Myth of Economic Imperialism

The article argues that the notion of economic imperialism is but a myth. Indeed, it is our own being that we need to analyze and evaluate first. For any sane person, it is quite difficult to understand how the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) force us to be exploited! How the United States or the European Union or the G-7 or the World Trade Organization (WTO) compels us to become its stooges? How can they exploit us, unless some of us are not prepared to be their partners in such endeavors? If such exploitation is taking place, we have only ourselves to blame for it — we should take the responsibility on our own shoulders rather than blaming others.


by Dr Khalil Ahmad

We, as a nation, are the greatest inventors of and believers in conspiracy theories.

We are a lot of schizophrenics who are “usually characterised by withdrawal from reality, illogical patterns of thinking, delusions and hallucinations, and accompanied in varying degrees by other emotional, behavioural or intellectual disturbances.” Our ‘defence mechanism’ has turned us into one of the greatest inventors of and believers in conspiracy theories. We consider and deal with the whole world as if it is our enemy. This is how we see the people and the reality existing outside of us.

One should not mind it, as everyone is free to think, believe and act like he or she wishes. But it must be pointed out that such a lot of people can never learn. If one cannot learn, one cannot grow and prosper. One who is passive, submissive and docile — one who is only the target of others and their conspiracies — cannot be accused of doing anything wrong. So we wrongly assume that only we are the innocents, and the rest of the world wants to exploit and destroy us. We do nothing, hence we learn nothing; and consequently, neither we grow nor prosper.

Since my childhood, I am trying to solve one riddle that seems to be all-pervasive in Pakistan: why do the parents always blame other children for any bad behaviour or habits learned by their children? The answer is that we love to blame others. The same pattern of thinking and behaviour is replicated in all the other fields of life and learning — in politics, in economics, in culture, in fact in all the branches of knowledge, we subscribe to the same conspiracy theories.

For any sane person, it is quite difficult to understand how the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) force us to be exploited! How the United States or the European Union or the G-7 or the World Trade Organisation (WTO) compels us to become its stooges? How can they exploit us, unless some of us are not prepared to be their partners in such endeavours? My stance is that if such an exploitation is taking place, we have only ourselves to blame for it — we should take the responsibility on our own shoulders rather than blaming others.

Many of us are fond of calling this world a world ridden with cut-throat competition only. But we cannot ignore the fact that there is much cooperation, partnering and mutual help also. Life is a phenomenon of interdependence and mutuality. Of course, we cannot take this world as always making room for us, extending help to us and rendering sacrifices for us. Also, why should it be so? As we know, to live and to live well, we need to work hard. It requires patient labour and continuous efforts to discover, create, invent and produce. We have to live in this world on our own, and not at the expense of others. We have to prove our worth, only then we are rewarded. We need to realise that, both individually as well as collectively.

Pragmatically speaking, can we stop or, for that matter, can anyone stop conspiracy theories? It is next to impossible. It is also misleading to go after stopping them or lamenting them; or justifying our own inaction, failure and irresponsibility on this pretext. History tells that conspirators succeed only when they find collaborators inside those against whom they conspire. Thus, it is ourselves who are our own enemies. It is amongst us that we have conspirators and conspiracies — it is our own soil that proves fertile for them and it is these factors that help any conspiracy come true.

If we analyse the notion of economic imperialism in this context, it seems that it is but a myth. Indeed, it is our own being that we need to analyse and evaluate first. It is strange that we want all the international financial institutions and rich countries to help us, as if it is our privileged right. Would we be lending money to anybody without interest and conditionalities? Isn’t it ourselves who need to be blamed squarely for misusing the foreign loans? In the following, I have tried to answer some of the main questions in this regard.

What is the way out of this mess? By looking inward, and taking up the responsibility for our own actions and inactions.

How can Pakistan get rid of its mounting debt? By curtailing the government expenditure to a bare minimum and reducing taxes, as it will spur growth.

How can Pakistan avoid more loans? By not taking more loans for public sector projects, as they are normally wasted, and instead assigning this responsibility to the private sector.

How can Pakistan resume economic sovereignty without isolating itself from the international community? In absolute terms, there is no sovereignty. When we ink an agreement with someone, we lose some of our sovereignty. We give and take. We should have an open heart and open arms. We should go for open and free trade, and we will be welcomed by the international community.

How can Pakistan safeguard and promote its own interests? It is ironic that we want others to help us, but at the same time want to safeguard and promote our own interests. Fortunately or unfortunately, the world is populated by many people other than us. They have their own interests to safeguard and promote, just like us. No doubt, there are mutual interests also. However, first we should be on our guard against the insiders / collaborators living amongst us. Then, we can go for such agreements that call for a win-win situation. We should be realistic, not self-seeking, in our dealings with others.

Is Pakistan in a position from which it is almost impossible to escape? No, nothing is impossible! It is not escape, but a relentless struggle, that we need. On the one hand, we need supremacy of the Constitution, an independent judiciary, democracy and the rule of law. On the other hand, we need economic freedom to prosper — personal choice, voluntary exchange coordinated by markets, freedom to enter and compete in markets, and protection of people and their property from aggression by others.

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Dr. Khalil Ahmad is associated with Alternate Solutions Institute, Pakistan’s first free market think-tank

This article appeared in The News International on October 21, 2007.

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