Anarchy in Northern Somlia
David Friedman: Private Law
Somalia is not exactly the first place where you would expect an anarchist society to form. It's an Third World country with an Islamic population, but activists Vincent Cook and Tim Starr made the case that Northern Somalia is in fact a stable, stateless society today. (The Southern part, they say, is not quite as stable or stateless, but pretty close.)
Around 1991, the totalitarian communist dictatorship that had destroyed Somalia collapsed, and civil war ensued. United Nations humanitarian aid soon became the main source of funding for Somalian warlords.
Now that the United Nations is gone, things are far better, and the violence has all but ceased in the North. Somalia has a clan-based social network — but no one who can force you to pay taxes or submit to their rule.
A unique feature of Somalian society is that legal jurisdictions depend on how you are related to people, and not where the legal conflict originated. There is a system of private arbiters who enforce traditional common law called the Xeer, and to a lesser extent Islamic Law (the Sharia).
Land is owned by both private individuals and clan organizations, and some fairly complex forms of property rights seem to have developed. Free enterprise is taking off, despite the fact that there are no banks, and all transactions seem to be done with the unbacked Somalian Schilling.
Mogadishu now has one of the best cellular phone networks in Africa, and it is local and privately owned. The economy is taking off in general, especially compared to the last time Somalia had a government. There's even a Western Union office Mogadishu, while there isn't one in Nairobi, Kenya.
Somalia does have some undesirable features, which show that not all problems will be solved by abolishing the government. Somalians are very xenophobic, and their clan structures refuse to protect foreigners. Foreigners must hire their own private security agents, if they want to be protected from criminals. Practices of other patriarchical African societies, such as involuntary clitorechtomies also exist there.
Still, Somalia is a promising example of anarchy at work. It has been a stable state for about eight years, and it doesn't look like anything will change. Attempts by the United States and United Nations to impose a government have all failed, and now neither of those organizations wants anything to do with the region. A few Western-educated Somalian intellectuals want a government, but no one can gain enough support to form one. One good thing is that every aspiring warlord who wants to become President refuses to be ruled by anyone else and insists that, if he can't rule Somalia, no one can.
Anarcho-capitalist economist David Friedman spoke before the Individualist Anarchist Society. Around fifty people gathered to see him speak, ironically enough on Election Day.
David Friedman (son of Nobel-Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman) is perhaps the most famous anarcho-capitalist in the world. He is the author of The Machinery of Freedom: Guide to Radical Capitalism and Hidden Order: The Economics of Everyday Life. His upcoming book, Why Is Law?, will examine law from an economic perspective.
David Friedman teaches economic analysis of law at Santa Clara University and has published a considerable number of academic papers. He is also an active Internet user, science-fiction fan and cryptography enthusiast.
In his speech, entitled “Private Law,” he made his usual case for privatizing all the functions of government. Some of these arguments are available online in a chapter of The Machinery of Freedom, “Police, Courts, and Law — On the Market.”
We were honored to host such a distinguished figure in the world of individualist anarchism. For more information you can jump to David Friedman's Home Page.
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