Thoughts on economics and liberty

India’s decline from an unquestioned position of world leadership

A few weeks ago I had written about India's fall from the unchallenged No. 1 super-power position it had occupied for most of the last 2000 years. Here's the actual table (on relative GDP share) from Angus Maddison's Contours of the World Economy 1-2030 AD.

AD
        1
1000
1500
1600
1700
1820
1870
1913
1950
1973
2003
France
2.2
2.3
4.4
4.7
5.3
5.1
6.5
5.3
4.1
4.3
3.2
Germany
1.2
1.2
3.3
3.8
3.7
3.9
6.5
8.7
5.0
5.9
3.9
Italy
6.1
1.9
4.7
4.3
3.9
3.2
3.8
3.5
3.1
3.6
2.7
Netherlands
0.1
0.1
0.3
0.6
1.1
0.6
0.9
0.9
1.1
1.1
0.9
UK
0.3
0.7
1.1
1.8
2.9
5.2
9.0
8.2
6.5
4.2
3.1
Spain
1.8
1.5
1.8
2.1
2.0
1.8
1.8
1.5
1.2
1.7
1.7
Former USSR
1.5
2.4
3.4
3.4
4.4
5.4
7.5
8.5
9.6
9.4
3.8
USA
0.3
0.4
0.3
0.2
0.1
1.8
8.9
18.9
27.3
22.1
20.6
Latin America
2.1
3.8
2.9
1.1
1.7
2.1
2.5
4.4
7.8
8.7
7.7
Japan
1.1
2.7
3.1
2.9
4.1
3.0
2.3
2.6
3.0
7.8
6.6
China
25.4
22.1
24.9
29.0
22.3
32.9
17.1
8.8
4.6
4.6
15.1
India
32.0
28.1
24.4
22.4
24.4
16.0
12.1
7.5
4.2
3.1
5.5
Africa
7.6
11.4
7.8
7.0
6.9
4.5
4.1
2.9
3.8
3.4
3.2

 

(In this table, I've snipped out relatively minor nations, and highlighted in red the approximate period when a particular nation was at its relative peak of global power).

Note that Africa was a relatively wealthy place well after the decline of the Egyptian civilisation. Italy started losing world share of GDP from after 1500 AD. England peaked in 1870, USA in 1950-1970. Note how the UK overtook the ENTIRE India by 1913, and remained wealthier than India for most of the 20th century. Only now is UK's GDP smaller than India's again. What a superlative performer the UK has been, despite its tiny population.

Before you rush to conclusions, let me point out that this supremacy of the UK (or the West, more generally) was NOT motivated by colonialism but by industrial productivity. While Indians kept digging potatoes from the ground, the British invented highly productive machines.

The data suggest that India and China can, together (should they adopt the technology of freedom), rapidly move towards a 50% share of world GDP. This, however, is not going to happen unless both these nations change their policies from socialism to capitalism.

The writing is on the wall for India: change your policies or remain mired in poverty and corruption. The Freedom Team of India is assembling to lead India to its rightful TOP POSITION in the world. Join FTI or otherwise support it.

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3 thoughts on “India’s decline from an unquestioned position of world leadership
  1. Tim

    "Before you rush to conclusions, let me point out that this supremacy of the UK (or the West, more generally) was NOT motivated by colonialism but by industrial productivity. While Indians kept digging potatoes from the ground, the British invented highly productive machines."
     
    It's sad when fellow Indians don't realize that India was definitely raped by the UK.  And no, I am not saying we were on a track to some imagined greatness.  However, it was not simply the British "productivity" that helped them.  The East India Company (EIC) de-industrialized us.  Before the British came to India, we had a textiles industry unmatched anywhere in the world (see "How India Clothed the World: The World of South Asian Textiles, 1500-1850" by Giorgio Riello).  The Brits replaced our agricultural systems and textiles industry in such a way as to maximize their profit.  Before them, famines were rare and not as devastating (18 in 800 years), but after they came between 1770 and 1947, there were 40+ famines in India starving between 50-60 million.  They imposed high export taxes on us (>50%) while keeping import taxes very low (<5%), which would mean we had to buy from them and could not sell anything we wanted for whatever price we determined, unless it was to the EIC (for whatever price they determined).
    Before the Brits, we had a diamond industry, we exported spices in large quantities (with fair prices), we could possibly have even developed a steel, iron, etc. industry with all the demand from Europe.  Who knows how much more developed India (compared to today) would have been if they had not colonized us.
    Again, tell me, how were the British able to invent such highly productive machines so easily?  Hmm…I wonder if the industrial revolution in England would have taken place so nicely if the Brits hadn't invaded India.
    Yes, socialism kept India back for 50 years, but I suggest you look into the matter better before you say something stupid like that again.  The chart you showed us certainly does tell us many things.

     
  2. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Tim

    Thanks. Two or three quick points.

    a) I’m not suggesting that there was no negative influence of British rule in India. And yet, there were also many benefits. The net situation is not obvious. One thing is clear, that without British rule, there would be no India today but a vast conglomeration of small kingdoms/nations. Some would be doing well, some badly. On average, I’m not sure if that would have been good for “Indians” (who would not, as I said, have existed as “Indians” without British rule). The issues raised in economic history are extensive and must be left to economic historians. Please read up as many views on this as possible. The issue is not trivial, let me assure you of that.

    b) It is FALSE to suggest that the British “invaded” India. I’m sure you were in a hurry when you wrote that. Even the most cursory (and ignorant!) student of history will realise that the influence of the British took at least 200 years to reach the point where they had some genuine control over India’s domestic politics. They came as traders. Period. Please read up history, if you wish, to clarify your mind. Don’t confound such a basic fact.

    c) Regardless of what happened to “India” during British rule (we don’t have that “India” any longer, being overtaken by THREE separate nations), the socialists are SQUARELY responsible for DESTROYING INDIA.

    Given the potential, even today, it is fair to say that Indians have harmed India FAR MORE than anyone else in the world. They continue to do so by refusing to stand up and fight the socialists.

    Regards
    Sanjeev