And While You're At It, Could We Borrow One of Those Neat Black Masks?

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Never let it be said that the federal Katrina relief operation has refused all assistance from the outside. Some anarchists who set up a clinic in New Orleans say they've received a surprising request:

The situation in Algiers got a bit more surreal this week when the U.S. military asked the anarchists for help in providing basic services to local residents. A medical military clinic commander asked the folks running the Common Ground Clinic if they could lend a few medics and doctors to the military until the military sets up a "permanent" health clinic on Newton Avenue on Monday.

NEXT: Powder Blue Persuasion

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  1. The article contains many more comments supporting private -- although I'm sure they would grate over the word -- response over government response.

    The Common Ground Clinic and other projects are being organized on a cooperative, non-hierarchical basis, which stresses the importance of solidarity instead of charity. This process requires lots of organization, communication and frequent meetings. The volunteers and residents have two meetings each day. . The first meeting in the morning is similar to the spokescouncil style seen at activist convergences. It brings together people involved in the various collective projects: medical care, food, media, and community clean up. In the evening, clinic volunteers have a meeting that focuses on the running of the clinic.

    Shades of Monty Python... As a little advice to the anarchists on the other side of the aisle, I'll point out that the reason you don't disallow "hierarchical" cooperation is so you don't waste valuable doctors' time in two freaking organizational meetings a day!

  2. Well, at least the military is recognizing effectiveness when it sees it, which is only for the good.

    MikeP - No kidding! Two meetings a day?! I think I'd shoot myself. IMO, if a project requires more than two meetings a week you're doing something wrong. Here's proof, if proof were needed, that "anarchists" can be just as ridiculous as the big corporations they claim to hate so much.

  3. Cyndie Shiehan also mentioned that clinic in her latest screed.

    It's too bad search engines won't be able to figure out such a link because of this site's recent adoption of those idiotic nofollow tags. But, at least commentors are working for free now.

  4. I'm no anarchist, but I'm curious how Somalia's experiment with Anarchy is going. On the one hand I hear that there is a pretty healthy free market, especially in high tech fields, but on the other hand, it's pretty much impossible to go anywhere without having to pay a gang of gunmen to pass down a road, and there is a good deal of violence. Can someone help this brother understand what's up?

  5. Larry Horse --

    This piece is seven years old now, but good:

    A Peaceful Ferment in Somalia.

    This is from 2002 and from a guy who's been there and is trying to do business there:

    Somalia and Anarchy.

    and The Answer for Africa.

    For some more recent stuff -- what's going on right now -- you can try this discussion group:

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/awdal/

    ... but last time I was there the noise-to-signal ration was kind of high if you wanted hard news vs. chatter, and the Yahoo Groups format makes it hard to find any specific discussion topic, IMO.

    this looks like a really good source of info, from Nov. 2004. (PDF file.)

    This looks interesting, from MarginalRevolution.com, April 2004.

    You can find more by Googling:

    +somalia +"anarcho-capitalism"

    +somalia +maccallum (as in Spencer MacCallum, Spencer Heath MacCallum)

    +somalia +"jim davidson"

    +somalia +"michael van notten"

    +somalia +"awdal roads"

    +somalia +kritarchy (that's "'rule' by 'judges'" or respected mediators and advice-givers)

    My impression is that different parts of Somalia are doing better than others -- and in general, the parts where wannabe-statists are trying to set up new governments that they can be in charge of are doing not so well, while the areas that have pretty much reverted to the traditional clan ways of preserving social order are doing better.

  6. Larry, it looks like H&R is filtering any posts that have lots of links in them today. In case my note doesn't make it (because it has several direct links), here is an abbreviated version:

    You can find relevant stuff by Googling:

    +somalia +"anarcho-capitalism"

    +somalia +maccallum (as in Spencer MacCallum, Spencer Heath MacCallum)

    +somalia +"jim davidson"

    +somalia +"michael van notten"

    +somalia +"awdal roads"

    +somalia +kritarchy (that's "'rule' by 'judges'" or respected mediators and advice-givers)

  7. Wacko,

    I gotta tell you, I like Cyndie Sheehan, but it's obvious that she is pretty naive politically. It's not terribly interesting to read her writing, outside of her particular beef with the White House.

