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VOC (Dutch East India Company) was more powerful than most nations at the time. I asked this question on Quora once and got interesting answers [0]. VOC was an incredible enterprise, and there are a few today too, imo, they exist as conglomerates (Samsung, P&G, Amazon), political entities (CIA, CPC), monopolies (Maersk, Google), syndicates (DeBeers [1], NeoAristocrats [2], BigPharma, BigBank, BigSugar, BigOil), and cults (ISIS). These select few have an immeasurable and uncontrolled sway over the globe-- its environment [3], its inhabitants [4], its future [5], its past [6], its present [7].

The greed unrelenting [8], the game rigged [9][10].


[0] https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-companies-that-are-power...

[1] http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1982/02/have-you...

[2] https://youtu.be/d_zt3kGW1NM

[3] https://theintercept.com/2015/08/11/dupont-chemistry-decepti...

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_surveillance_disclosure...

[5] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16208421

[6] https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ICN066A

[7] http://money.com/money/3994949/wikipedia-paid-editors/

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil-storage_trade

[9] https://www.amazon.com/dp/1593764278

[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panama_Papers

edit: links

The VOC were indeed powerful, but the British East India Company was another level entirely.

And the reasons why are quite interesting. Here's Niall Ferguson's explanation -

Formally, the directors of the East India Company (EIC) in London controlled a substantial part of the trade between India and western Europe.

In reality, as the records of over 4,500 voyages by Company traders show, ship’s captains often made illicit side trips, buying and selling on their own account. By the late eighteenth century the number of ports in the resulting trade network was more than a hundred, ranging from open emporia such as Madras to regulated markets such as Canton (Guangzhou). In effect, private trading provided the weak links that knitted together otherwise disconnected regional clusters. This network had a life of its own that the Company’s directors in London simply did not control. Indeed, that was one of the keys to the success of the EIC: it was more a network than a hierarchy. Significantly, its Dutch rival banned private trade by its employees. This may explain why it ended up being superseded.

This is not Ferguson's research. He reports on this research in his book -- though the citation is not very prominent. It is from a book by Erikson, Between Monopoly and Free Trade, and an article by Erikson and Bearman, Malfeasance and the Foundation of Global Trade

> VOC (Dutch East India Company) was more powerful than most nations at the time

This is simply not true. VOC at the beggining was extremly profitable but never had that much of military muscle. They were able to hold to some important trading posts but never been able or interested to expand their holdings.

Also in their most valuable possesion (Banda Islands and in Java/Sumatra) they had been challenged by small British force. As a result VOC have swaped Riu Island for New Amsterdam/New York.

Latter attempts at military expansion made VOC bancrupt. British India Company in comparision had been doing way better in this regard financing their private armies via taxing Indian subjects and profitable drug dealings. VOC simply lacked enough profit/tax base to keep up significant military presence.

How is P&G a conglomerate? Samsung and most large Japanese companies are conglomerates but P&G does not fit the bill at all.

It was just the wrong word choice. OP is just talking about very large companies in general.

The comparison of GDP with revenue is a comparison of apples with oranges. The GDP is the sum of all values created in an economy, the turnover is just how much stuff was moved around. A better comparison would be GDP vs. value added. For example, Volkswagen has a turnover of 236 billion euros, but the value added is just 25 billion euros.

>VOC was an incredible enterprise

It's easy to be incredible on the backs and dead bodies of slaves...

I'm seeing a strong correlation with modern-day companies like Amazon - hugely profitable, wealthy company that exploit their hands-on workers in the warehouses.

The other correlation, for which both Amazon and the VOC deserve praise for, is their huge infrastructural reach and development. That is, the VOC helped mostly Europe access the products from the east-indies at the time, and made intercontinental trade a thing. In terms of scale it's probably still nothing compared to modern-day transport, but still.

This should not be downvoted, it is historically accurate, the VOC imported 10's of thousands of slaves to do work that they were not prepared to pay for.

It's a nice example of there being a huge crime at the foundation of huge riches, the VOC was definitely not a clean company by any stretch of the imagination and to this day the names of those who were responsible for the worst atrocities are proudly on display in the streets of various Dutch cities. Nothing to be proud of.

Slaves were merchandise for the VOC but they did not import many slaves to do work [1]. They typically (ab)used the local population to do that. Still nothing to be proud of, but it is a different story than slaves that were brought to the Americas to work on plantations. Exploitation of the local people would certainly be unethical by today's standards, it wasn't unethical back then and it also wasn't a crime (although you probably meant the word "crime" figuratively).

[1]> the Dutch had only a relatively insignificant share in the Atlantic slave trade—never averaging much more than 5–6 per cent of the total. https://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/545

It's an interesting discussion. Liverpool was a huge trading port and a powerful city for a long time, mostly built from the slave trade. No local slaves, but plenty of people who became rich from slavery.

"Overall, Liverpool ships transported half of the 3 million Africans carried across the Atlantic by British slavers."


> to this day the names of those who were responsible for the worst atrocities are proudly on display in the streets of various Dutch cities.

Last Week Tonight discussed this from US Civil War PoV: https://youtu.be/J5b_-TZwQ0I

Yes, and not just the black slaves.

We should include the enslaved countries (in Asia, Africa, etc), and whole nations made to work for them and their pockets. 2/3rds of the world were subjects to the East India companies and related colonizers...

It wasn’t a crime at the time.

The fact that something is 'not a crime' does not mean it can not be obviously wrong.

I don't agree. Why are you so sure that you know what is obviously right and obviously wrong? That is a viewpoint which is both arrogant, and also has no objective grounding to talk about.

Murder, slavery, child molestation... some things are obviously wrong. If you feel that you need a societal framework to determine whether those are wrong or not then there is an ethical issue.

You might find it interesting to read this:


Seems like a very naive point of view.

At that time and place almost all societies had slaves or similar. The VOC was part of a cultural change in the world that ultimately led to the abolishment of slavery.

Slavery was certainly not the reason why they were successful.

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