I’m assuming you’ve figured it out already but just in case you haven’t: Colonialism is dead. It seems surprising but many people haven’t realized this. They make suggestions and proposals that make sense in the colonial age but not in the modern age. Now, there isn’t an exact cut-off date creating a border between the eras but the colonial age is gone and has been for at least 50 years.
I’ll begin by outlining some of the proposals I referenced. There are generic proposals about poor countries selling off land in order to raise some capital. One example of this is a proposal to buy the island of Tortuga from Haiti. Other examples are generally about African Countries. There have been proposals for the United States to try to buy Greenland from Norway (like it attempted in 1946). And one that I though was particularly silly was the suggestion that Quebec should buy Labrador from Newfoundland. There are more proposals than this but they all follow a similar pattern: Non-serious proposals from random people who suggest rich countries should buy territory and poor countries should sell territory. It may not be a large subset of the population who thinks these proposals are a good idea but the fact these come up with even a small amount of consistency indicates a general thought pattern that exists in a portion of society. This is likely born out of inspiration from the USA’s big purchases of Alaska, the Louisiana territory, the Gadsden territory, and the Virgin Islands. As I said before, these people don’t realize times have changed.
Now, I say colonialism is dead but obviously there are still many artifacts of that time existing today. You can look around the world and see many examples. There are countless territories, and regions that kilometres away from their associated nations. These regions/territories were added to their colonial power back in a time when colonialism was accepted and have remained under the jurisdiction those countries for a variety of reasons. In addition to this there are many countries who have become independent but wear the scars of their old colonial “benefactor”. This can be seen across Africa where there exists infrastructure that does not provide general service to the people but instead exists specifically for resource extraction; connecting gold mines directly to the ocean and providing no transportation infrastructure between cities. And the borders are drawn with no regard to the geopolitical situation in the countries. In an ideal world everyone should be able to get together but while we work on that it is in everyone’s interest to initially create stability by making common sense borders that correspond to language and culture.
It’s very obvious that there still exists the consequences of colonialism, however these are the consequences of historical times. In the last hundred years the developed world has made a lot progress in not only stopping the occurrence of colonial actions but have also begun attempting to undo the negative effects of historical colonial actions. There is, of course, a lot of work left to be done and the terrible things that were done in the past can’t be undone however the world is on a better course now.
Has colonialism completely stopped? Not exactly. As mentioned before, there still exist what amount to colonies. One example is the US territory of Guam which desperately wants to become a state but is prevented from doing so. Other examples include the numerous oversea territories of France. Although there is discontent in some of these kinds of places (such as Guam) there are others that are very happy with their situation. Efforts should definitely be made to help give equal rights to those territorial entities that don’t have them. Beyond the historical colonies there are also modern day purchases of land from one state to another. For example Greece selling its uninhabited islands, or Madagascar selling farm land. The catch is that the sovereignty of the land is not being sold and that it is the governments land not private property which is being sold. Thus, the borders are not being redrawn and no one is losing their private land. The last thing to mention is that countries are continually exchanging land but only in small uninhabited batches of land with the purpose of fixing irregular borders.
At this point, I’d like to point out what is wrong with the proposal of the US buying Greenland or Quebec buying Labrador. These are people’s homes. Thousands of people live there. If the proposal is about a piece of uninhabited government owned land it would not be as big a deal. But, if it’s private property or if people are living on it, a government should not even think about doing what amounts to colonialism by selling it and buying it. It doesn’t matter if it’s “only 50,000 people in a huge territory” it is in immoral and outdated practise from a time when governments did not respects people. The Quebec buying Labrador from Newfoundland idea is even sillier than the others. Canadian provinces don’t actually have sovereignty and certainly don’t have authority to sell territory. When they entered confederation they ceded their territorial rights to the constitution of Canada and so this jurisdiction lies under the federal government. Now, it does take the support of the provinces to change the constitution but it is ultimately the federal government that does the deed. On top of this, Labrador has 27,000 people who should not have their provincial status changed by a monetary agreement between two provinces, one of which they are a part of.
Is there a situation where it is acceptable for a populated region to move from one country to another? Or an entire country merging with another? Of course there is. It just requires the consent of all the nations involved as well as the support of the region in question. And this can’t be some vague kind of support. It has to be a clearly defined legal framework which enables the transfer through a democratic process that follows the laws of all involved nations as well as international law. An example of how to do this is Sikkim’s joining of India (although not according to China and Pakistan). An example of how not to do this is Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Ultimately, the best path is a peaceful one where all involved are pleased with the result and the international community can confirm that no rights were violated.