    She seems like a good person though.

  8. Larry Horse,
    Youse are a fan o' Damon Runyon, eh?

    Blessings unto ye.

    My computer is faltering, or I'd further embarrass
    myself.

    Why aren't you an anarchist

  9. Yup, it appears my original post, that had all kinds of links embedded in it, has disappeared for good. What the hey is up with that? Are we now just supposed to paste in the URLS -- however long and margin-busting they might be -- without hreffing links? Does this just affect posts with multiple links? Is this an anti-spam filtering feature? How many links can we embed without triggering it?

    Also, for the most up-to-the-minute news about Somalia, there is a Yahoo Grops hosted by Jim Davidson of the Awdal Roads Company, a businessman with anarchist sympathies who is trying to do business in Somalia. See:

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/awdal/

    Although last time I was there, there was a pretty high chatter-to-info ration. And the Yahoo Groups forum format makes it hard to find specific topics being discussed in posts, in my opinion.

  10. Also, be sure to read this stuff about Somalia:

    "Somalia and Anarchy" by Jim Davidson
    http://libertariannation.org/a/n030d1.html

    And Google the widely distributed piece, "A Peaceful Ferment in Somalia."


  11. it's pretty much impossible to go anywhere without having to pay a gang of gunmen to pass down a road

    Oh, we have that too - it's called "New Jersey Turnpike tolls". And with EZpass, the gunmen don't even have to be there, and you can still pay them! More seriously, I recall reading a while ago that Somalia has the cheapest long-distance phone rates of any nation in Africa, which was a bit of a shocker even for me.

  12. You know, most people are going to say, "Oh, come on -- you can't equate rogue Somali gunman with our government agencies," but you spark a thought. Maybe we just have easier, more convenient payment plan -- so you rarely have to actually see the guns.

  13. After reading all that, it does seem that in retrospect, calling Somalia an anarchy does seem to be a statement more of Western bias than actual reality. It appears that they do have a form of "government" which serves to define property and punish criminals based on the tribal structure that the citizens respect, and although not elected, has the implied consent of the Somalis and therefore is democratic in a non-Western sort of way. Perhaps the reason that it works so much better than the previous government and other poor nations government is that it is an indigenous form of government rather than a Western form imposed on a non-Western culture.

    What worries me though is that while such a state of affairs produces a free market environment in Somalia, this single case might not be representative of all possible "indigenous" forms of government. That is, the Somalis might have had a long free-market tradition, whereas some peoples may not have. A possible example of this is the Taliban tribal system in Afghanistan.

    So I guess the conclusions I've drawn from reading on Somalia is that calling Somalia an anarchy is looking at the situation from a Western bias but that the fact that the Somali system works for the Somalis may not be so much because it is falling back on an indigenous system so much as the fact that the Somalis have been fortunate enough to have an indigenous form of society which is amenable to a free and open economy.

  14. You can still post links here, Stevo.

  15. Ah, thanks -- noted, Jesse. (But apparently last Friday I couldn't. Draft 1 of the Amazing Somali Ancap Research Festival is still missing. Oh, well -- looks like Larry found some stuff anyway.)

    Larry -- Well, technically, most of Somalia does have anarchy in the strict sense that it has no state. In other words, no one "government" that claims a complete monopoly over a clearly bordered territory. Anarchy is not chaos.

    Western-style democracy does not seem likely to work well in Somalia because the culture is that your first loyalty is to your clan. Anyone who attains a government office is expected to use his power first and foremost to benefit his own clan, and the rest of the country a distant second. It's as if the country had hundreds of different political parties, and your political party is the one you were born into. And you are expected to be fiercely partisan, and if you attain a position of political power, your duty is to shovel as much pork as possible in the direction of your own party members, and undermine and weaken everyone else. That's considered the right thing to do.

    I think the Somalis will be better off if they can modernize the country under their traditional system, rather than Western outsiders trying to force them into a nation-state type of government.

    I think you make a good point, that the Somalis also have the benefit of being used to markets. I sometimes wonder if the Somali model would have worked for a place like Iraq, but I don't know if the Iraqis have the background that would prepare them for this.

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