Friday, 5 January 2018

McDougall vs Biggar

 James McDougall is a historian who has attacked Nigel Biggar's contention that the British should take pride in their Empire. McDougall writes-
When Rhodes, already censured by a parliamentary select committee, was proposed for an honorary degree at Oxford in 1899, there was vocal protest from 92 academics(none of whom were Corbynistas.)
 A quick Google search shows that Rhodes was awarded the Doctorate in 1892 three years before the infamous Jameson Raid for which he was quite properly censured. He only turned up to receive the honour in 1899 a few months before the Boers commenced hostilities. Two elected proctors, who had the power of veto, did consider exercising it but in the end the award ceremony went ahead without incident.

It makes little difference to ordinary people whether Rhodes was proposed for a degree in 1892 or 1899. The truth is, History does not matter to ordinary people- it is bunk. But History does matter to students of History. They must learn to get their facts right. Why? A History degree serves a 'screening' and 'signalling' purpose. If History graduates are careless about facts then they will be useless for employment in the Law or the Bureaucracy or, indeed, any respectable branch of Journalism. James McDougall is setting a bad example to his students by writing carelessly in an article where he argues that Historians are concerned with facts not questions of 'guilt' or 'pride'.

McDougall says
 Colonial empires provided the matrix of the modern world in the 19th century, and their effects still influence the shape of the world and the division of privilege across it today.
This is utterly false. The United States of America, as Marx recognised, was 'the matrix of the modern world in the nineteenth century'. Germany and Japan, too, rose rapidly. America wasn't interested in colonies- except for a brief period under Teddy Roosevelt. Germany came to bitterly repent its wasteful and mischievous colonial adventures. Japan learned a similarly harsh lesson. Colonial Empires aren't the 'matrix of modernity'. They militate for stagnation and military weakness. Why? Colonial armies face weak, technologically backward, foes. They lose the will and ability to fight their peers. At worst- as happened in Spain, under Franco- a colonial Army invades the home country or, like in Salazar's Portugal, imposes poverty upon its own people.

What about the notion that dead white men are to blame for all the problems of ex colonies because of the way they drew lines on the map?
Surely there is some truth to that?
The answer is- no, none at all. Either those lines on the map weren't contested- so, the line drawing had no effect- or else they corresponded to some genuine fault-line. Those dead white men had no magical power. This isn't to say that hysteresis effects don't exist. Good administration has persistent effects measurable hundreds of years later. But good administration is essentially collaborative. It has hysteresis effects only because there is increased Trust and this increased Trust permits superior correlated equilibria.

McDougall writes-
Britain, like France, the United States, the Netherlands, Japan, Russia, Germany and Italy, does need a public debate about the realities and legacies of its imperial past. We need a fuller public understanding of what Britain’s empire was, and how its aftereffects have influenced Britain’s multi-ethnic, multi-confessional society, its inequalities and injustices as well as its commonalities and opportunities.
Why does Italy need a 'public debate' about its stupid and expensive Colonial misadventures? The Somalis actually invited them back as the UN mandated power even though the British dangled the carrot of a bigger unified Somalia in front of them. Italy had no difficulty mending fences with Libya. Even Haile Sellaise maintained excellent relations with the wife and  son of the Duke of Acosta.

What about the Netherlands? It experienced a terrible famine in 1944. What good were its vast colonial possessions to it? The Dutch are smart people. They turned their back on that type of stupidity. What possible benefit would they derive from a 'public debate' on colonial policy do them now? It is wholly irrelevant even to the 'Indos'.

Japan isn't going to do any more apologising. Why should it? As for a 'public debate'- what good would it do?

Germany has no connection or other salience with respect to Tanganika or Namibia. It is foolish to think so. It wasn't a Colonial power- it was an aggressor which was punished for its aggression.

Britain and France do have large 'colonial' immigrant populations. Some of these immigrants are as stupid as shit and thus can't study anything useful. But they still want a diploma. As a Society, we must ensure that there are worthless subjects which they can study under worthless Professors. However any 'public debate' instigated by their worthless Professors is going to be a public nuisance.

It is important that young British people, or French people, grow up to feel pride in their country. To instill in them a sense of inherited injury or humiliation is not helpful to anyone. 

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