The “Anarchist” Experience In Somalia – What Libertarians Need To Know

One of the most fascinating places on Earth right now, particularly to libertarians, is Somalia. For much of the past 23 years, Somalia has been living under relative statelessness, and thus functions as an interesting case study for some anarchist concepts.

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What has been widely conceived of as a failure in Somalia is actually far more complex than the mainstream view would suggest. However, the dominance of this view, that Somalia is a chaotic den of warlords and pirates, and where civilians live under constant fear of being killed, remains somewhat unchallenged in the public’s mind.

Because of this view, a common retort to libertarians/anarchists during any political discussion is: “Why don’t you go move to Somalia, then?” The absurdity of this comment will be briefly addressed towards the end of this post, but basically amounts to the silliness of “America: Love it or leave it” arguments.

And the libertarian response is usually one of two things. Usually, I’ve heard “Somalia is not anarchist/libertarian”, but sometimes I’ll hear “Somalia has improved drastically over the past twenty years”. On the surface, it appears that these ideas would be mutually exclusive (from the libertarian standpoint) and that we can’t have it both ways.

In this post, however, I intend to argue that Somalia at times has been largely (but not completely) anarchist, that the anarchist aspects are responsible for the vast improvements in Somalia that have been documented since 1991, and that it is the non-anarchist aspects that have led to the modern violence that sticks out in peoples’ minds.

 

Brief History of Somalia

Somalia has a long and storied history. My intention here is to provide a brief overview of this history in order to help understand what has been happening in modern day Somalia since the government collapsed in 1991. Note that my description is far from complete, but I believe captures all the necessary details.

In the early days of Islam, many Muslims fled persecution to the Horn of Africa. Islam quickly became a dominant religion in the Somali peninsula during the 7th and 8th centuries. At first, Christians and Muslims in the area got along, but soon things devolved. Several centuries of warfare between various Christian and Muslim kingdoms in what is currently Ethiopia and Somalia ensued.

In the 16th century, foreign powers began to intervene. The Ottoman Empire allied with the Somali Muslims against the Portuguese and Ethiopian Christians. The history of foreign intervention in Somalia and the Horn of Africa began a long time ago.

It was in the late 19th century, however, when the foreign influences began to accelerate. During the Scramble for Africa, the British took control over northern Somalia, and Italy took over the south. Through the early 1900s, Somalis resisted both the British and Italian governments, and areas within Somalia were in a state of rebellion for decades.

In 1941, the British took control over nearly all of Somalia, forcing the Italians out (except for the small trusteeship of Italian Somaliland). In 1960, Somalia won its independence. The new government didn’t last long – in 1969, a (nearly) bloodless military coup put Mohamed Siad Barre in power. He immediately dissolved the parliament as well as the Supreme Court, and suspended the constitution.

In 1976, Barre began to implement “scientific socialism” – communism. Unsurprisingly, this proved to be a disaster for the Somali economy. At the same time, Somalia went to war with Ethiopia to take the Ogaden region and incorporate it into “Greater Somalia”. The Soviet Union intervened in order to save the Ethiopian communist regime, so Barre shifted his alliance towards the United States.

In the 1980’s, many Somalis became disenchanted with the totalitarian Barre regime. Resistance movements, encouraged by Ethiopia, began to spring up around the country. In the late 80’s, this led to a revolution and a Somali civil war, culminating in Barre’s ouster in 1991.

A coalition of UN peacekeepers, led by the United States, landed in Somalia in 1993 for a two year operation. Many clan leaders saw the UN and US as a threat, and fought back. After some embarrassing defeats, the peacekeepers left Somalia in 1995. From then until 2006, Somalia was in a state of “anarchy”, and is the period we will be delving into in this post. During this time, a system of customary law called Xeer, which developed in the Horn of Africa around the 7th century, was practiced. I will discuss Xeer in more detail in the next section.

During this period of “anarchy”, outside forces tried to impose a government on the people of Somalia more than a dozen times. These transitional governments repeatedly failed to garner public support or be recognized by local Somalis. As attempts to establish a government in Somalia intensified, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) assumed control over much of the southern part of the country in 2006. The Transitional Federal Government, with the help of the Ethiopian army, African Union peacekeepers, and US air support, fought back against the ICU and took over most of the country.

Since then, an Islamic insurgency has been waged against the government and Ethiopian troops. The fighting has gone on back and forth, and has continued to this day. While the government is still very weak, it is vastly stronger now than it had been before 2006. More permanent political institutions are beginning to entrench themselves.

Predictably, the new Somali government is quite corrupt, with 70-80% of the weapons that are sent as part of foreign aid are getting diverted and sold elsewhere. Additionally, the new government (as well as the Islamic militants they are fighting with) are continually engaging in human rights abuses.

It will be interesting to see how events in Somalia play out over the coming years, but it is worth noting that it would be wholly inappropriate to consider modern Somalia to be anarchist in any form. Perhaps if the new federal government fails to establish complete control of the territory, an approximate “anarchy” will be reestablished. More likely, however, is that we will see a continued civil war, with the Somali government slowly taking over.

 

Deeper Dive Into the Xeer Legal System

Incredibly, states have not usurped the traditional role of clans in Somali society, despite this happening in most parts of the world as states grew more centralized. The Xeer legal system which I mentioned briefly in the last section has remained an incredibly strong force in Somali society since it was established well over a thousand years ago.

In this section, I will go into some detail outlining major facets of the Xeer legal system. Keep in mind that this description does not constitute advocacy for all parts of it. Much of it is good, but certainly not all of it is ideal. That being said, there is much that we can learn from it.

Much of what we know about the operation of this system comes from the scholarship of Michael van Notten, who married into a Somali clan and got to witness and study the Xeer system firsthand. His book, The Law of the Somalis, is the ultimate source of most of the information in this section.

This clan-based legal system is based primarily on property rights, and is compensatory rather than punitive. That means no jails, and the victims of crime are made whole again through some form of compensation from the perpetrator whenever possible.

“The Xeer outlaws homicide, assault, torture, battery, rape, accidental wounding, kidnapping, abduction, robbery, burglary, theft, arson, extortion, fraud, and property damage (Van Notten 2005:49). The legal system focuses on the restitution of victims, not the punishment of criminals. For violations of the law, maximum payments to compensate victims are specified in camels (payment can be made in equivalent monetary value). Typical compensation to the family of a murder victim is 100 camels for a man and 50 for a woman; an animal thief usually must return two animals for every one he stole.”

Contrast those aims with those of the current reigning paradigm in theories of justice. In most of the world today, if you commit a crime, you get punished. This means going to jail, or paying monetary fines to the state. The victim of these crimes, of course, gets nothing (although they do get to pay for the criminal’s incarceration through their taxes…yay). And, in most of the world today, victimless “crimes” such as drug use, prostitution, and so on, are routinely prosecuted. Since the Xeer is based on property rights, any activity considered criminal must have a victim who has been violated in some way.

