Population Increase, Extralegal Appropriation, and the End of Colonialism
NBER Working Paper No. 4488
Between 1946 and 1976, the European powers granted independence to all of their large colonies in Africa and Southeast Asia. This paper attempts to provide an economic explanation for this remarkable ending to the era of colonialism. The main theoretical innovation is to consider the effect of population increase on the allocation of time by the indigenous population between productive and subversive activities. The analysis suggests that the increase in population during the colonial period increased the potential return to extralegal appropriation of the profits of colonial companies until the colonies became a net burden on the metropolitan governments. The analysis also suggests that there was less subversive activity in colonies in which the market for indigenous labor was monopsonized because monopsonistic employers internalized the potential negative effect of extralegal appropriation on net profits.
Published: Economica, Vol. 64 (August 1997): 483-493.