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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4712/stateless-in-somolia-and-loving-it/

Stateless in Somolia, and Loving It

February 21, 2006 by

Somalia is in the news again, writes Yumi Kim. Rival gangs are shooting each other, and why? The reason is always the same: the prospect that the weak-to-invisible transitional government in Mogadishu will become a real government with actual power. And yet: Somolia seems to do just fine without a government. FULL ARTICLE


abc March 3, 2006 at 10:22 pm

Last year’s Live 8 concert of Bono and Geldof was remarkable in at least one sense. African musicians were effectively “quarantined” to a theatre different from where the real Live 8 concert held. Meanwhile the concert purpoted to be all about Africa. Like in many other African issues, the self-appointed “medicine-man” purports to know more than the sick man without ever bothering to ask him: the man who isn’t wearing the shoe tells the one who wears it where he feels the pain.
I completely identify with the tenets of libertarianism. However, it is good to observe that when that liberty of the individual is pushed too much, it turns into a narcissistic obsession that inordinately extols individualism – one of the hallmarks of the decadence of modernity. Anarchism, in the sense of absolute anarchy, could equally fall prey to tyranny – that of the individual. I think one tyranny is as evil as another.

This lands me on the so-called “efficient anarchy” or put mildly, the now ubiquitous mantra of “self-enforcing exchange” of pre-colonial Africa. I do not know from whence isolated cases here and there have come to be the basis of scientific induction. The Africa in question doesn’t correspond to the one I as an African, have known by history and experience. Most of the African societies cited as examples of stateless societies where individuals traded and bartered on the basis of self-enforcing exchange relations were also societies that condoned slavery. Is slavery not fundamentally antithetical to the efficient anarchy hypothesis?

Somalia might be stateless from the point of view of an outsider – much as Japan is religionless from outside (this, in spite of the fact that every Japanese house enclose a family shrine and their technologies embody diverse elements of their traditional religious beliefs)- but to a Somali, who understands the language and intuitions of his culture, nothing could be further from the truth.

Economists and journalists should confine their analysis to what their methodologies are good for: analysis of data as quantum. When they begin to pretend to be anthropologists and philosophers, they sound simply, silly.


Vince Daliessio March 3, 2006 at 11:10 pm


With all due respect, I do not think Yumi Kim was trying to argue that Somalia is anything close to an ideal of anarchy, but simply points out that the jlib IS an example of a process of self-governance that explains the violence attending the attempt to form a centralized government. The jlib is also a method of social organization different from our western conception of democracy that, for all its flaws, shows some definite advantages over our alleged democracies, particularly the way it retains government close to the people instead of enshrining it behind bulletproof glass, metal detectors, dirty money, and shady elections.

Spencer Heath MacCallum March 8, 2006 at 8:07 am

I’d like to remind those who have contributed so much here, that all of this discussion has been about a review; the book itself is interesting reading. It can be ordered conveniently from Amazon.com: Michael van Notten, THE LAW OF THE SOMALIS (Red Sea Press, 2005). Also, Norbert Lennartz has set up a web site for the book in Germany and has written a review from a different perspective: http://home.arcor.de/danneskjoeld/X/Som/index.html

Andrew March 27, 2006 at 9:49 pm

“Som” writes “All I hear about is how much safer Somaliland (that territory with one provisional gov.) is than anarchic somalia. I always knew thats total B.S. It’s amazing how the natural rights of liberty and property are universally respected across Somilia, despite all the ethno-religious diversity. It’d be a terrible day if the somali’s had any gov imposed on them.”

Unfortunately, the area that van Notten settled in, and primarily wrote about, was Somaliland, specifically Awdal–you know, that territory with one provisional government that you so despite. In Somaliland, outside the major cities, people are mostly free to practice traditional clan life.

According to people who live there, even Somaliland is nowhere near as rosy as van Notten paints it. And note that it has a much lower per capital GNP than any of the neighboring countries.

In the areas controlled by warlords things are much worse, and even more so in many uncontrolled areas, where people continue to die of civil war, gang violence, and banditry. It’s no good appealing to your clan judge for a settlement against a member of a clan that’s at war with yours, or an outlaw former colonel with a private army.

