Tom Goldstein, "Economic Manipulation:
J.A. Hobson's Theory on the
Role of Economic and Other Forces in Imperialism"


capitalist economy. But why does Hobson think imperialism is bad?

Hobson argues that imperialism, as an official national policy, does not benefit the vast majority of citizens in the imperial country - it hurts them. True, the investors do gain, and colonial wars and increased military protection do aid a nascent military-industrial complex. Yet the masses who pay and give their lives for imperialism do not reap any benefits from imperialism.15 The wealthy do not wish to pay for a policy of imperialism, so they divert the funding of imperialism (through the influence on their governments) to the masses. But such a large increase in taxation would not sit well with the bulk of the citizens, especially in democratic nations like Britain, where voters could turn against the government and elect new officials. Financing imperialism must therefore be done indirectly: "The people must pay, but they must not know they are paying."16 This indirect taxation usually involves raising duties on imports of necessities and chief luxuries. Yet, obviously, the voting public will know that they are losing their lives in the name of imperialism, and some may know what is behind the indirect tax scheme. So why, then, does the public accept imperialism? Simply put, the investors can succeed in deceiving the public because they make use of other, non-economic forces.

III. The Role Played by Non-Economic Forces

While economic forces such as over-production and under-consumption are clearly the driving force behind imperialism, Hobson makes it clear that such a policy

15. Hobson observes, "Although the new Imperialism has been bad business for the nation, it has been good business for certain classes . . . The vast expenditures on armaments, the costly wars, the grave risks and embarrassments of foreign policy, the check upon political and social reforms within Great Britain, though fraught with great injury to the nation, have served well the present business interests . . ." Hobson, 46.
16. Ibid., 98.
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