That's a question we've wrestled with from time to time here at Infinite Monkeys -- sometimes heatedly (yes, I was the heated one) -- and as it happens, The Atlantic this month has a profile of Paul Romer, who advocates kind of a colonialist approach. Citing Hong Kong as an example, he advocates that underdeveloped countries turn over a swath of land -- a "charter city" -- to a rich country that would provide low taxes, enlightened rules and the security to make it all happen.
It's an intriguing idea, and Romer nearly got the chance to put it into practice in Madagascar. But not quote.
Even as Romer was meeting with Ravalomanana, the president’s main political opponent was sniping at the proposed lease of farmland to Daewoo, and the idea of giving up vast swaths of territory to foreigners was growing increasingly unpopular. The arrangement was denounced as treason, and public protests gathered momentum, eventually turning violent. In late January 2009, protesters tossed homemade grenades at radio and TV stations that Ravalomanana owned; looters ransacked his chain of supermarkets. In February, guards opened fire on marchers in front of the presidential palace, killing 28 civilians. At this, units of the army mutinied. Soon, Ravalomanana was forced out of office.
The first action of the new government was to cancel the Daewoo project, and Romer’s plans in Madagascar were put on hold indefinitely.
I don't know that this is an apples-to-apples comparison to the kind of enlightened imperialism that's been casually advocated around here. But it does signal some rather unsurprising challenges to such a project, doesn't it? No one wants to see their country under some other country's thumb -- even if it's for their own good.