growing increase in vital goods and foodstuffs being imported from other nations, America is slowly becoming more and more dependent on other nations. This is clearly shown with America's constant desire for oil from other, possibly volatile, nations. This is affecting our foreign policies, and is causing America to make poor decisions based on their dependence. With our dependence on foreign nations and their dependence on us for money, this is causing a intertwining web, which while may good for some nations, will be bad when a catastrophe occurs.
Imperialism may appear to be basically a good idea, but in reality, it is nothing but a curse which has harmed both the colony and the colonizer.
Debate Round No. 2
Napier

Con

As this is my closing argument, I will first address your points, and then make a few closing remarks.

First of all, I agree that microloans are an extremely effective tool for reducing poverty. However, they are a relatively new invention, and they did not come into use until long after the British Raj left India. For our purposes, they are irrelevant. Banking, on the whole, on the other hand, was a largely Western institution almost unknown to China and India before they both had extensive contact with Europeans (primarily through occupation). So while microloans, in their implementation, might be solely India's doing, the British were the ones to introduce the system that allowed for them.

Secondly, America's role as the world's policeman is disputable, but I agree with you. We should not have to solve other nations' problems just because "its our job" or because we are supposedly more moral than everybody else. We are not, in my opinion, more moral of a country than any other. However, the military bases do have the valuable role as a vehicle for the execution of a Pax Americana. Western Democracies are peaceful with one another not because they are all democratic, but because they are all a part of a single American Empire. We exercise a great deal of control over Western Europe and the Pacific's foreign policies, and so they could not attack one another. This peace and stability, which allows American commerce to carry on successfully, is well worth the relatively minor price of maintaining our military bases (not in excess of a couple dozen billion, consider that our trade is in voluminous billions.)

I agree that Iran-Contra was wrong. Let us remember, that was done without US military bases. That was the result of poor foreign policy (which any nation is subject to) rather than our sprawling empire.

Another point that is necessary to bring up is that many empires, throughout history, have succeeded by leaving native cultures largely intact. Surely, there is some cultural diffusion between mother and son, but that is inherent in any interaction. While empires have the tendency of destroying suspicions about trade and foreign commerce (which are indisputably counter-productive), they will almost always compromise with existing cultures (Spain being a noticeable exception.) For example, though American vassals such as South Korea, Germany, Japan, and formerly South Vietnam have adopted many American practices, they all retain very distinct and native cultures. Similarly, the British government in India kept the Indian culture largely intact. African tribal beliefs have largely fused with Christianity, and the African taste for tribal structure is still largely allowed to be freely expressed in government (to the dismay of the innocent civilians caught in it).

The contention that deindustrialisation is making the United States increasingly dependent on foreign countries is true. However, the reverse is also true. The world has become increasingly dependent on the American market to supply it with liquid capital, which is no doubt just as important as material goods. This interdependency, this integrated economy, is a good thing. Nations who trade extensively are far less likely to declare war on one another, as opposed to nations who are members of opposite and competing trade networks. As American becomes dependent on the world, and the world becomes dependent on America, the potential for conflict is reduced precipitously.

With that, I would like to make my closing remarks.

Imperialism has been an important and driving force throughout history, and it continues to be today. The economic benefits for both the mother nation and its possessions are undeniable. Capital flowing into an underdeveloped nation is good, markets opening makes the whole world richer, and the introduction of technology to economies that might otherwise not have it is good. Globalisation and interdependence between mother and colony might seem enigmatic and frightfully unexplored, but there is no cause for alarm. As the world comes closer together economically, there is more understanding. As we come to depend on one another, we learn to cooperate. As this world becomes more and more unified, the potential for future bloodshed is reduced. And the cultural benefits of imperialism, too, are undeniable. Imperialism has spread a sort of global culture, in which almost all citizens of the world can understand and empathize with one another. But at the same time, this global culture has millions of variations, and the retention of native beliefs makes it a beautiful mosaic, uniform in theme but each part is unique. I ask you all to discard what your teachers force-fed you in World History, to consider imperialism both from the hard-nosed and empathetic aspects. If you do so with an open mind, I hope you can come to see things as I do.
TheLibertarian

Pro

First off, I just want to say that this was a really great debate, and you made some brilliant remarks that were very interesting. Now, I too will make some negations to your statements, and then make a closing message.

First off, your point that Western Democracies are relatively peaceful are because of America's empire is completely false, as one can see from the past that the empires led to warfare. In the turn of the twentieth century, nationalism was on the rise, and a great deal of nations felt "Hey, we're so great, let's spread our good policies and greatness to other nations, so they can be awesome too!" This caused the colonization of both the entirety of Africa and parts of Asia as well. This mad grab for land than turned into war, not only between the mother countries, but inner conflict between the poorly divided African nations, which is stil present today in nations such as Sudan and Dem. Rep. Of Congo. In fact, one of the main causes of the "War to End All Wars" was that many nations wanted to be more and more imperialistic, most notably Germany, and wished to do it.

Your second point which is wrong is that the cultures of colonized nations have been left "largely intact" one main example comes to mind, which is Africa. Many informed people in America nowadays can tell you the differences in the cultures between many European nations reasonably well. However, far fewer can tell you the distinct differences in Africa nations' culture, for a variety of reasons. First, with the aforementioned poor division of borders, many opposing tribes and cultures were put into the same nation, while other allied tribes were split up, causing strife, conflict, and confusion and a decrease in national identity. In addition, many of the European imperialists destroyed the natives' cultures as I have pointed out above, causing an even greater decrease in the separate nations' identity and culture, causing one, big, war-torn continent, which is still present today.

My third and last point is that nations like China and India only became successful, especially economically, AFTER their colonization from Western nations. However, from 1600, up until their colonization, China and India had the richest and most powerful economies than any other nation in Eurasia. In addition, many other tools, such as paper money, as long as we're dealing with business, was implemented in Chiina first and brought over to Europe, so this argument does not show how imperialism really helped them.

Now, for my closing points:

This statement of which Napier and I are debating states that "Imperialism is bad for either the imperialist or the conquered." I will prove that not only is it bad for one of them, it is bad for both. 1st, the imperialist:
As shown by America, the key imperialistic nation today, in some ways having control all over the world is good. However, more often than not, America has negatively affected more nations than it has helped. This is shown through militaristic paths made possible by our many abses, in addition to their dependence on other nations, which causes distressed foreign policies. This is also shown from one hundred years ago, where one of the main causes of World War I was imperialism. In addition, most colonizing nations have not helped their colonies significantly economically, and not near enough to counterbalance the negative effects they have had on the child nations. Which brings me to my next point, why it was bad for the conquered nations:

Many colonized nations, as I have mentioned above, have had their culture utterly decimated by the Western, imperialistic nations. In addition, they have been forced to conform t their mother nation, which has more often than not only exacerbated their problems. and finally, the overthrow of elected officials have become ever present in nations which have been affected by imperialism.

So finally, imperialism is both bad for the vanquisher and the vanquished
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by TheLibertarian 6 years ago
TheLibertarian
Definitely, this was great, and I really want to debate with you about other topics
Posted by Napier 6 years ago
Napier
By the way, I really enjoy debating you and would love to continue with some more debates at your leisure.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by lindsay 6 years ago
lindsay
NapierTheLibertarianTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03 
Vote Placed by LandonWalsh 6 years ago
LandonWalsh
NapierTheLibertarianTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03 
Vote Placed by Napier 6 years ago
Napier
NapierTheLibertarianTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:30 
Vote Placed by willact723 6 years ago
willact723
NapierTheLibertarianTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03