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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 248 of Deirdre McCloskey’s great 2010 volume, Bourgeois Dignity; this passage is the concluding paragraph of a chapter in which Deirdre challenges the often-repeated claim that the riches of the west are the product of the exploitation of poor people through colonialism (original emphasis):

If exploiting poor people of color had been such a grand idea for rich white people, such as certain white Brazilians and white South Africans, then the white people in such countries would now be a lot better off than whites in Germany or Portugal or England or Holland, or the United States or Australia – places from which their ancestors came or to which their ancestors went.  They are not, and were not.

DBx: Just to be clear.  Deirdre denies neither that poor colonials were exploited nor that such exploitation was hideous and horrible.  Her point is that the massive and sustained growth, over the past couple of centuries, in the west – growth that enriched not only the west’s already-rich elites but, mainly, the west’s masses – was not the result of colonial exploitation.  It’s a matter of arithmetic, really: the size of the growth in prosperity in the west simply and hugely overwhelms the size of whatever additional wealth was transferred to westerners by their use of colonization (or of slavery) to extract whatever additional outputs they managed to squeeze out of desperately poor people.