In The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell argued:
…the excessive customary of life we get pleasure from in England relies upon upon our maintaining a decent maintain on the Empire, significantly the tropical parts of it similar to India and Africa. Below the capitalist system, so that England could reside in comparative consolation, 100 million Indians should reside on the verge of hunger–an evil state of affairs, however you acquiesce in it each time you step right into a taxi or eat a plate of strawberries and cream. The choice is to throw the Empire overboard and cut back England to a chilly and unimportant little island the place we should always all should work very exhausting and reside primarily on herrings and potatoes.
Wigan Pier was printed in 1937 and a scant ten years later, India gained its independence. Thus, we now have a transparent prediction. Was England diminished to residing primarily on herrings and potatoes after Indian Independence? No. The truth is, not solely did the UK proceed to get wealthy after the top of empire, the expansion fee of GDP elevated.
Orwell’s failed prediction stemmed from two causes. First, he was imbued with zero-sum pondering. It ought to have been apparent that India was not essential to the excessive lifestyle loved in England as a result of most of that prime lifestyle got here from will increase within the productiveness of labor caused capitalism and the commercial revolution and most of that was impartial of empire (Most. Perhaps all. Perhaps extra greater than all. Perhaps not all. One can debate the finer particulars on financing however of that debate I’ve little curiosity.) The second, associated motive was that Orwell had a deep suspicion and distaste for know-how, a theme I’ll take up in a later submit.
Orwell, who was born in India and discovered one thing about despotism as a police officer in Burma, opposed empire. Thus, his argument that we needed to be poor to be simply was a tragic dilemma, considered one of many who made him pessimistic about the way forward for humanity.