When presented with the guiding philosophy of a polycentric legal system like the Xeer, many people appreciate the sentiment but question how it can work in practice. Most people simply cannot visualize how a non-monopoly justice system could possibly function. They assume that it would collapse as nobody respected the dictates of a given judge. More fundamentally, most people can’t comprehend a legal system that isn’t based on legislation; without a specifically designated body to craft laws, where would laws even come from?

The answer to this question will differ depending on the polycentric legal order in question (common law, the law merchant, ancient Icelandic law, etc.). In the case of Somalia, the law is based on customs and precedents, as interpreted by the clan elders.

“As Ahmed Dualeh of Hargeysa University explains, a Xeer (law) is a law arrived at by agreement, usually originating from an event, such as a killing of another clan’s member. If, instead of retribution, the injured clan agrees to accept monetary compensation instead, then this sets a precedent which, if reinforced by a large number of verdicts in similar cases, matures into a principle and eventually a law, or Xeer. In the words of Hanad Sahardeed, a Diaspora-Somali from Canada, these Xeer are passed down from generation to generation, simply by oral communication.” -Gladitz

“To become a judge in Somalia, one first has to become the head of an extended family. Family heads are usually chosen for their wisdom and knowledge of law. Yet no formal legal training is required of a judge and a judge is free to develop his own doctrines and legal principles. If a judge’s verdicts do not resonate with the feelings of fairness within the community, that judge will simply not be asked to preside again.” – Gladitz

The typical response, at this point, is that the clans are de facto governments. But it only seems that way because people are so conditioned to believe that only governments can provide justice. If the clans are providing justice, then they must be governments.

However, this is not true. Governments will monopolize the provision of justice in a given area, and force people to use their services. Clans do not. There is no monopoly on police or judicial functions within Somalia or Somali clans. Anyone can serve in these capacities except for prominent figures like religious leaders and heads of clans. As an aside, these sorts of prominent figures are held to a higher standard than the rest of society, and are required to pay double what other clan members are required if found guilty.

“Although the interpretation of the law stems from clan elders, the clans are not de facto governments. Upon becoming an adult, individuals are free to choose new insurance groups and elders. In addition, individual clans are not geographic monopolies. As Little (2003: 48) notes, ‘In no way does the geographic distribution of clans and sub-clans correlate with neatly defined territorial boundaries…drought and migration blur the relationship between clan and space.’”

“Throughout all of Somalia upon becoming an adult, individuals are free to choose new insurance groups and elders. They are allowed to either form a new insurance group with themselves as head or they may join an already established group provided it will accept the person. Movement between clans is particularly widespread in southern Somalia. Some clans have more members who were adopted than who were born into it.” –Powell

“The individual clans and insurance groups are not geographic monopolies. Geographic distribution of clans does not match territorial boundaries. As pastoral Somali move throughout their country their legal system moves with them. So in any given area multiple clan governance systems can exist.” – Powell

In the preceding quotes, we saw reference to insurance groups a couple of times. This social insurance plays a critical role in the Xeer system. Everyone must be fully insured against any legal liabilities. If someone can’t pay, their kin becomes responsible. If someone has been habitually causing trouble, the family can disown the criminal, who then becomes an outlaw.

“A person who violates someone’s rights and is unable to pay the compensation himself notifies his family, who then pays on his behalf. From an emotional point of view, this notification is a painful procedure, since no family member will miss the opportunity to tell the wrongdoer how vicious or stupid he was. Also, they will ask assurances that he will be more careful in the future. Indeed, all those who must pay for the wrongdoings of a family member will thereafter keep an eye on him and try to intervene before he incurs another liability. They will no longer, for example, allow him to keep or bear a weapon. While on other continents the re-education of criminals is typically a task of the government, in Somalia it is the responsibility of the family.” – van Notten

So that’s all well and good, but what happens when disputes arise between members of two different clans? In this case, the elders of the two clans must come to an agreement. If they can’t, they appoint an elder from a different clan to settle the dispute. This process is very similar to modern arbitration, which is incredibly common in America.

Xeer tree

Traditionally, judges arbitrate a dispute under an acacia tree until both parties are satisfied.

There is, of course, much more to the Xeer system than what I’ve presented above. Many people who read this will think: “But what about ___?” and be unsatisfied with what I’ve provided here. There are many complexities to any legal system, the Xeer being no exception. There’s no shortage of material online regarding the workings of polycentric legal systems in general, and I would consult van Notten’s book for more details on the Xeer itself.

Considering how the Xeer has survived since the 7th century, has operated under colonial rule, and made it through many years of Barre’s government trying to destroy it, it’s safe to say that it is a robust system. Even in Somaliland, a northern region that broke off and formed its own “government”, the Xeer is still practiced to this day.

“In today’s Somaliland the parties and their respective elders will seek leave from an official court to agree and be bound by the traditional procedure and verdict, which is later submitted to the court. The court’s officer then formally signs the verdict and adopts the decision.” – Gladitz

The Xeer is a truly amazing system, and it is at least in part responsible for the benefits that Somalia has seen from its period of “anarchy”. Benefits – say what?

Note: The sources in this section were Powell and Gladitz.

 

How Has Somalia Changed Since 1991?

After the collapse of Siad Barre’s government in 1991, Somalia fell into what popular opinion and the international community has dubbed “anarchy”. The reality, of course, is far more complex.

Somalia is one of, if not the most, anarchic regions in the world. Personally, I would argue that there are certain regions in South America, where the weak central government doesn’t hold much sway, that are more anarchic. There are similar regions in Southeast Asia and several other parts of the world. That being said, Somalia is considered the most prominent example.

Massive amounts of foreign intervention, as well as the ever looming “threat” of a government forming are primary reasons why Somalia cannot be considered truly anarchic. There have been more than a dozen “transitional” governments that have attempted to take control since 1991, but until recently, all had failed spectacularly. All the same, various clans would compete to take the reins of any potential new government. This was the main cause of the warfare and violence that plagued Somalia after the government’s collapse through the mid-90’s.

But at a certain point, it became clear that, at least for the time being, there would be no central government. And as the 90’s progressed, Somalia became fairly peaceful. This lasted until 2006, when attempts to impose further government led to chaos and warfare.

But what happened to the people of Somalia during this time? Did the lack of government cause everyone to become bloodthirsty homicidal maniacs? Could an economy survive at all without the guidance of a central planner?

The Mainstream View

Actually, conditions in Somalia improved considerably since the fall of the government, both in an absolute sense and relative to other African countries. No, this is not me living in some crazed libertarian fantasy world – Somalia is generally recognized to be in much better shape now than public perception would suggest. Consider this very reserved assessment from the CIA World Fact Book:

“Telecommunication firms provide wireless services in most major cities and offer the lowest international call rates on the continent. Mogadishu’s main market offers a variety of goods from food to electronic gadgets. Hotels continue to operate and are supported with private-security militias. Somalia’s government lacks the ability to collect domestic revenue, and arrears to the IMF have continued to grow. Somalia’s capital city – Mogadishu – has witnessed the development of the city’s first gas stations, supermarkets, and flights between Europe (Istanbul-Mogadishu) since the collapse of central authority in 1991. This economic growth has yet to expand outside of Mogadishu, and within the city, security concerns dominate business. In the absence of a formal banking sector, money transfer/remittance services have sprouted throughout the country, handling up to $1.6 billion in remittances annually, although international concerns over the money transfers into Somalia currently threatens these services.”

