: : This capitalist has a very strong concept of ethics. If you could show that the West only succeeded because of activities comparable to burglary, I would agree that it is an extremely odious system.
: However, I do not take this as read. Indeed, I think it is extremely dubious. You must make a distinction between the old imperial regimes and the modern world. The success of the West is not based on the immoral (by today's standards) activities of the past. Britain had the largest Empire the world has ever seen but is now far less prosperous than Japan, USA or Germany, which never had Empires of note.
Wrong. The USA killed off nearlky all of its Native American population and stole their land in a bloody imperial conquest. It then began to see the evil nature of imperialism and to its credit, had but one overseas colony which it liberated relatively quickly. But by then it was too late for the Native Americans.
Germany had a large and bloody empire in Africa and Europe. The Germans were responsible for two of the largest genocides of modern times, in Namibia (40% of the total population killed) and later against Jews, Communists, Poles, and others. (11 million - plus civilians killed). Sounds imperial enough to me.
Japan had a small but significant empire, milking Korea, Manchuria and Taiwan for several decades.
: It is simply not feasible that the prosperity of the West is based on the nationalism and empire buiding that we have left behind as immoral. The fact is, the West was richer and more powerful than the rest of the world long before the age of Empire. Why did the British conquer India? Why was it not the other way around? Why did Spain conquer the Aztecs - why were these roles not reversed? Because present day wealth is merely a continuation of a historical trend that has seen the European peoples, blessed with the advantages of their environment and political culture handed down from the ancient world, advance ahead of other races.
The 'political culture' bit I see as extremely dubious. The west had an enviropnment which led to easier conquest, but whether that translated into a happier, better society is not clear.
: This is not saying we are superior. It is merely a fact. Less powerful countries inflicted misery on their weaker neigbours - it is just that they lacked the technology to expand on such a grand scale.
Somewhat broad statement, don't you think? I ahve yet to see evidence that the Pygmies, the Trobriand Islanders, the Tibetans or the Khoisan inflicted genocide or conquest on their neighbors- and you'd be surprised, a lot of murder can be carreid out with stones and pitchforks. Just ask Pol Pot.
: If the Asians or Africans had "got there first" in terms of technology, what do you think the outcome would have been? It would have been the same, merely with roles reversed. That is unless you think a black person, say, is naturally more moral than a white person?
No, but some cultures (e.g. American) are more conducive to violence than others.
: Assuming that we can put talk of the evils of the British Empire in the 19th century behind us when talking about present day economics, that leaves the question - is it immoral to operate a capitalist system?
We can't leave it behind us, because the empire was only disestablished about 40 years ago. Neocolonialism contineus, and countries are forced to produce cash crops while their people starve. Read what Bill and otehrs have written, or maybe I'll repsond later.