Empire and Capital Flows
Brad DeLong laments that international capital in the late twentieth century did not flow to poorer countries the way it did in the late 19th century. Tyler comments here.
The key point that I think Brad and Tyler both miss is that in the late 19th century a lot of the capital was flowing within the structure of the British Empire. Whatever its faults (and there were many), the Empire did provide investors with the rational expectation that their property would not be expropriated. More broadly, the capital flows of the 19th century were accompanied by flows of intellectual capital – in the form of the rule of law and similar institutions. Japan and the East Asian tigers show that it is possible for a country to adopt these institutions without the imposition of Empire but it is not easy.