The Conservatism of Decolonization
Notwithstanding left-leaning propaganda, economic growth is not precluded by colonialism. In Africa, for example, some countries recorded high growth rates under colonialism, whereas others underperformed. Even Jamaica experienced surging growth rates as a colony in the 1950s and ’60s. Colonialism is but one of several factors that can influence economic and social development.
However, Jamaican prime minister Andrew Holness thinks that Jamaica must become a republic to actualize its true potential: “We intend to … fulfil our true ambitions and destiny as an independent, prosperous country.” After attaining independence, Jamaica regressed relative to newly industrialized countries like Singapore and South Korea, so if it had the capacity to be prosperous, it would have become so long ago.
When Jamaica was flirting with democratic socialism in the 1970s, Singapore and South Korea were benchmarking policies of developed countries. Jamaica had several opportunities to achieve parity with her peers that were wasted due to political ineptitude. During the 1970s, Botswana and Mauritius designed competent bureaucracies to efficiently allocate resources, however as columnist Martin Henry points out citing, Professor Gladstone Mills, Jamaica opted to create a politicized civil service: “Concern about the controversial issue of commitment versus competence as one of the selection criteria in appointments to statutory boards and committees was intensified during the latter part of the seventies. Following the 1976 election victory, the PNP [People’s National Party] created a party Accreditation Committee. The Pickersgill Committee of Political Purity (as it was dubbed) evidently had the task of screening candidates to ensure that appointees were of impeccable political purity.”
Because inferior governance has degraded institutions, Jamaica has failed to capitalize on billions in aid from the European Union and technical assistance sponsored by multilaterals—hence Jamaicans can only blame themselves for failure. But the irony is that Jamaica’s decision to decolonize is an implicit admission that Western institutions are actually superior. If Jamaicans were serious about removing the shackles of Western imperialism, they would adopt a precolonial African system of government rather than choosing to become a republic.
Since the republican form of government is a Western invention, instituting a republican system with Western constitutional customs isn’t revolutionary. For instance, although, Barbados is now a republic, its presidential system is regulated by the parliamentary customs of England. As such, the transition to republican status has been more stylistic than substantial. In Barbados, the only change is that instead of having a foreigner as a ceremonial head, the office will be occupied by a native.
Moreover, parliamentary systems are more conducive to political stability due to the intense separation of the arms of government, which impose constraints on each other and political authority. Relative to presidential systems, parliamentary systems yield superior outcomes, and the better examples of presidentialism are in the West, with America being the most revered. Therefore, newcomers looking for best practices will automatically use the West as a guide.
Unlike Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, which waged a war on China’s intellectual traditions, the decolonization movement is embarrassingly conservative. Leaders might speak glibly about decolonization, but they without hesitation comply with regulations drafted by Western powers even if they are insensible. The European Union has been pressuring Caribbean countries to conform to dubious anti–money laundering laws when countries in Europe can facilitate money laundering on a greater scale.
There is a covert admission that Western countries set global trends, so whenever developing countries claim that they are decolonizing, this really suggests that they are just mimicking Western social movements. Hence to prove the seriousness of their case, critics should adopt ideas that contradict Western principles and cease pretending to be radical.