Scott Alexander proposes a Reactionary thought experiment:
Suppose you are going to be reincarnated as a black person (if you are already black, as a different black person). You may choose which country you will be born in; the rest is up to Fate. What country do you choose?
The top of my list would be Britain, with similar countries like Canada and America close behind. But what if you could only choose among majority-black African countries?
Several come to my mind as comparatively liveable. Kenya. Tanzania. Botswana. South Africa. Namibia (is your list similar?) And one thing these places all have in common was being heavily, heavily colonized by the British.
We compare the sole African country that was never colonized, Ethiopia. Ethiopia has become a byword for senseless suffering thanks to its coups, wars, genocides, and especially famines. This seems like counter-evidence to the “colonialism is the root of all evil” hypothesis.
Yes, colonization had some horrible episodes. Anyone who tries to say King Leopold II was anything less than one of the worst people who ever lived has zero right to be taken seriously. On the other hand, eventually the Belgian people got outraged enough to take it away from Leopold, after which there follows a fifty year period that was the only time in history when the Congo was actually a kind of nice place. Mencius Moldbug likes to link to a Time magazine article from the 1950s praising the peace and prosperity of the Congo as a model colony. Then in 1960 it became independent, and I don’t know what happens next because the series of civil wars and genocides and corrupt warlords after that are so horrible that I can’t even read all the way through the articles about them. Seriously, not necessarily in numbers but in sheer graphic brutality it is worse than the Holocaust, the Inquisition, and Mao combined and you do not want to know what makes me say this.
So yes, Leopold II is one of history’s great villains, but once he was taken off the scene colonial Congo improved markedly. And any attempt to attribute the nightmare that is the modern Congo to colonialism has to cope with the historical fact that the post-Leopold colonial Congo was actually pretty nice until it was decolonized at which point it immediately went to hell.
So the theory that colonialism is the source of all problems has to contend with the observation that heavily colonized countries are the most liveable, the sole never-colonized country is among the least liveable, and countries’ liveability plummeted drastically as soon as colonialism stopped.