The “surprising” success (surprising to non-anarchists) of Somalia has been noted in other mainstream publications. The World Bank claims that Somalia is doing better than they would have expected, and better than other African nations (note that the link to the actual World Bank report has been removed):

“Somalia has lacked a recognized government since 1991—an unusually long time. In extremely difficult conditions the private sector has demonstrated its much-vaunted capability to make do. To cope with the absence of the rule of law, private enterprises have been using foreign jurisdictions or institutions to help with some tasks, operating within networks of trust to strengthen property rights, and simplifying transactions until they require neither. Somalia’s private sector experience suggests that it may be easier than is commonly thought for basic systems of finance and some infrastructure services to function where government is extremely weak or absent.”

Again, phrased very conservatively. An organization such as the World Bank would never admit that anarchic institutions are highly beneficial, but we’ll get into that more below.

In 2011, the BBC had a special report about Somalia, twenty years after “anarchy” was established. In these articles, they acknowledge that Somalia has done “remarkably” well, but talk out the other side of their mouth and repeatedly claim that things would be better with government.

“Since 26 January 1991…the economy has not only been resilient, some sectors have shown remarkable growth.

But investment is very risky and long-term strategic planning is impossible given the political situation.”

“Remarkably for a country which has suffered two decades of conflict, living standards have slowly improved.

Somalia remains poor in relation to most African countries, but its economy and its people have found ways to get by without a government.

Somalia’s GDP has risen steadily throughout the last two decades, as has its life expectancy. And while neighbouring countries have been hit hard by the HIV/Aids epidemic, Somalia has largely escaped.

Although health facilities remain poor in most regions, the chances of a newborn child surviving to its first birthday have actually increased slightly since 1991.”

These mainstream acknowledgments point out that Somalia hasn’t completely collapsed, although the security situation isn’t exactly rosy, either. This is a fair assessment, but not a complete picture. I’ll go into more detail on the security issue towards the end of this section.

What Does The Data Say?

In the meantime, here is a table (note the source) depicting some important development indicators and how Somalia has fared since the government collapsed.

Somalia – how has life changed?
Index 1991 2011 (or latest)
Life expectancy 46 years 50 years
Birth rate 46 44
Death rate 19 16
GDP per capita $210 $600
Infant mortality 116 deaths <1yr, per thousand births 109 deaths <1yr, per thousand births
Access to safe water 35% 29%
Adult literacy 24% 38%

Sources: CIA/UN/UNICEF

You’ll notice that on nearly every measure (the exception being access to safe water), there has been a substantial improvement during the twenty years of “chaos” and the horrors of “anarchy”. It is of course possible that some or all of this benefit has been due in part to the international aid agencies that have been active in Somalia during this time. While possible, this seems unlikely, considering how Somalia’s best years were those with the least international intervention.

One could claim that these improvements simply reflect expected improvements over time, given a twenty year period. However, according to the Independent Institute:

“During the last five years of government rule, life expectancy fell by two years but since state collapse, it actually has increased by five years. Only three African countries, Guinea, Gambia, and Rwanda, can claim a bigger improvement.”

In fact, Somalia has done quite well relative to other African countries. You can see from this table that Somalia has generally improved since statelessness in both absolute and relative terms, compared to other Sub-Saharan African countries.

Somalia Indicators Table

Source: Powell. Click to enlarge

To summarize:

“Although all data from Somalia must be treated with some caution, when looking at these 13 measures of living standards, the overall picture seems clear. Somalia may be very poor, but the loss of its government does not appear to have harmed standards of living. On many measures Somalia compares favorably with the other 42 Sub-Saharan countries. Since losing its central government, we find that Somalia improved measures of well being both in absolute terms and relative to other African states.” – Powell

One specific area that stands out is the telecom industry. Telecoms are thriving in “lawless” Somalia, and are even considered the best in Africa, according to the BBC. How can this be?

“In many African countries state monopolies and licensing restrictions raise prices and slow the spread of telecommunications. In Somalia it takes just three days for a land-line to be installed; in neighboring Kenya waiting lists are many years long (Winter 2004). Once lines are installed, prices are relatively low. With a $10 monthly fee, local calls are free, and international calls are only 50 cents per minute on land-lines; web access costs only 50 cents an hour (Winter 2004). According to the Economist, using a mobile phone in Somalia is “generally cheaper and clearer than a call from anywhere else in Africa” (2005: 89).” – Powell

Did you catch that? The lack of government interference in the market has allowed this sector to thrive. Without the stifling effects of regulations or the forceful imposition of a monopoly, service has improved and prices have dropped.

Other areas have seen considerable improvement as well, even relative to other African countries. For instance, Somali exports have vastly increased since the government collapsed. In fact, the herding economy in Somalia is stronger than even its (state-possessing) neighbors, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Somalia’s experience defies conventional wisdom in regards to several economic indicators, and not just specific industries. Consider the Gini coefficient, a measure of economic inequality. According to Nenova and Harford (2004), Somalia has outperformed its neighbors. Stateless Somalia is a more equal society than statist Kenya, Ethiopia, or Djibouti. Are you listening, liberal readers?

Not only that, but the Somali schilling has stabilized in world currency markets. In other words, we don’t need a government to create and regulate the issuance of money.

“…prior to the large monetary injections in Somalia in March of 1999 and then in 2000, the SoSh showed greater stability than the national currencies of both Ethiopia and Kenya. From 1996 to February 1999 the SoSh depreciated against the US$ only 12.14 percent. Between 1996 and 1999 the Kenyan shilling lost 32.55 percent against the US$ and the Ethiopian birr depreciated against the dollar 26.58 percent.” – Leeson

Having a central bank control your currency leads to inflation? It couldn’t possibly!

Summarizing some of the main statistics from Leeson’s work, Spencer Heath MacCallum has this to say (and that link has some good info on the Xeer as well):

“Comparing the last five years under the central government (1985–1990) with the most recent five years of anarchy (2000–2005), Leeson finds these welfare changes:

  • Life expectancy increased from 46 to 48.5 years. This is a poor expectancy as compared with developed countries. But in any measurement of welfare, what is important to observe is not where a population stands at a given time, but what is the trend. Is the trend positive, or is it the reverse?
  • Number of one-year-olds fully immunized against measles rose from 30 to 40 percent.
  • Number of physicians per 100,000 population rose from 3.4 to 4.
  • Number of infants with low birth weight fell from 16 per thousand to 0.3 — almost none.
  • Infant mortality per 1,000 births fell from 152 to 114.9.
  • Maternal mortality per 100,000 births fell from 1,600 to 1,100.
  • Percent of population with access to sanitation rose from 18 to 26.
  • Percent of population with access to at least one health facility rose from 28 to 54.8.
  • Percent of population in extreme poverty (i.e., less than $1 per day) fell from 60 to 43.2.
  • Radios per thousand population rose from 4 to 98.5.
  • Telephones per thousand population rose from 1.9 to 14.9.
  • TVs per 1,000 population rose from 1.2 to 3.7.
  • Fatalities due to measles fell from 8,000 to 5,600.”

