Mere Anarchy is Loosed Upon the Wires

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Interesting BBC story on the flourishing telecom sector in anarchic Somalia, where despite some obstacles posed by the lack of various forms of government-provided infrastructure, competition thrives, producing more market entrants and lower prices than in many neighboring countries.

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  1. How to resolve conflicts between rival warlords in Somalia?
    “Reach out and touch someone.”

    See! Order for free.

    Anarchist speaking.

  2. Were I a nation-state, I’d be worried right now. Somalia makes three examples in the modern world in which a stateless, anarchic system has outperformed nearby state run systems.

    First is Hong Kong, which although it theoretically had a state (the British government), in practice was allowed to develop with minimal oversight.

    Next, Argentina, where the government completely f**ked up their economy, and as a result essentially ceased to function for almost a year; the anarchic system that arose naturally from the ash heap set things to rights in relatively short order, with absolutely no help from the gov’s guiding hand.

    And, now, Somalia, which may be a battered moonscape of a country compared to, say, the US, is outperforming all of its neighbors.

    The scary thing for the statists? Multinational corporations seem quite comfortable investing in Somalia, building factories etc, without a government there to ‘stabilize’ things. If the boardrooms of the world’s biggest companies realize that nation-states need them a hell of a lot more than the other way around … things could get interesting.

    Oh, and for anyone who’s interested, there’s a good thread over at samizdata on exactly this topic.

  3. “But how do you establish a phone company in a country where there is no government?
    ….
    In some respects, it is actually easier.”

    Haha, no shit. Nice article Julian.

    Thought this was interesting as well:

    “We badly need a government,” he says. “Everything starts with security – the situation across the country.

    “All the infrastructure of the country has collapsed – education, health and roads. We need to send our staff abroad for any training.”

    Hmm, so it seems they want a government in order to subsidize their costs of doing business. That sounds familiar. Paging Kevin Carson…..

  4. “But how do you establish a phone company in a country where there is no government?
    ….
    In some respects, it is actually easier.”

    Haha, no shit. Nice article Julian.

    Thought this was interesting as well:

    “We badly need a government,” he says. “Everything starts with security – the situation across the country.

    “All the infrastructure of the country has collapsed – education, health and roads. We need to send our staff abroad for any training.”

    Hmm, so it seems they want a government in order to subsidize their costs of doing business. That sounds familiar. Paging Kevin Carson…..

  5. Apologies for the double post.

  6. Damn! Beat me to it, matt.

  7. You can’t advocate anarcho-capitalism (like me) without knowing a little bit about Somalia. After all, that’s “the country that proves anarchy doesn’t work,” being a violent hell-hole and all.

    My first clue that the situation in Somalia wasn’t entirely bad came from that hell-raising radical anarchist publication, National Geographic. I can’t find it online, but here is a discussion of that article:

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig3/parker1.html

    Other good links about Somalia, informative and mostly well-written:

    “A Peaceful Ferment in Somalia” —

    http://www.libertyhaven.com/countriesandregions/somalia/peacefulferment.html

    “Somalia and Anarchy” by “Jim Davidson is the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Awdal Roads Company, which is pursuing business opportunities in the Awdal region of Somalia.” Kinda long, maybe not the best-written place, but it’s by a guy who’s been there and has studied the country quite closely. —

    http://libertariannation.org/a/n030d1.html

  8. Kevin,

    I’ve read a lot of the stuff you’ve posted here and some articles on your website, and I find quite persuasive. I have to admit, big business loves the state.

  9. matt: It sounds to me like they want to be able to step outside their homes without worrying about getting shot/murdered. Anarchy implies that there is no law at all. A government can at least provide a minimum level of security and law enforcement without infinging on economic freedom.

  10. “Anarchy implies that there is no law at all. A government can at least provide a minimum level of security and law enforcement […]” -JonBuck

    You are making the assumption that law is exclusively product of the state and can’t originate from other non-governmental sources (civil society, natural law, etc.).

  11. MayDay: Wouldn’t those other sources become a de facto government?

  12. Okay, Stevo Darkly,

    Are Icelanders snowbirds in Somalia, smarty-pants?

    (anarchy: order for free)

  13. When I read the article, my thought was that any bunch of guys with guns who operate openly to stop you and make you pay a toll effectively are a government, whatever they may call themselves. Plus there are the tribal elders, who sound like they exercise some kind of coercive authority. Westerners tend not to recognize a government unless it looks like what they think of as a government: a bunch of guys in offices downtown. A related observance is that what a lot of people mean when they say Somalia should have a government is that Somalia should have a “nice” government – you know, one that runs courts and builds roads and runs schools and all that good stuff, not one that extorts money from the people to enrich its leaders or tries to wipe out ethnic minorities and so forth. The problem is, there’s no guarantee that Somalia would get the first kind and not the second.

    I can understand Somalis wanting a government. A lot of them lead poor lives in poor conditions, which is mentioned in some of the articles linked to from this one. But then, a lot of Africans lead equally poor lives, and they have governments.

  14. JD,
    All governments cease to be “nice” as soon as they extend beyond family, friends, community.

    N’est par? Or something French like that.

  15. Ruthless:

    I saw your mention of “snowbirds” in the other Somalia thread, and I must confess your reference escapes me completely. (This is a wordy way of saying, “Huh?” Or “Say what?” Or even “C’est what?” or something French like that. Anyway, time to start my weekend. Peace out, hommes.)

  16. “Wouldn’t those other sources become a de facto government?” -JonBuck

    Maybe…But only if a single one of those sources became the one institution with the all responsibility of enforcing all legal infractions within it’s geographical area. This would not be the case if there was multiple souces of law. With multiple sources you would not have a monopoly of the use of force by any single institution (i.e. the state).

  17. Man, the way the operate the parking garages around here, I’m not surprised at all…

    heh

  18. Yeah, just look at all the people trying to get into Somalia.

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