Thursday, 19 January 2017

The Rogue

Like Robert Heinlein's "Logic of Empire," Poul Anderson's "The Rogue" presents economic imperialism in the Solar System:

"'What the new government wants is something like the eighteenth-century English policy toward America. Keep the colonies as a source of raw materials and as a market for manufactured goods, but don't let them develop a domestic industry.'"
-Poul Anderson, "The Rogue" IN Anderson, Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984), pp. 45-100 AT p. 85.

Not only America but also India?

So we are not just reading about men in spacesuits. (My childhood idea of sf.) We might discuss the Social Justice party and Systemic Developments but I suspect that this would merely rehash issues from previous posts.

When Mike Blades realizes how he can resist North American Naval encroachment on his asteroidal enterprise, we get yet another Moment of Realization: Mike drops his wine bottle, stares ahead and eventually whispers that he really thinks they can swing it. (p. 86)


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

While SOME in Britain might have wanted to use mercantilism as a means of governing India, I don't think that was really practical. For one thing, I don't the British had the ruthlessness necessary to consistently impose mercantilism in India. And, as time passed, we do see industrialization beginning there. The mere fact the Raj encouraged the building of railroads would inevitably spur the growth of industrialization.

Also, the fact mercantilist policies angered enough people in the 13 original colonies in North America to provoke them to declare the independence of what became the US would help discredit mercantilism.


S.M. Stirling said...

BTW, as it turned out, mercantalism in the 18th-century Empire worked to the benefit of the American colonies, not Britain.

It injured specific American interests somewhat -- tobacco planters, for instance -- but on the whole the effect was to take good golden guineas out of the pockets of British consumers and taxpayers and give them to American planters, farmers and merchants. For example, the indigo industry collapsed permanently after British subsidies and protected markets were lost. And 1/3 of the "British" merchant fleet in 1776 was American; a higher proportion was American-built, because ships were one of the colonies' major exports (under the Navigation Acts, American vessels were legally British).

After the War of Independence, American per-capita GDP dropped by 40%, and didn't recover to the 1776 level until 1820.

Britain had fully recovered from the losses of the war by 1790 and went on to a period unprecedented growth.

Paul Shackley said...

Mr Stirling,
Thank you so much for historical information. This is the level of discussion that Poul Anderson's works deserve. I did not expect to get sidetracked back into FLYING MOUNTAINS but, since I am here for the long term, it does not matter how long any particular digression lasts. Any work that I have said I am reading I will get back to and meanwhile Alan Moore's JERUSALEM is keeping me busy on the Personal and Literary Reflections blog.
Any word or phrase in a PA text can trigger a line of thought that should be followed through which means that I am taking days to reread a single story.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

Many thanks for commenting on and correcting what I said. I really should not have depended on what I vaguely recalled from many years ago about the laws and policies over which the American colonists and the English of the mother country quarreled over. Nor had I known that mercantilist policies benefited more colonists than not. And I'm surprised that actual per capita wealth dropped so much and so far for so many over many years in the early US.


S.M. Stirling said...

The problem was that after independence Americans were excluded from the (highly protected) British imperial markets, which reduced the (quite high) export orientation of much of the American economy, thus reducing specialization and income.

At the same time, it didn't hurt the British much, since British manufactured goods were already better and cheaper than any alternative and hence didn't benefit much from protectionist measures (except against Indian competition in textiles, and India remained within the Empire and subject to British policy).

Eg., exports to the British West Indies, and income from shipping and commercial services in that market had been very important to all the colonies.

The colonies had all (except for a few staple producers) had continual deficits in their direct trade with Britain -- there wasn't much market for temperate-zone foodstuffs in Britain, but there was always a robust demand for British manufactured goods in the colonies, so the three- and four-way trades to other parts of the Empire helped balance the books.

And removing the American colonies from the Imperial system also gave a big boost to British shipping and shipbuilding, which had steadily been losing ground to cheaper and better-built American sailing ships.

Ditto on mercantile profits -- in the late pre-Revolutionary period, merchants and merchant-manufacturers in places like Boston, Philadelphia and New York had been breaking into new trades and developing their own sources of credit at the expense of London and the British 'outports'. The Revolution quashed this.

The results were quite serious -- for example, in 1776 America was producing about as much iron as the UK, something that wasn't going to be true again until the 1870's.

The Revolution also cut off a massive influx of British (and other European) immigrants which had been building up rapidly after the end of the fighting in the 7 Years War (aka "French and Indian War").

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

Again, many thanks for your detailed and careful summary of Anglo/American economic history and how DELETERIOUS in many ways the Revolution had been for the early US.