There were only two metrics that Leeson found worsened: adult literacy and school enrollment. But this can be explained given that foreign aid made up nearly 60% of pre-anarchic GNP and was the main source of funds for Somali schools under the Barre regime.

But What About The Security Situation?

When most people think of Somalia, they think of violence. And mainstream coverage of Somalia harps on the fact that Somali businesses must pay private security firms to protect their goods. While that is certainly true, that ignores the fact that national police don’t work for free, either. No matter what, security must be paid for somehow.

The real question is: How does the security situation in Somalia shape up compared to its neighbors and across time? It turns out that violence is nowhere near as bad as people assume a stateless society would be. In fact, according to Leeson, violence went down in the late 90s:

“Most depictions of Somalia leading up to the 2006 period grossly exaggerate the extent of Somali violence. In reality, fewer people died from armed conflict in some parts of Somalia than did in neighboring countries that have governments. In these areas security was better than it was under government (UNDP, 2001). About the same number of annual deaths in Somalia during this period were due to childbirth as were attributable to war—roughly four percent of the total (World Bank/UNDP, 2003, p. 16). And these deaths were combatants, not civilians. “Atrocities against civilians … [were] almost of unheard of” (Menkhaus, 2004, p. 30). This is still too high, but far from cataclysmic. In fact, it’s not far from the percentage of deaths due to homicide in middle-income countries such as Mexico, which in 2001 was 3.6 (WHO, 2006).”

Crime likely went down as well, as evidenced by insurance prices for Kenyan cross-border cattle trade not increasing between 1989 and 1998. In fact, fees on the Kenyan side were more expensive than the Somali side, which suggests that crime was worse in Kenya. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here, but, again, Kenya had a government, and Somalia didn’t. Powell elaborates:

“Although armed escorts are sometimes hired, transport costs per animal are usually less than $0.01/km, and this price has not increased greatly since the collapse of the government (Little 2003: 103). In a 1998 survey of 84 rural pastoral traders, only 24 percent of respondents reported security related concerns, and only 13 percent thought security was more of a problem than it was in 1990 (Little 2003: 125). Since the rural pastoralists had traditional dispute resolution mechanisms to fall back on, security has not been a major issue for herders since state collapse.”

Would you look at that? The Xeer actually functioned to maintain security. Perhaps all that’s needed is law, not legislation. Most people can’t imagine how this would ever work, but it does.

“Private courts are funded by the donations of successful businessmen who benefit from the presence of this public good in urban centers. Under anarchy, dispute resolution is free and speedy by international standards (Nenova, 2004; Nenova and Harford, 2004). This constitutes an important improvement in the provision of law and order compared to before 1991. Under government, the legal system was often used as a tool for preying on Somali citizens and punishing the opposition (Africa Watch Committee, 1990; Menkhaus, 2004).” – Leeson

Note that last part about how the governmental legal system was often used as a tool against citizens, particularly the opposition. While that may have been particularly bad under the Barre dictatorship, anyone who is paying attention knows that the same kind of thing happens right here, in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

Note: Sources for this section: Leeson, UN Development Report 2001, and Powell. Note that all statistics from this area are to some degree unreliable.

 

What is Holding Somalia Back?

I’ve just painted a picture of a Somalia that, while far from perfect, is vastly superior to the image in most of the public’s mind. This “far from perfect” can easily be thrown back at the anarchist, and we are often tasked with explaining why Somalia is not some libertarian paradise. In this section, I intend to show why this is the case, and why the “go move to Somalia” quip is about as weak of an argument as it gets.

For starters, there’s no sense comparing the typical lifestyle of an American or European with that of a Somali. They are apples and oranges, and any reasonable person will see that. The capital accumulation that has happened in America over the past several hundred years has created great wealth for those of us lucky enough to live in the Western World. Somalia has not had the benefit of so many years of relative freedom to build up any real wealth.

In fact, the entire country has been impoverished by war and foreign imperialism for hundreds of years, and then any remaining wealth was stolen from the people of Somalia while living under communism. Somalia was destitute before the collapse – they’ve only just begun the process of rebuilding.

But even after the collapse, foreign powers have not left Somalia alone. They have been subject to nonstop foreign intervention, including from the US, UN, African Union, and Ethiopia. The periods of greatest violence after 1991 were during times when foreign intervention designed to establish a central government in Somalia were at their peak.

“Indeed, thus far in the stateless period, the three greatest disruptions of relative stability and renewed social conflict have occurred precisely in the three times that a formal government was most forcefully attempted—first with the TNG, later with the TFG, and finally most recently when the TFG mobilized violently to oust the SCIC. In each case the specter of government disturbed the delicate equilibrium of power that exists between competing factions, and led to increased violence and deaths due to armed conflict (Menkhaus, 2004).” – Leeson

It is the attempts to establish a government that are causing the violence. From 1995-2006, Somalia was doing pretty well from the violence standpoint. In the lead up to war in 2006, the US government began supporting some unpopular warlords in order to prevent the “lawless” Somalia from becoming a haven for terrorists. As the Somalis learned that a foreign power was supporting these corrupt clan leaders, the popularity of the Islamists skyrocketed. The US government caused the very problem they were hoping to prevent.

But the very idea of imposing government upon the Somalis is misguided. In 2007 (right after the Ethiopian/”covert” US invasion), the New York Times discussed some of the challenges of forming a government in clan-based Somali society:

“The government, which took the capital for the first time last month, is trying to address the clan problem head-on. It is using a mathematical formula based on rough estimates of the population (the last census was in 1975) to allocate parliamentary seats and ministerial posts on a clan basis, and plans to govern like that until the next elections, which are proposed for 2009.

But that approach is hardly original — and it does not have an encouraging history. It is the 14th attempt since 1991 to form a clan-based government; all the others have disappeared into a vortex of suspicion and violence.”

“American officials are urging the government to reconcile with all clans, and they are becoming increasingly alarmed about the authoritarian streak of the government, which has already declared martial law and briefly shut down radio stations.”

That’s right, 14 times! But we can’t just let them be, because then the terrorists will win! But the fact is, democracy is simply incompatible with Somali society, as much as that may offend the democracy-worshipping liberal sentiment.

“When the electorate is composed of close-knit tribal, religious, linguistic or ethnic communities, the people invariably vote, not on the merits of any issue, but for the party of their own community. The community with the greatest numbers wins the election, and the minority parties then put rebellion and secession at the top of their political agenda. That is nothing but a recipe for chaos.” (van Notten, 127; 2005)

It is these misguided attempts to force democracy upon Somalia that are responsible for nearly all of the violence there. The continuous effort to fund various clans creates a kind of uncertainty – the uncertainty that a new government may form. This very fact perpetuates some of the worst aspects of Somalia. Rival gangs will shoot at each other because they fear that any transitional government may grow in power to become an actual government in control of a powerful state apparatus which can be used against them.

