Hey, why not? Sometimes, you just get a comment that needs to get out there, and maybe only because the blogger (me) wants to mess with you. Could you do it as part of a post on an otherwise wider topic, as I’ve done numerous times before? Sure, but how about if the comment lends itself to a post all on its own?
As always, you get to judge…so long as you’re prepared to be judged as well.
The problem for something like this is that many of you will immediately look away (Don’t Go There), which is “bad blogging,” on the surface of things. On the other hand, that’s how I blog. I’m not the news. No Circle Jerks…uh…”Focus Groups,” here.
Such is the case when this popped through yesterday. Yea, it’s a bit off the range. Some of us really take the whole wild animal thing much to heart, perhaps. Stated another way, this is really advanced socialism, using the pure meaning of the term: we are indeed social animals.
It was in response to this comment by Steve, an excerpt.
The only example of anarchism I can think of is Somalia.
The essential problem is that anarchy is pretty much gone, unless you want to look to the few remaining vestiges of hunter-gatherers or primitive folk. We’ve about 4 million years of history in surviving in the wild, migrating to all corners and heights of the globe, exploiting resources cooperatively and then domestication and fields of grain come along. And big surprise: where you have something to steal, there will be thieves.
My chief consternation as a paleo blogger is not really in dealing with the thieves. I know who they are, and deal or not, best I can. No, my chief consternation is in not getting discouraged over the whole mess, when I find how much almost all—and I emphatically mean: almost all—Paleo folks love the general diet and lifestyle, and yet love their favorite thieves too.
So here we go. My hope is only that it motivates a bit of thought…out of the box.
Somalia is not Anarchy.
First, no intelligent anarchist argues that the sudden and catastrophic implosion of the state will result in a peaceful, self-regulating society.
What most of us want to do is reverse the centuries-long process of building up the state, by building alternative social institutions, organized on a voluntary cooperative basis, to supplant the state.
With the varied meanings of the word, it’s easy to write off Somalia’s issues as merely the fruit of “anarchy.” But Somalia’s problems were created by rulers and aspiring rulers, not by any anarchists advocating no rulers. Somalia does not have anarchy, nor does its situation serve as evidence that anarchism is unlikely to work.
Since the brutal dictatorship of Mohammed Siad Barre fell in 1991, Somalia has faced varying intensities of civil war between aspiring governments, not an overall defeat of government.
Violence is done in trying to force a centralized government on a county with decentralized power, and in forcing a modern state onto conflicting customary law. But proponents of central government are unable to accept that forcing everyone to obey whoever has government power might not be the best way to promote harmony among different interests and allegiances.
Anarchy didn’t establish dictatorships, make International Monetary Fund agreements, or deploy foreign militaries to Mogadishu. The problems in Somalia have been, and continue to be, caused by authoritarians and looters in government, business, and banking.
So it would make far more sense to look at a stateless or near-stateless society that’s been that way for a long time, under comparatively stable conditions (like some of the near-stateless areas in Southeast Asia described by James Scott in “The Art of Not Being Governed”), and the institutions by which people peacefully govern their lives.
Second, “Somalia” does not equal “Mogadishu.” Most of the horrific, Mad Max scenes captured in Somalia are in Mogadishu, where the central state was most powerful before the collapse and the institutions of civil society were accordingly most atrophied. As Roderick Long, director of C4SS’s parent body the Molinari Institute, put it, “the farther one gets away from Mogadishu, the more one gets into relatively peaceful areas that have always been anarchic or close to it, barring occasional intrusions from the statebuilders in the city.” In other words, the further you get from Mogadishu, the less Somalia resembles “Somalia,” and the more it resembles the kind of stable society described by James Scott.
Third, the proper comparison to Somalia is not the United States and similar societies in the West, but to the actual state that existed in Somalia before the collapse of central power. Given that comparison, things in Somalia aren’t that bad at all. For example: a study by Benjamin Powell, Ryan Ford and Alex Nowrasteh took “a comparative institutional approach to examine Somalia’s performance relative to other African countries both when Somalia had a government and during its extended period of anarchy.” And it found that Somalia, when subjected to an honest comparison — “between Somalia when it had a functioning government, and Somalia now” — is less poor, has higher life expectancy, and has experienced a drastic increase in telephone lines.
One of the more recent heckling techniques adopted by government apologists of all stripes is to point to the Horn of Africa, usually while chortling, and say, “There! You don’t like government? You want anarchy? Well, what are you waiting for? Move to Somalia!”
Indeed, the mainstream press have painted Somalia with the broad-brush catchphrases “anarchic,” “lawless,” and “chaotic.” This, however, could not be further from the truth.
Since U.S. troops deposed the dominant governmental regime in the early 1990s, Somalia has been a hotbed of would-be, wanna-be, and actual governments all vying for uncontested rule over the populace. At present, the U.N. and U.S.-backed “official” government is capable of controlling only a few blocks of Mogadishu surrounding its immediate headquarters. African Union troops, headed by the ruling elite in Ethiopia, have thus far proven wholly ineffective in stomping various warlord-run militias and hardline Islamic rebels out of existence. To the contrary, such heavily armed bands roam about the countryside, often entirely unopposed, seizing territory while looting, raping, and killing the inhabitants. Even al-Qaida affiliated or sympathetic groups are now increasingly drawing the attention of U.S. special forces military units, determined to bring the “War on Terror” to yet another front.
Meanwhile, the “civilan” Somalis attempt to live and work and trade with some semblance of normalcy, erstwhile under a hail of bullets, missiles, and bombs – both from factions domestic and foreign. The devastation and accompanying squalor on land drives many Somali men to piracy off the coastline, which prompts the U.S. Navy and armed vessels of other nations to step up their presence in the region, escalating the tensions and hostilities even further.
No, there is no “anarchy” in Somalia – not as that word is properly used; to denote an absence of rulers. While there may be many ways in which Somalis under such conditions are not hampered by the institution of taxation, and are thus free to trade what goods and services there are to be made or had on a voluntary, consensual basis, such conditions are not precisely conducive to optimum commerce. With a constant barrage of different warring factions running amok, each competing fiercely to be the one, uncontestable ruling force, there is only an atmosphere of impending statism with no current group of guerilla fighters able to muster enough firepower to snuff or drive away all of the others.
True anarchy – market anarchy – contemplates free and unbeholden individuals dealing with each other as peaceful traders for mutual benefit. If you want to do good business and turn a profit, you don’t go around killing current or potential customers, suppliers, partners and employees. You compete to be the best at providing quality goods and services at reasonable prices – not with threats and violence. Anarchism is, contary to popular belief, strictly a peaceful philosophy. Governments do and can only rest on violence as their ultimate defense. Markets, in and of themselves, don’t and can’t operate that way.
The truth is that there is nothing anarchic about Somalia. It is at present a rat’s nest of governmental (i.e. criminal) muscle-flexing, all ultimately to the ill of the Somalian people, and the world at large. It’s time the world learned this indispensable lesson.
I would only point out one thing, which is how he generally refers to anarchism as a philosophy. When you speak of philosophy, that means you’re integrating a lot of things such as premises (metaphysics), how you know anything (epistemology), how you might choose to act (ethics), get along with others (politics), or even, how you might want to artistically represent all the foregoing (esthetics).
But never mind. Forget the last 4 million years. It would never work. Humans are simply incapable of survival without some ruler admonishing obedience to the magical people of Earth (politicians) or the magical people of the sky (Gods). (…And taking their cut in the process)