American World War I postcard of alliances, 1917.

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Welcome to the 'Happy Hinges' of Capitalism and World Empire (Carta Maior, Brazil)


What explains the impressive economic development and quality of life in the former British colonies of Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and the Nordic countries of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland? For Brazil's Carta Maior, columnist Josť Luis Fiori writes that all once attached themselves to greater powers in Europe, and now form small 'happy hinges' of the military structure and global power of the United States.


By Josť Luis Fiori



Translated By Brandi Miller


December 3, 2012


Brazil - Carta Maior - Original Article (Portuguese)

America, Britian and its allies hold empire together.


VIDEO: History of the British Empire in five minutes, Feb. 5, 2012, 00:05:08 RealVideo

The history of capitalist development in the 19th and 20th centuries registers the presence of certain countries with high levels of development, wealth, and quality of life, and with low national propensities for expansion or imperialism. This is the case of the former British colonies of Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and the Nordic countries of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland. Since 1870, all have shown growth rates that are high, steady and convergent; up to World War I, inferior only to that of Argentina.


Today these are industrialized, specialized and sophisticated economies. Norway has the third highest per capita income and the Human Development Index score (0.943) in the world; Australia has the fifth highest per capita income and the second best HDI in the world (0.929); and almost all have an average yearly per capita income between $50,000 and $60,000. In reserves per capita, Norway is considered the richest country in the world today, and in 2009, was considered by the U.N. "the best country in the world to live." And Denmark has been classified - between 2006 and 2008 - the "happiest place in the world," and the second most peaceful on the planet, after New Zealand - along with Norway.


Canada, Australia and New Zealand were English settler colonies during the 19th century, and were later transformed into British Crown Dominions until after World War II. But today they are independent kingdoms or nations that are part of the Commonwealth, and they maintain the English monarch as head of state. As colonies and dominions, they always functioned as the periphery of the English economy. Even after they began to industrialize, on average they maintained the participation of English capital, which comprised up to two-thirds of the gross capital of these three countries. And after the end of World War II, all have established analogous relations with the United States economy. In this century and a half of history, Canada - just as an example - stood by the U.K. and U.S. during World Wars I and II, in addition to participating in the Boer War, the Korean War, and being a founding member of NATO in 1949. It participated in the wars in the Gulf War, Iraq War, and Afghanistan and Libya wars, and it directly participates in the U.S. Aerospace Defense Command. And the same happened, in almost all cases, with Australia and New Zealand.


On the other hand, the Nordic countries were expansive, and Sweden in particular was a great dominant empire within Europe until the 18th century. But after its defeat at the hands of Russia in 1720, and its submission within the hierarchy of power in Europe, the Nordic states transformed into small countries with low populations densities and high levels of natural resource endowment, functioning as specialized pieces in an increasingly sophisticated European production system. After the 1929 crisis, Sweden was made famous by the "success" of its countercyclical "Keynesian" economic policy, but actually managed to overcome the effects of the crisis thanks to its status as an economic partner and supplier of steel and equipment to the Nazi war machine, which also occupied Denmark and exerted great influence over the region throughout Second World War. After the war, Denmark and Norway became members of NATO, and Denmark continues as a strategic passage for control of the Baltic Sea.

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Meanwhile, Sweden participated in the wars in Kosovo and Afghanistan, and supplied weapons to Anglo-Saxon forces during the Iraq War. Finally, Finland, which was part of Sweden until 1808 and of Russia until 1917, ended up occupying a key position during the Cold War until 1991, and still occupies a strategic position today due to its control of the Bay of Finland and proximity to Russia itself.


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Through all of this, despite these countries having different origins and trajectories, it is possible to identify some things that they have in common:


I. They are small or have a very low population density.


II. They have excellent endowments of food, mineral or energy resources.


III. All occupy decisive positions on the global geopolitical chessboard.


IV. And all specialize in services or high-tech industrial sectors, and in some cases, military industries.


Some would say that this is a typical case of "development by invitation," but that means everything and nothing at the same time. The key here is that the economic success of these countries cannot be explained by itself, because since the 19th century, the "Dominions" operated as "frontiers of expansion" for English "economic territory," and as military and naval bases of the British Empire. And the Nordic countries, after they submitted, transformed themselves into specialized satellites of the production system, and the expansive powers in Europe. And today, finally, these seven countries operate as small "happy hinges" of the military structure and global power of the United States.


*Josť Luis Fiori is full professor of International Political Economics at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul and coordinator of the National Counsel of Technological and Scientific Development/UFRG Research Group 'The Global and Geopolitical Power of Capitalism.' (



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[Posted by Worldmeets.US Dec. 3, 5:18pm]