“A democratic government has every power to exert dominion over people. To fend off the possibility of being dominated, each clan tries to capture the power of that government before it can become a threat. Those clans that didn’t share in the spoils of political power would realize their chances of becoming part of the ruling alliance were nil. Therefore, they would rebel and try to secede. That would prompt the ruling clans to use every means to suppress these centrifugal forces… in the end all clans would fight with one another.” (van Notten, 136; 2005)

For anarchy to succeed, there must be a respect for property and a functioning system of law in place to defend it, as well as a general recognition that states are not desirable and that there isn’t likely to be one. Somalia has the first condition, but lacks the second. This is why Somalia has improved so much since the collapse of the state, but has yet to become a “libertarian paradise”.

 

Conclusion

Somalia presents a fascinating case study of certain libertarian and anarchist ideas, but it is not an adequate test of the entire anarchist “program”. Unfortunately, it looks increasingly like Somalia’s “anarchist” experiment will likely be coming to a close (until some future period, when the Xeer will likely rescue them from a US backed dictator) soon, and all the wrong lessons will be learned from their experience.

In reality, Somalia has shown the modern world that institutions can fulfill all the normal functions of the state, and perform them more effectively. Statelessness leads to better results for nearly everyone, and particularly for the worst off.

However, Somalia will more likely be remembered as a violent and chaotic place, where backwards warlords would dominate over their people and attack others. It will be remembered as a place that harbored terrorists, until the “good guys” (the US government, the Ethiopian military, and the Transitional government in Somalia) came in, drove the bad guys out, and established “law and order”. Unfortunately, with US troops on the ground in Somalia as we speak, this rewriting of history will likely be coming soon.

As libertarians, we must make sure that the real lessons of the Somali experience aren’t forgotten. Please spread the word and make sure that the possibility of liberty for the Somali people survives. 

Comments

  1. Steven Burden says:

    Superb article!

    Thank you.

  2. Thank you for writing this. I found it as a result of an argument on facebook, detailed here: https://www.mattcaron.net/2015/10/06/on-facebook-and-somalia/

    Of course, the lesson is: don’t argue with people on Facebook. They’re likely just trolls.

    • Thanks for the compliment, I’m glad you like the article! And I feel ya, far too much time wasted arguing via Facebook – not a good medium at all for substantial discussion.

  3. Not everything is lost because I learned a lot from the lesson.

    I think this provides an idea for a supra-corporate organization based on clans and clan-based law system. The laws feel forced onto me because there is only a single body of laws and we can’t choose among various systems of law. Clans provide competitions among laws. It can even be used inside corporations to substitute the executive suite.

    From the lesson of somalia, I see a need for an interclan organization that presents itself as a government to the outside and funds an army that fights only foreign enemies. But, since somalia is not based on interclan organization already, it won’t be possible. However, a newly built organization can serve as an interclan organization that provides constitution, based on which clans operate.

    The idea of supra-corporate interclan organizations is interesting to me.

  4. I want to apply a polycentric law similar to the xeer onto online communication systems as part of thought experiment.
    For example, there are gitter and slack. However, victims would have no means to extract fine from offenders in gitter and slack since everyone doesn’t reveal real identities. How would victims be compensated in online communication media?

    One way to compensate victims for abuse is to ban offenders from specific channels or rooms. But, it feels that it’s more punitive than compensatory.

    Can you think of an online version of the xeer?

    • I’m not entirely sure what you mean by an online version of Xeer, but there are some upcoming technological solutions to the problem you mention. MIT’s project Enigma is working on ways to work with data stores without de-anonymizing the data or even getting access to it. And I’m sure the blockchain will help too, allowing us to trust in someone’s identity without revealing it.

    • Strong identity doesn’t seem essential for chatting services. Imagine online chatting rooms where people carry pseudonyms. The current generation of chatting rooms has admins who ban people. Since most chatting rooms are largely monocentric, most or all admins ban only people admins don’t like and refuse to respond to most or virtually all abuse reports from victims. In summary, the admins in monocentric chatting rooms are not interested in helping victims.

      https://slack.com/ is a bit polycentric in that each “slack group” has chatting rooms and admins who’ll respond to abuse reports from every chatting room on the group. So, victims on a specific slack group can choose admins whose values resonate with theirs. Some slack groups have code of conduct which sets expectations for everyone including “group admins”. If you want to taste what slack is like, join https://clojurians.slack.com/ and chat with people in #general. Although the group is about clojure, people can talk about other things in #general.

      In chatting services, people do not have a means to extract fine since extracting fine from someone on the opposite side of the planet would be a nightmare. So, I’d rule out fine as a means to compensate victims for emotional damages. Then, how would polycentric chatting services compensate victims for emotional damages other than banning offenders? Although banning offenders could make sense in that offenders are assumed to have no will to pay fine, I think there could be other ways than banning to compensate victims for emotional damages.

      I have an idea for improving online chatting services. Assume that people are free to form admin groups and they are free to choose any admin group on slack. Members of an admin group can recruit other people into the group. If a person is emotionally damaged, the person reports an abuse, and the person’s admin group and the offender’s admin group discuss how to deal with the abuse report. This could be better than what slack is for now, but I still think there could be better ways to protect victims than banning.

      • Have you ever heard of the DASH cryptocurrency? They use a tiered system of “masternodes” to allow a sort of distributed governance, and something along these lines might be adapted in order to make the kind of communication system you are imagining. The masternodes could vote to allocate funds to victim compensation, and vote on who would be considered a “victim”. So perhaps something like this could be applied to a chat system, where messages are stored on the blockchain with metadata about the pseudonym of whoever types a message. Then you could have the masternodes be the moderators of this system, with an immutable and uncensorable record of peoples’ discussions which will allow them to be objective arbitrators in disputes. Then the moderators take votes on disputes that arise, and funds are automatically disbursed to the winner of the dispute.

        The DASH system doesn’t currently function this way with messages, but perhaps it is something that a clever developer could build using the technology/techniques created for DASH.

      • Yes, I think coupling a communication channel with an electronic currency is an ok way for compensating victims as long as the currency can be used to pay for some internal services.

        However, I still have to think about post-scarcity world in a distant future. In a post-scarcity world, people do not have to depend on exchanges for virtually everything. Since currencies are needed to facilitate exchanges, currencies may not be functional in post-scarcity societies. How will polycentric law work without currency?

        • If there is no scarcity, then by definition, there wouldn’t be disputes over resources. By the way, I’ve started a rough outline of my take on “post-scarcity” — no ETA yet on when it’ll get published, but look out for it over the next few months.

        • What about a “reputational currency”. It doesn’t matter if this a real ID or a sockpuppet. People know that X is a jerk, he gets negative reviews added to the blockchain, and then will be barred from places because X is a jerk. If X pretends to be Y, and has this other persona, and Y is nice, then Y will be let in and everyone will be happy. Only if Y becomes X will there be an issue, which will be rapidly corrected since Y would now get negative reputation.

