Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ferguson on the benefits of British rule of India

Via CIP:
Under British rule, the village economy’s share of total after-tax income actually rose from 45 per cent to 54 per cent. Since that sector represented around three-quarters of the entire population, there can therefore be little doubt that British rule reduced inequality in India.
The collapse of urban centers had nothing to do with the increased share of the villages in the economy? And were the villagers really better off?

A quote:
(Wiki) By 1780 Warren Hastings, the Company's Governor-General of India, had brought all salt manufacture in the Bengal Presidency under Company control. This allowed him to increase the ancient salt tax in Bengal from 0.3 rupees per maund (37 kg) to 3.25 rupees per maund by 1788, a rate that it remained at until 1879. This brought in a huge amount of revenue for the company, amounting to 6,257,470 rupees for the 1784–85 financial year, at the cost of the Indian consumer, who would have to expend around 2 rupees per year (2 months' income for a labourer) to provide salt for his family.
Of course, it is a great British benefit to Indian laborers to make them pay 2 months of income just for salt.  Niall Ferguson seems to have forgotten how much the issue resonated, when Gandhi conducted his Dandi Salt March in 1930, to protest the British tax on salt.  Certainly it was a major highlight of Attenborough's movie, so Niall Ferguson must have missed that.

Nick Robins wrote:
Just five years after the Company secured control over Bengal in 1765, revenues from the land tax had already tripled, beggaring the people. These conditions helped to turn one of Bengal's periodic droughts in 1769 into a full-blown famine. Today, the scale of the disaster inflicted on the people of Bengal is difficult to comprehend. An estimated 10 million people – or one-third of the population – died, transforming India's granary into a 'jungle inhabited only by wild beasts'. But rather than organise relief efforts to meet the needs of the starving, the Company actually increased tax collection during the famine [similar policies were applied again more than a hundred years later by the government of British India - see Present Hunger, Past Ghosts]
          {Between 1814 and 1835} the population of Dacca shrunk from 150,000 to 20,000. 

Easy way of increasing the rural share of the economy even while beggaring the people.