The Industrial Revolution Essay Samples
The industrial revolution in Great Britain was a culmination of the empire’s investment in human capital, commanding position in global trade, mercantilism, possession of vast overseas colonies and the existence of intractable socio-economic difficulties at home. Britain assumed a commanding position in global trade especially in cotton during the 16th and 17th centuries, which triggered a rapid expansion in rural/cottage manufacturing and rapid urbanization with populations in key cities including London exploding. The strong naval presence that backed mercantilism and ready markets in the colonies encouraged production expansion, but with the population pressure, the country faced difficulties meeting energy and food needs, which in turn saw the emergence of coal trade and large-scale agriculture.
Cheap energy in the country ensured that its products were competitive abroad, but the wages at home were relatively higher than in countries/colonies such as China and India, which in turn served to spur inventions that sought to replace human labour and increase production efficiency. This culminated in the invention of the steam engine and other technologies that revolutionized the production. With the surplus from its global trade, there was plenty of capital to invest in new technology and production means, which in turn spurred further growth.
China similarly excelled because of rapid population growth, and international trade, coupled with the marginal improvements in technology, and once the country had stocked up enough technology and invested in human capital, industrial revolution took off. In India, energy costs were relatively higher, and labour was cheaper, which made it unnecessary to replace human labour with technology. Similarly, the country remained a colony for most of the time when Great Britain was industrializing, especially since colonial masters preferred that it served as a market as against an industrial power.
19th Century El Niño Famines
The El Nino-Southern Oscillation hit China, India and numerous other countries in the tropics in the last quarter of the 19th century. The extreme floods and droughts corresponded to the powerful and tightly clustered El Nino (1888-1889) and La Nina (1886-1887 as well as 1889-1890) perturbations in the equatorial Pacific (Davis 121). The extreme weather disrupted agricultural production and famine. While the famine could be prevented by counteracting social and economic policies, the colonial governments deliberately chose policies that exacerbated the effects of the drought.
According to Davis (2002), India, China and Brazil comprised the epicentre of the collision between climatic events and the imperialistic political forces (or lack thereof). The British transformed the socio-economic relationships that allowed peasants, privatising land and depriving peasants of access to communal land/water. Old social obligations under which Chinese rulers stockpiled food to meet the society’s needs in times of famine were disrupted, along with the requirements by the Chinese to maintain food defences. Cash crop farming replaced food farming, which also worked to ensure that the population was vulnerable to famine when it hit.
Further, the British turned India into a massive cotton factory to serve the interests of the home country, with locals remaining in poverty, to the extent that they neither had food stockpiles nor the money to purchase food when the famine hit. The poorest regions and populations in China, India and elsewhere along the tropics suffered considerably in the latter decades of the Victorian era across Africa, Latin America and Asia. Between 32 and 61 million people in China, Brazil and India died from the famine. Effectively, while the drought and famines were extreme, the resultant mortality would never have been as high without the ruthless capitalism and imperialist policies by the British.
Reducing Extreme Poverty
Human capital development increases the productivity of labour, incomes and consumption, which in turn create demand for more investments and growth. Unfortunately, most people that live in extreme poverty are without employable skills or even the most basic education and live in countries where education is inaccessible to the majority. In order to eliminate extreme poverty, it is critical to invest in universal primary education and subsidized higher education in order to develop human capital that would in turn serve as an engine out of poverty.
Technology and infrastructural investments reduce the cost of doing business and increase the investment returns, which in turn attracts more investments. However, poor nations (which have the vast majority of people living under the poverty line), struggle with poor technology. Technology is expensive than most governments can afford, and, therefore, these economies remain largely inefficient. Effectively, in order to facilitate the emergence of these nations, lending agencies (IMF and World Bank) and development partners should give loans to develop the infrastructure and facilitate technological transfers to these economies.
In addition, it is important to encourage good governance and fight corruption in the developing nations. Legendary corruption in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria has resulted in plundering in failed development initiatives, civil strife, and social deprivation among other problems, which reduce investments and development. It is critical to support democracy and good governance as a means to create stability and excellent investment climate that would in turn spur growth.
Global Dump: Toxic Waste and the Planetary Ecosystem
Dumping toxic wastes in the developing nations hurt their environmental health, which reduces the welfare (quality of life) for the populations that are directly affected by the wastes. In cases where these wastes cause diseases such as cancer, the direct costs of treatment as well as the opportunity costs of disease has negative consequences on the economies which are already struggling with poverty. On the other hand, such dumping creates a sense false sustainability that encourages even more consumption of products that are ultimately harmful to the environment.
In order to mitigate the exportation of toxic wastes to the developing nations, it important for developed economies to tighten the applicable regulations to prevent the exportation of wastes that cannot be recycled. Abuse of the current regulations both in the destination and source countries are mainly responsible for the current problem, and these can be changed to change the situation immediately.
In the long term, however, it may help to specifically included in the sustainability reporting requirements. In addition, sustainability reporting must be rendered mandatory for companies, with clear reporting frameworks set by regulatory agencies. Compulsory reporting will force companies to account for their hazardous waste disposal strategies, while at once ensuring that these companies bore the full cost of disposing of wastes as against simply exporting them to poor countries. It is notable that many companies realize the importance of sustainability as a source of competitive advantages, and this can be used to ensure genuine compliance.
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Blanchard, Olivier, Francesco Giavazzi and Alessia Amighinim. Macroeconomics: A European Perspective, 2/E. London: Pearson, 2013.
Chai, Joseph C. H. An Economic History of Modern China. London: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2011.
Davis, Mike. LATE VICTORIAN HOLOCAUSTS: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World. New York: Verso Books, 2002. Print.
Global dump: toxic waste and the planetary ecosystem. Film. New York: Films Media Group, 2008.
Global Reporting Initiative. Sustainability Reporting Guidelines: Implementation Manual. Manual. New York: Stichting Global Reporting Initiative, 2013. Web.
Mokyr, Joel. The British Industrial Revolution: An Economic Perspective, Second Edition. London: Westview Press, 2008. Print.
UNDP. Human Development Index (HDI). 2013. 10 oct 2014. <http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/human-development-index-hdi>.