          • That’s a good point. I suspect that this could work well in theory, but I have heard there are some problems and ways to spoof reputation. Perhaps this is something the blockchain could solve – I don’t have the technical knowledge to say (yet). At least in principle though, this seems like the perfect solution. I guess the most important point is less that X is the solution, but rather that some X exists that would provide a solution, and I think your point demonstrates that.

          • Perhaps, reputation will still be scarce in post-scarcity societies. So, reputation could work when we are not dominated by scarcity.

            Reputation currency by itself could be abused by such bad actors as trolls and psychopaths if it was easy to attack people with reputation. It should be relatively easy to increase reputation of others but difficult to attack reputation.

            Stackexchange is run by reputation points, and many stackexchange communities are overrun by trolls because trolls can easily amass reputation by giving the same answers to a few frequently asked questions. Trolls with high reputation points could close questions and attack people in various ways without accountability.

            Bad actors often attack good people by faking hyper-sensitivity to perceived insults when there is no insult. For example, stackexchange trolls downvote and close questions for not sticking to certain question formats. When I criticize trolls, they also downvote the criticism heavily as well. In other kinds of internet forums, questions are not attacked for not sticking to certain formats.

            There are a few points that can be addressed to reduce vulnerability to attacks with bad intentions.
            Those points also are in accordance with historic polycentric laws.

            1. Attacks should not be anonymous.

            On stackexchange, downvotes are anonymous. Trolls downvote and escape without consequence. On some stackexchange questions, one troll uses multiple accounts to downvote a question multiple times. Since the troll made a mistake of leaving a negative comment along with downvotes, I flagged his comment as an abuse, and admins fixed my question by removing downvotes and modifying his negative comment. Stackexchange also allows bad actors with many reputation points to close questions for all sorts of trivial reasons

            In my opinion, upvoting should be easy, but downvotes should be abolished. If there is an actual problem, people should leave negative comments or report abuse instead. When trolls leave negative comments, the comments can be flagged for abuse.

            2. Minimize attack surface.

            Github issues are focused on one specific issue. A litigation is also focused on one small issue. IRC channels provide a wide attack surface for trolls.
            Ebay negative reviews are only possible after product purchase, so trolls cannot attack sellers without buying their products first. Ebay reputation system is quite good at minimizing attack surface.

            3. To minimize attack surface, attacks should be allowed only in the form of personal damage redemption.

            Allowing people to attack others for victimless offences leads to absurd results.
            On many stackexchange communities, when questions don’t stick to a specific format, the questions are closed or downvotes even if there is no personal damage.

            Also, personal damages could be faked. On stackexchange, a troll downvoted my emacs question multiple times and left a negative comment. He attacked my question for not providing enough details, thus making people do the homework.
            Since I didn’t force nor nag anyone to read my question or do anything with it, he was definitely claiming a faked personal damage. An expert told me how to debug emacs. Another expert hinted it was a certain bug, and he was right. If the expert didn’t give us a hint, people couldn’t have found a link between the bug and the problem. The bug led to uncorrelated symptoms in such a way that people who don’t know the bug can’t find the cause. Also, emacs beginners do not know how to debug emacs. People who don’t know how to debug need more help than people who do. Attacking people who know less thus need more help from experts is an absurd tactic used by trolls on stackexchnage and IRC.

            Thus, I can conclude that only personal damages should be liable to attacks in the form of litigation or abuse report. Allowing judges to punish people for victimless offences often allows bad actors to attack people. For example, in many countries, people are incarcerated for such victimless crimes as prostitution and using marijuana. Stackexchange allows trolls to close(attack) questions for many victimless offences. Examples include being subjective, attracting low quality answers, and not sticking to a specific format. Many stackexchange communities are very painful to use. I’d rather use other online forums than stackexchange.

            Judges should be motivated to discern faked personal damages from genuine personal damage reports. For judges to be motivated, at minimum, it should be chaep and fast for judges to process bad actors.

            4. It should be cheap and fast for judges to process bad actors.

            If legal process is expensive or takes a long time, bad actors will launch denial of service(DoS) attacks on judges, and bad actors will prevent judges from providing legal service to people in a timely manner. IRC is not designed to enable searching conversation logs, so it is very very expensive to provide judges with evidences of abuse. Thus, IRC network operators and IRC channel operators refuse to process almost all abuse reports. Some tyrants on IRC may ban people who offend them, though. On slack, everyone can readily search conversation logs and provide links to evidences of abuse, so admins are willing to process abuse reports.

            To prevent DoS attacks, bad actors shouldn’t be able to launch many attacks in a short span of time, either. I think a simplified online version of xeer could allow judges to process abuse reports in a timely manner and make it difficult for bad actors to launch many attacks in a short span of time.

            Stackexchange is not polycentric enough, thus it could have problems with recruiting enough numbers of judges to deal with bad actor. When there are not enough judges, they can be subject to DoS attacks.

          • Thanks for the well thought out response – I think you’ve outlined some good points here. Perhaps to make things polycentric, we can have multiple reputation systems side-by-side. There can be multiple systems of rules for feedback/upvoting/downvoting that coexist on the same platform, and then I can have X different reputation scores, and mods/arbiters/judges can decide which is most relevant or look at things more holistically.

          • Sorry for extending discussion beyond a usual length.

            >> “Perhaps to make things polycentric, we can have multiple reputation systems side-by-side. There can be multiple systems of rules for feedback/upvoting/downvoting that coexist on the same platform”

            It seems to imply relatively frequent changes to rules written in softwares. This feels analogous to legislation. Relatively frequent legislation leads to unpredictability and mal-fragmentation among people. Arguably, legislation is a democratic or tyrannical process. Contracting with virtually immutable legal procedures is polycentric.

            Thus, it’s more desirable to have multiple online communities with a fixed set of reputation systems than to have an online community that changes rules every 3 years.

            Plus, you didn’t rule out certain reputation systems(anonymous downvotes, allowing people to close random questions against which no one filed an abuse report, …) that proved to allow trolls to overrun good people, and we don’t need to try those systems again.

            But, I’d like to mix historically proven features of polycentric laws. Mixing historically proven things is risky enough to me.

          • What I meant was that reputation systems could essentially be their own platforms. So let’s say you are purchasing something off of eBay, you can use eBay’s standard reputation system. But simultaneously, the product you are thinking of buying can have its own reputation that is aggregated from a variety of sources, and the reviewers can have their own feedback mechanisms. Perhaps more to your point, there can be a forum that has multiple simultaneous reputation systems: upvotes/downvotes/comments, plus tipping system or a predictive market linked to it. I’m not being particularly creative here, but the idea is that you could judge someones’ rep in multiple ways simultaneously.

          • There are websites dedicated to reviews of certain classes of products.
            imdb, rotten tomatoes, ign, metacritic, ….
            Each of them aggregates reviews and/or provides summaries for customers. There are also reviews on blogs and forums which cannot be easily aggregated and summaried. Metacritic goes even further by separating critic reviews and user reviews and aggregating review scores, thus providing multiple reputation measures for customers.

