19 July 2011
When it comes to Somalia: look before you leap

“So, libertarians don’t believe in government.  Why don’t you go and live in Somalia then?”

How often have we heard that one?  [OK, perhaps not that often but it does hover there at the back of your mind.] And how often have we been able to come up with a decent response beyond some coughing and spluttering?

So, it was good to see Robert Murphy giving it a go.  He starts by making a good point:

The Rothbardian doesn’t claim that the absence of a state is a sufficient condition for bliss. Rather, the Rothbardian says that however prosperous and law-abiding a society is, adding an institution of organized violence and theft will only make things worse.

He then quotes the stats which apparently show rises in life expectancy and adult literacy.  Which alarms me.  How sure can you be that these statistics bear any relation to reality?  Hey, I’m not convinced by our own government’s stats.  But in a war-torn country with a multi-sided civil war?  At very least they have to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Me? I would give them on credence whatsoever.  My test is have any (of the surprisingly many) Somalis I know or have known in recent years expressed any desire to go back?  Answer: no.  Not on your Nelly.

Murphy then says this:

Farah and other advocates of a central state might retort that right now security costs are particularly high for Somali businesses because of the fighting between rival factions ("warlords") in their attempt to control the government.

So, there are rival factions/armies/gangs are there?  And what, precisely, is the difference between a gang and a state?  I suppose it’s to do with predictability but my guess is that after a few years any gang - so long as it is unmolested by the state - will start to establish rules and thus predictability.

Or, to put it another way: Somalia does not want for government.

This all feeds into my worries for this country.  It is not difficult to see the central government collapsing but while libertarians may hope for a golden age of liberty my suspicion is that they will get gangs roaming the streets.  So long as people believe in the state they will continue to create them. 

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