NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Profitabality of Colonialism

Herschel I. Grossman, Murat Iyigun

NBER Working Paper No. 4420
Issued in August 1993

This paper develops an analytical framework for studying colonial investment from the perspective of neoclassical political economy. The distinguishing feature of colonial investment in this model is that the metropolitan government restricts the amount of investment in the colony in order to maximize the net profits earned in the colony. The model explicitly includes the threat of extralegal appropriative activities by the indigenous population in the colony. The analysis of this model identifies the conditions, where these conditions include both the technology of production and the technology of extralegal appropriation, that determine the profitability of colonialism. The analysis suggests why historically some countries but not others became colonies and why many colonies that were initially profitable subsequently become unprofitable and were abandoned. The model also has implications for the amount of investment. the allocation of resources between productive and appropriative activities, and the distribution of income in colonies.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w4420

Published: "The Profitability of Colonial Investment" Economics & Politics, vol. 7, November 1995, pp. 229-241.

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