As the above poster's have already mentioned it was a definite economic advantage to have colonies all over the world. They could control the trade market by doing this. Also it was a prestige issue, "look at how beg we are" attitude.
Clearly there were economic benefits from England having colonies. Having colonized so many places also enhanced England's prestige and strength (or at least the perception of strength) on the larger world stage. I'm not a history teacher, but it seems to me these modern colonization efforts failed because of weak leadership and royal arrogance. In the end, the benefits probably did outweigh the costs.
In addition to the above response:
1) It gave England a strategic base in the New World - a place to station troops and warships and to stage military forces against her enemies, France and Spain.
2) The colonies were not only a safety valve for excess population, but for peoples the King did not want, or who challenged his authority, such as the Puritans and the Catholics, and the Quakers. These religious minorities were shuttled to America and the social issues that accompanied them no longer troubled the King.
3) Because they were settlements, not just colonies, England grew at a fast rate as their population in America had more room to expand and grow, and immigration sped that growth. As English subjects, this raised the power of the Empire overall.
Having colonies helped England in a few main ways:
- It gave them a safety valve for excess population. Instead of being poor and angry in England, some people could head for the colonies. This reduced social tension in England.
- It helped them economically. England could get raw materials from the colonies as well as things like rum that could be better prodcued in the colonies. They could sell finished goods to the colonists.
- It made them look powerful. Having colonies helped make England look like a world power.
Having colonies helped England primarily in two ways. Fist it helped it buy locally produced commodities at low rates, which they could sell in other countries at much greater higher price. Further, it enabled British companies to enforce some kind of monopoly over trade of some very lucrative commodities. For example, England procured opium from India and sold at very high rates in other countries. Also they adopted various means to prevent Indian businesses from trading in opium. This way they established a monopoly in this trade. Later, when England became industrially advanced, it adopted all fair and unfair means to obtain raw material from India at very low rates. It also took actions to discourage development of industries in India to avoid competition in both, raw material procurement and selling of finished products.
The second benefit England obtained from colonies was having a captive or, at least, a highly protected market for its mass manufactured products.