Well, it worked for Johnny Carson, why not for me? Instead of
leaving you with dead air (photons?) while I am knocking the rust off
my beer pong skills back at Princeton, I will share with you a few of
my favorite posts from my early days of blogging. Since most of these
posts were viewed by about 5 people, there is a certain temptation to
just recycle them without attribution, given the unlikelihood of
getting caught. Instead, though, I will share them as my best of
This post from last November was my first real research project I set for myself. Today, there are a couple of flaws I see in it, and I would like to update it, but the results are still interesting. Here is French vs. Anglo-American 'Imperialism'"
For some reason, a portion of our country has adopted France as the
standard bearer of "anti-imperialism" (or at least anti-US
imperialism). France publicly positions itself similarly, trying to
make itself the leader and counterweight to US "Imperialism". I will
leave aside for now the argument as to whether the US's recent actions
constitute "imperialism". I will instead focus on the French as a role
The first thing that struck me was how long the French tried
desperately to hold on to their colonial empire. Both the US and Great
Britain either liberated or came to an acceptable living arrangement
with their major colonies within a few years of the end of WWII. Both
seemed to come to terms with the fact that the colonial era was over.
The French, in contrast, were still involved in bloody conflicts in
Indochina and Algeria to retain their empire through the late 50's and
even into the early 60's.
So, I decided to do a little research to understand the relative
success of French and Anglo-American colonies. Of course, when judging
the success of a former colony, a lot of things come into play, and
certainly the freed colony must take a substantial amount of
responsibility for its own success and political freedom. However,
after a bit of research, it is instructive to see how well prepared for
independence Britain, France, and the US left their colonies. Did they
leave the country with democratic systems in place and a capable local
ruling class, or did they just suck the country dry and try to prevent
any locals from gaining any capability.
To make this analysis, I have selected a number of each country's
key colonies. Some of the smaller African and island nations have been
left out. I also realize that I left off some of the ex-British middle
eastern colonies, but I am too tired now to add them back in.
I have used two pieces of data to judge an ex-colony's success.
First is GDP per capita, corrected for purchasing power parity, found
in the 2003 CIA fact book via World Facts and Figures. The second is the Freedom index prepared by Freedom House.
The results are striking. When arrayed in order of GDP per
capita, ex-French colonies occupy only 4 of the top 25 spots. And, if
you leave out Louisiana and Quebec, which one can argue are much more
shaped by the US and British, and if you leave out Mexico, where there
is arguably little French influence and none in the last 150+ years,
then ex-French colonies occupy only 2 of the top 25 spots. When arrayed
by the Freedom Index, and again leaving out Quebec, Louisiana and
Mexico, ex-French colonies only occupy one of the top 25 spots! The
ex-French colonies occupy 14 of the bottom 20 poorest slots and 11 of
the bottom 15 least free slots. Finally, one could argue that
none of the ex-French colonies have really grown up into world players,
while British colonies in America, Australia, India, South Africa,
Palestine (Israel) and even Egypt play a significant role on the world