You might also want to look into how Somali free enterprise actually works before praising it. For example, the vaunted telecommunications industry relies on an industry assocation in Dubai, paid for by the UN, the ITU, and a handful of multinationals like Sprint and Telenor, governed and insured under UAE laws. This type of “importing governance” is common, as is this type of foreign subsidy. For another example, the much-praised University is paid for by international Islamic charities, not by private enterprise.

So much for the anarcho-capitalist miracle.

Derrick April 13, 2009 at 9:46 am

The recent taking of a US hostage by Somali pirates (and the subsequent operation to free the hostage) reminded me of this Mises article on Somalia from a few years ago.

Back then I almost bought into the arguments proposed in the article.

In hindsight I see libertarianism as hopelessly naive. I don’t see how anyone would rationally look to Somalia as a role model for anything.

Nevermind that in our own country we’ve recently witnessed supposed free-market worshippers begging for financial bailouts from the government, all because of situations that were created by LESS regulation.

SayWhat September 2, 2009 at 4:53 pm

> Nevermind that in our own country we’ve recently witnessed supposed free-market worshippers begging for financial bailouts from the government, all because of situations that were created by LESS regulation.

Are you being sarcastic? “Less” regulation being the problem is baloney. The Federal Register has over 80K pages of regulations in it and that number is increasing steadily every day.

I would recommend reading, in full, a few good books on Austrian, truly free-market economics. /Economics in One Lesson/ is a good starter. Then I’d recommend picking up a Rothbard work… you can find them free here on Mises.org, as I’m sure you know.

What Has Government Done to Our Money, Man, Economy, and State, America’s Great Depression, The Case Against the Fed… all must reads.

Dan December 4, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Hahahaha, ohmigod, ohmigod, thank you, hahahaha, oh my sides…

This is maybe the funniest thing I’ve read all year, and I’m a little sad that I’m only finding it now. Please, Ms. Kim, please please please tell me you now read this with a mixture of chagrin and embarrassment.

Or, better yet, why don’t you head off to Somalia to start up your own company? I hear the telecom sector’s absolutely thriving there…

Salvador October 23, 2010 at 12:23 am

Still horrible that Somalia is used as an example of flourishing anarcho-capitalism. If that’s what it means, no thanks! I’ll take even 50% tax over that.

Salvador October 23, 2010 at 12:25 am

P.s. Isn’t it “Somalia” not “Somolia”?

Ohhh Henry October 23, 2010 at 1:22 am

Nobody said that Somalia with no government is a better place to live than USA or Europe with a government. The question is whether Somalia is better without a government than it was before.

If you lost your own government and its 50 percent or whatever tax rate, does it mean that you will be forced to live in a mud hut and ride a camel everywhere? I doubt it.

B August 16, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Mogadishu! Another bustling morning dawns in the peaceful nation’s capital. A shopkeeper pulls up his door and immediately starts selling the latest cutting-edge electronics to throngs of eager Somalis brandishing wads of Shillings, the rock-solid currency upon which this proud country thrives. Slick businessmen glide by gabbing on cell phones Japanese and American consumers can only dream of — and on the best wireless network in the world, no less! Yes, commerce everywhere is booming in this humming metropolis, but Somalia’s pristine cities are not the only place where one can bask in the prosperous glow of this economic beacon perched proudly on the illustrious horn of Africa.

Not surprisingly, the countryside is abuzz with activity as well. Plows work the land as food stockpiles overflow with their life-giving bounty — all of it lubricated by the perfect and inviolable Somali clan system. This futuristic governance has all but eliminated the need for traditional state governments. Here, every person’s need is met, and society and production continue at a steady clip, uninterrupted by the clan infighting and power grabs that have dogged Somalia’s African neighbors.

It seems you cannot walk two feet in any direction in Somalia without bumping into a plump, smiling face. Yes, whether traveling on the gem of a country’s mint-condition roads, relaxing on its sparkling beaches, or exploring its high-tech cities, there is little doubt Somalia is a nation … on the GROW!

Good grief.. August 30, 2011 at 9:52 pm

This reads like something from one of those spoof travel books, like Phaic Tan. I’m still not sure if it’s serious or not.
If so, then hooray for small government and stone age tribal legal systems. With their manifest superiority so clearly exemplified by the Somali success story, it’s a wonder more Tea Partiers haven’t moved there already. Personally, I’ll take the socialist nightmare of Sweden any day.

Anthony August 31, 2011 at 12:00 am

Perhaps a better comparison than Sweden would be neighboring countries in Africa…

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