It is common knowledge that during the later half of the nineteenth century European states began to embark on crusades that involved carving up the world into territories as they saw fit. Liberalism, or I guess I should say the European name for a system of governance that protects individual rights and private property first and foremost - became much more popular in Western Europe than in the rest of the world during the 18th and nineteenth centuries. As a result, nation states became smaller, borders more porous, and people more empowered. They proceeded to conquer the world.
Collectivist ideology destroyed Europe. After the fall of Europe in 1945 their former colonies began to declare independence. Unfortunately, the elites of these societies (who were mostly lawyers; see Tocqueville for details) had been "educated" in Europe's universities, and as a result were indoctrinated with nationalist propaganda, European conceptions about collectivist thought, and taught that their tribal identities were primitive, outmoded, or worse: communal; but as I hope to show you these elites were out of touch with their societies. After helping to thrust the yoke of their Imperial overlords off of their societies' backs, the European-educated elites began to construct new and artificial identities for these former colonial territories.
For instance, Kwame Nkrumah (who was educated in the United States, and not Europe), long recognized as a chief figure in Africa's move to independence, believed that
"...political independence, though worth while in itself, is still only a means to the fuller redemption and realization of a people. When independence has been gained, positive action requires a new orientation away from the sheer destruction of colonialism and towards national reconstruction...In order that this ideology should be comprehensive...it must be socialist in form and in content and be embraced by a mass party."Here Nkrumah (and echoed by many other independence movement leaders at the time and all over the world) reveals the malicious deeds done by mis-education, and the tragic misunderstanding by Nkrumah and other leaders of how colonies were drawn up and divided by European states. This fundamental misreading of history is what has ultimately led to today's economic stagnation in much of the Third World. Nkrumah himself renamed the former territory of the Gold Coast (which, in turn, was preceded by a powerful trading empire and many other trading peoples) Ghana, after an ancient African empire that was located nowhere near modern day Ghana. The idea behind keeping this former colony's boundaries and governance structures may, in an amateur sort of way, be understood in the following passage:
"The political maturity of the African masses may to some extent be traced to economic and social patterns of traditional times. Under communalism, for example, all lands and means of production belong to the community. There was people's ownership. Labour was the need and habit of all. When a certain piece of land was allocated to an individual for his personal use, he was not free to do as he liked with it since it still belonged to the community."This quote, taken from his book Class Struggle in Africa, shows an arrogant, deceiving, and perhaps even naive glimpse into the mind of one of Africa's most prominent Marxist leaders. For individualism and protection of private property were prevalent throughout Africa at the beginning of Europe's conquests. For example, the Ashanti empire's success in defeating the British time after time largely rests, I believe, on the power emanating from a distinct form of Liberalism. Protection of private property and individual rights were relatively strong in the Ashanti realm (though slavery and aristocracy did pervade their society at the time. Think Ancient Greece!), and it led to a much more empowered society. I must here point out that the Ashanti government's lust for war against other African states ultimately led to the erosion of those aforementioned rights, therefore destroying individual liberty and economic power. The Ashanti succumbed to the British in 1896. Yet Nkrumah's interpretation of colonialism acknowledges none of this. His whole conception of Africa is based largely on European interpretations of African thought and tradition! Upon further reflection, though, this should come as no surprise, because Nkrumah and other Marxists spent a good deal of time living in the West, and not in Africa.
Let me switch gears here. The Imperial realizations of European states did not stem from Liberalism or free and unhampered markets, but rather from the same collectivist ideology that eventually led to the destruction of Europe in the mid-20th century. Keeping the ideology of Nkrumah and others in mind, observe this passage, delivered by Nkrumah in a speech sometime near the end of his decadent, violent, and lawless rule:
"...I have often said, the party and the nation are one and the same, namely: the Convention People's Party is Ghana and is Ghana the Convention People's Party."Here we can clearly see that the Third World's economic and political stagnation does not stem from their inability to govern themselves, but rather from the overarching, Leviathan-like ideas that were first laid down upon the African people by Western-educated Africans indoctrinated by collectivist thought in the West. The false notions of communal land in the past and socialist reconstruction for the future is largely to blame for what has kept the Third World in it's modern day chains.
The Marxist ideology that led to consolidation of power for the few and the continuation of artificial borders in the Third World was not the only ideology floating around these colonies at the time of the independence movements, however. You see, the Marxists grasped power (and their overlord's approval) not through votes or from gaining the respect of the people, but through violence - the only known way that Marxism has ever been known to gain governance. However, before the Marxists brutally rose to power there was a brief struggle for ideas, and a more natural, tribal, and individualistic approach was being pushed by others. The ideology behind these ideas is what the West refers to as Liberalism. It has a strong tradition in Third World societies. It is as natural to them as it is to us. If implemented, it would lead to the same prosperity we see in the West. But it is rooted in a concept that is either misunderstood or hastily dismissed by Western intellectuals today: tribalism.