            So, what you’re talking about already exists as decentralized reputation systems. They are just not as integrated and formalized as you’d like. Thus, I’m not worried about not having multiple reputation systems. I’m a bit worried that pruning failed reputation systems is not happening fast enough.

            My primary concern for the time being is strengthening polycentricity in online communities and companies. Arguably, most corporations are planned economy internally. Most communities are oligarchy internally.

      • I add a side point here. Metacritic is integrated into steam, so metacritic is a review platform. So, reputation platforms exist.

        • There’s also https://www.mywot.com for providing users with website reputations.
          https://www.mywot.com is integrated into chrome as an extension. The mywot chrome extension notifies me of malevolent and fraud websites when I visit them. Mywot aggregates only user reviews, so it lets me decide whether the reviews are genuine.

  5. The US is dying from a million cuts. Part of the reason the USA is a nanny police state now is that whenever there is a problem, the kneejerk reaction in the US is to call for a new law.

    Nanny state laws are not the best solution, however. Nanny state laws lead to more laws, higher fines, and tougher sentences. Thirty years ago, DWI laws were enacted that led to DWI checkpoints and lower DWI levels. Seatbelt laws led to backseat seatbelt laws, childseat laws, and pet seatbelt laws. Car liability insurance laws led to health insurance laws and gun liability laws. Smoking laws that banned smoking in buildings led to laws against smoking in parks and then bans against smoking in entire cities. Sex offender registration laws led to sex offender restriction laws and violent offender registration laws.

    Nanny state laws don’t make us safer, either. Nanny state laws lead people to be careless since they don’t need to have personal responsibility anymore. People don’t need to be careful crossing the street now because drunk-driving has been outlawed and driving while using a cellphone is illegal. People don’t investigate companies or carry out due diligence because businesses must have business licenses now.

    The main point of nanny state laws is not safety. The main purpose of more laws is revenue generation for the state.

    Many laws are contradictory, too. Some laws say watering lawns is required, while other laws say watering lawns is illegal.

    Many nanny state laws that aim to solve a problem can be fixed by using existing laws. If assault is already illegal, why do we need a new law that outlaws hitting umpires?

    Nanny state laws are not even necessary. If everything was legal would you steal, murder, and use crack cocaine? Aren’t there other ways to solve problems besides calling the police? Couldn’t people talk to people who bother them? Couldn’t people be sued for annoying behavior? Couldn’t people just move away? Even if assault was legal, wouldn’t attackers risk being killed or injured, too? Having no laws doesn’t mean actions have no consequences.

    If there is no victim, there is no crime.

    We don’t need thousands of laws when we only need 10.

    Freedom is not just a one way street. You can only have freedom for yourself if you allow others to have it.

    Think. Question everything.

  6. Really nice article. But I can’t believe that anyone would want to live in a society where the rich can just do whatever they want. How many camels could Trump buy? Quick search says you could gun down 50 for 25 million. Sounds like a great wealth redistribution scheme. You seriously want to have some thug appear on your doorstep because your cousin owes money on a car?

    And basically the us had a revolution about voting rights, and people seriously want to live in a 1 vote 1 doller society? Really mind boggling to me.

    Sounds like a really miserable way to live.

    • Thanks for the comment!

      It seems to me that your vision (or anti-vision, I guess) of a society where the rich can do whatever they want is much closer to what we currently have in the US than to the Xeer. I’m sure the cost of bribing a judge is dramatically cheaper than most alternatives, and there would be no recourse. Legal services are also completely out of reach for the poor in America.

      Under the Xeer system, someone might be able to “get away” with a crime by paying the necessary retribution (of course, in America, victims are rarely if ever made whole again), but they would still be considered guilty. And anyone with a reputation for murdering others will surely be ostracized. More on polycentric legal systems and how they would function here: http://governmentdeniesknowledge.com/how-anarchy-works-security-without-the-state/

      Also, it’s worth noting that those “exchange rates” (i.e. X camels for a murder) clearly would be different in a modern, western society. There is nothing holy about them. Surely the 25 million you suggest would be orders of magnitude higher.

      • Do you think if Donald trump shot a guy he would not end up in prison? In your system, he would only have to pay 100 camels (or 100 yugos, or 100 porsches) and be done with it. Our government appropriates assets from people to pay for legal services for the poor. Every person has a right to a public defender. This is something you libertarians seem to think is evil. Sure the rich have it easier than the poor, but it seems to me the libertarian way of doing things is basically saying “The rich have more power than the poor now, so let’s get rid of any government protections for the poor.” That just doesn’t register for me. If the poor are powerless in our system, we should try to give the poor more power, and not conclude that it is impossible and immoral for society to attempt to guarantee basic human rights for everyone.

        How much is a life worth? A quick google leads to $6-9 million. Trump could afford to kill many democrats for that. Would he be ostracized? Not by the people he cares about!

        I promise to read your article about security without the state with an open mind. But let me tell you; I was once an Ayn Rand libertarian until I realized that her principles fail to reductio-ad-absurdum when I conclude I should not try to save a stranger from drowning.

        • First of all, the Xeer is not “my” system, nor is it a libertarian system. It is just an example of a polycentric legal order, and a demonstration that polycentric law works. No libertarian is suggesting that we adopt the Xeer. I think you’d be better served by reading the post I linked to earlier (which WILL explain what a more libertarian legal order could look like), though I understand that it is lengthy and won’t hold you to it 🙂

          After reading that, you’ll see that I am not arguing that “someone ought to be allowed to kill someone so long as they are willing to pay a financial price.” The point is that the victim ought to be made as close to whole again as possible, something that the financial penalty helps with and something which the current legal system does nothing to address. Again, I suggest reading that one rather than having me go into detail in a comment here.

          By the way, I’m not particularly familiar with Ayn Rand, but I believe she was an ethical egoist, a position that neither I nor the majority of libertarians hold. Even most libertarians would agree that one ought to save a stranger from drowning (provided the cost/risks aren’t too high).

          • At the beginning of your article you quote Murray Rothbard who is a member of the austrian school with von-mises et al, and I lump all of them in with the ayn-rand libertarian school where private property is an essential human right that must be guarded at all cost. I’m familiar with the arguments, I used believe as you, but I’ve changed my mind because I believe they are fundamentally flawed in a really basic sense in that they take property rights and freedoms as an essential thing that society should protect and base all their arguments upon these pillars.

            I started reading your article about security without a state and it is really hard for me to get through it. Every other paragraph I could question, so I can’t question it point by point. The argument you present is built up baseless hypothetical assertions like “Different insurers will handle the situation differently, and I’m sure a variety of policies will be available. But my bet is that someone who keeps assault rifles and sawed off shotguns in their house is more likely to hurt others, so insurance companies will either charge a significantly higher premium, or refuse to insure them entirely.” Do insurance companies ask if you own guns today? No. You just made that up. This is just baseless hypotheticals, and it just goes on and on. I can’t address them all, but let me tell you a real world situation that happened this morning for me.

