Volume 6, Number 14 April 16, 2003
Wake up call
by Dr. Ridgely Abdul Mu’min Muhammad
Recently, while driving in my truck I was listening to National Public Radio. They had as a guest an English Economist from Oxford University by the name of Niall Ferguson. He recently released a book called "Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World". In this interview Mr. Ferguson argued that although there were some negative aspects of the British Empire such as: slavery, the destruction of India’s textile industry and the death of a few million people during her colonization of Africa, all in all when you look at the increase in per capita income for these regions, these people were better off for it.
Now if I had a gun I might have shot my own radio. I turned it off for a brief moment but decided to turn it right back own. When the "devil" speaks, you need to listen. I say "devil" here, not because of race or nationality, but because of the evil intent to justify wrong, then try to make the victim accept being the victim and even thank his oppressor. This is the old game that so-called white people drilled into the head of their once slaves: "Yes, we had to whip y’all a little bit in slavery, but look what we did for you. We brought you out of the jungles, put sack cloth on your back, taught you how to speak the King’s English and how to go to ‘heaven’ after we worked you to death."
Listeners called in to rebuff Mr. Ferguson’s praise for the benefits of British colonialism by pointing out the human and cultural loses caused by the British military’s destruction of ancient societies. However, Mr. Ferguson would pull up his Gross National Product (GNP) balance sheet to point out that under colonialism the GNP of these subjugated countries went up in comparison to their previous levels. Who said so? Who did the counting?
Unfortunately, the listeners who called were not economists, therefore Mr. Ferguson could "snow" them with "poppycock". I am an economist. Mr. Ferguson acts like he has never heard of "cost/benefit analysis" which puts a monetary value on life and other non-GNP related items such as "social costs". Of course I am sure that he knows of these accounting techniques, but he also knows that most common people or academicians outside of economists do not know of such techniques or arguments.
Briefly, to do any cross-cultural or time lapse analysis of two economic situations, you must develop baseline data and comparative economic values. For instance, if you want to compare an African country before colonization and after, you must be able to convert goods and services of this society before and after, and put a comparable monetary figure on such goods and services that may not have gone through a "market economy." For instance, if I am married, the time put in to my wife fixing my meals is not counted in GNP. However, if we get divorced and I have to go out and buy my meals, then they are counted. If she now has to get a job to support another household, because of that divorce and does not have enough time to cook for herself, now her meals away from home are counted as GNP also. Therefore, divorce is a way to double the portion of GNP from that one household without an increase in the welfare of the divorcees. This is how the destruction of a communal system based on barter and collective effort can have a low GNP compared to a "market economy" where all things must be bought and paid for in cash.
I hope that I have not bored you with this short economic lesson. However, these are the tricks upon which policies are made and justified. I remember back in the Reagan administration when the unemployment figures were rising. Reagan’s labor secretary started a new policy of counting the military personnel as "employed". Well of course this decreased the unemployment figures immediately without changing the reality of the domestic economic situation for anyone. This is called "creative accounting", in other words "cooking the books", or as my moma would call it, "being slick".
In my previous article called "Buying Groceries" I pointed out how the economic infrastructure of the Black community was destroyed during our quest for "social integration". It will require that we put a tax on ourselves, if we want to rebuild ourselves. The Three Year Economic Savings Program is our vehicle for collecting the necessary revenue to jump start a dead system.
However, magicians like Mr. Ferguson will still conclude that all in all "integration" has made life better for Black people. We need some of our Black college economists to do a real "cost/benefit" analysis of "integration" before we can be so sure. However, I know from once being in such a Black university, that no one will fund such a research project and any professor who dares try and do this on his own may wind up in the garbage heap looking for scraps. This is real.
Of course loosing a job is better than the fate of Walter Rodney who lost his life because he dared do a "cost/benefit analysis" of European colonialism. It would be interesting to compare Mr. Rodney’s book "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa" with Mr. Ferguson’s new book. Too bad that Mr. Rodney is not here in person to carry on the debate himself. Assassinations of competing minds is one of those other little colonial side effects that Mr. Ferguson would not have a way to quantify is his GNP balance sheet.
I am here at Muhammad Farms trying to help re-establish and improve upon an agricultural industry that Black folks once had. Who will finance such an endeavor, the government? Please, they are the ones that destroyed it. Plus, they are off to conquer new lands.
Mr. Ferguson’s arrogant defense of British imperialism made me sick to my stomach. Being shot, hung, taken from my native land, lied upon, impoverished, dehumanized, brainwashed, desensitized to my own suffering, and turned into an enemy of self and a lap dog for "massa" is bad enough without somebody writing a book to make the world believe that it was for my own good. It seems like Mr. Ferguson’s new book signals the official passing of the baton of "Empire" to America from her mother in arrogance, Britain. Get ready world you are about to be colonized for your own good, once again. Maybe this time the "sleeping giant" will wake up before he is eaten by the "beast" of GNP and is "excremented" as "acceptable casualties."