            The 101 highway from los angeles to ventura was shut down this morning because there was a mother duck and her ducklings in the median. I’m ok with that. 10s of thousands of people paid at least $10 an hour were delayed. In your society the insurance companies of each of those people would have gone after the person who stopped for the ducks. (And the person’s family too!) Do we want to live in a society where if I see a mother duck and her ducklings I realize I better mow them down and not stop? The answer is clearly no. But pure economics and property rights dictate that I should mow down the ducks. This is what I mean by reducto-ad-absurdum. Clearly there is something other than property rights and freedom that is important.

            Our current state has flaws, but building up a utopia based on a zenga tower of hypotheticals is no solution. Especially when there are clear cases where the whole system falls apart.

          • Well, thanks for trying to read it anyways! Rothbard and Rand have different ethics and somewhat different philosophies, so only in a very general sense is it reasonable to lump them together (Rand isn’t even an anarchist, and her ethics are based on egoism, whereas Rothbard is more of a natural rights guy).

            Insurers may not ask people about guns now because the question is irrelevant; we do not have the “crime” insurance or dispute resolution organizations today. But I’m also not convinced that you are correct empirically here – a quick google search shows that at least some home insurers will raise premiums for gun owners because of the risk of accidental discharge. Many won’t, because gun ownership is so prevalent anyways (and the companies may take some political flak for it). But it is quite reasonable to believe that if we had DROs as outlined in that post, they would be interested in whether a person they represented had firearms.

            Your duck example is silly. Why do you think insurance companies would “go after” people who stopped for the ducks? The road owner would be the one who sets a policy on what happens on their road. “Property rights and economics” wouldn’t dictate anything about that situation. I suspect that your understanding of libertarianism and particularly market anarchism is rather limited. I don’t mean this as an insult; many people have flirted with the ideas of Rand but never have explored further, and that’s okay.

            In general, you seem to take issue with the fact that all the hypotheticals of what would happen under anarchy are not resolved. This issue was also addressed in the other article. This is a feature, and not a bug. Solutions to these hypothetical problems will be discovered by entrepreneurs who have an incentive to find them. This is more of a process than a result, of course, so there are no guarantees with respect to how things would play out.

          • I may well have less knowledge about anarchy and private enterprise than you, I grant you that. But you still have faith that private enterprise will come up with a good solution. That still is a matter of faith. It also depends on how you define “good.” If you define good as “The solution where property rights are spected and manufacturing efficiency is maximized” then well yes, private enterprise can give a good solution in a circular reasoning sort of way.

            No my duck example is not silly. If I were delayed an hour on the 101, why the hell would I not complain to my insurance company and ask them to go after the road owner for the delay and why would the road owner not go after the duck rescuer? It is just ridiculous that someone who is paid hundreds of dollars an hour is delayed for an hour for a jackass saving a $20 duck. I have certainly been harmed and deserve reparations. No court in the world who values capital and efficient markets would side against me. And it’s not only me but thousands of others who were harmed by this idiot saving a duck. The insurance company of the duck rescuer would face tens of thousands of people with pitchforks. What are they going to do?

            But my reductio ad absurdum argument against your laisse-faire / anarchist society gets brushed off as “silly.” If you can’t make a credible argument how such a society can protect the intangible rights of ducks and ducklings (ie, the most poor and powerless) in it at least the jenga argumentation style in which you explain how other aspects of your utopia will work, then count me out. Advocating burning the existing system to the ground because there are some flaws is no respectable, thoughtful way to proceed. Let’s see how Brexit goes.

          • >The insurance company of the duck rescuer would face tens of thousands of people with pitchforks. What are they going to do?

            A couple points here: 1) I really doubt the insurance company or the vast majority of people would care about someone having a slight delay. Most people, including the insurance company, would look at you as ridiculous for even submitting a claim about this and wasting their time. Perhaps they’ll raise your premiums for being a more expensive/difficult customer. And I strongly doubt right-thinking people would want to engage in business with someone so ridiculous. 2) If the delay were severe, then the person submitting the claim may be wholly justified in this. Of course we shouldn’t wait for some ducks if there will be a substantially worse result because of it. 3) Presumably, the road owner will have as a stipulation for using their road a policy that would dictate what to do in case of duck/deer/bear/etc crossing. Then those who don’t follow that policy are in the wrong.

            Thanks again for your comments!

          • crocket says:

            I think it’s reasonable that you won’t find any noticeable difference in behaviors between the anarchist system and the current system in case of your duck example.

            Actually, I expect that lots of things will be the same in both systems. For example, go to the police station, and ask the policemen for some help. Unless there are some benefits in solving your case(e.g. money, promotion, reputation, etc), they are not going to help much. They do not behave much differently from insurance companies except that they extort their fees via tax. So, the police would be lazier than insurance companies, but they aren’t very different. The police would demand extra compensation if you wanted extra service.

          • First of all, you say “I suspect” which makes me shudder because you are absolutely right, this is all speculation. This is one of my problem with all of this.

            I can very well imagine that there is a huge difference in how the “insurance companies” would react. 20 thousand of their customers want to ring the neck about the jackass on the 101, they will absolutely take action. If they don’t, their going to take their business elsewhere. This is what is going to happen because capitalism and especially anarchist capitalism maximizes production efficiency ignoring all the social costs and externalities.

            There are all sorts of class action lawsuits that get filed about all sorts of trivial things. There is a whole class of lawyers who take on class action lawsuits pro-bono just to extract damages from companies. This is exactly the same kind of thing, except there is no law involved. I just show up to the duck rescuers house and extract the cash from him (or his family), or throw him into the “jail” I built. I doubt that I would have to worry much about the thugs protecting the duck rescuers. There is no profit in going after someone who’s dead. And the duck rescuer knows that if he doesn’t give me my cash, he’s going to be dead. I’ll get pretty good at extracting cash from people and will have a lot of people working for me. In fact I could go into the insurance business! What a beautiful world you imagine!

          • I must confess that there are indeed many uncertainties regarding how precisely these things would work in Ancapistan, but as I’ve said before, this is a feature, not a bug. Problems I can’t even conceive of will be found, but the market process at least tends toward finding solutions to them. Nevertheless, I can understand someone not feeling comfortable accepting this sort of “faith” in the market, but it is the same faith that lets you say “hey, it’s okay if we allow markets to dictate how clothing is produced” and the like. Unless, of course, you are a socialist, in which case you wouldn’t have that faith to begin with 🙂

            > I just show up to the duck rescuers house and extract the cash from him (or his family), or throw him into the “jail” I built. I doubt that I would have to worry much about the thugs protecting the duck rescuers. There is no profit in going after someone who’s dead. And the duck rescuer knows that if he doesn’t give me my cash, he’s going to be dead.

            This is a problem that I think is easy to tackle. First of all, without courts on your side, you cannot simply go and kidnap someone and put them in your “jail” – doing so would be considered kidnapping, and then YOU would be the criminal, and all reasonable courts would then prosecute you and mete out whatever punishment is appropriate. As for the “no profit going after someone who’s dead” issue, there’s an easy solution. Have the right to prosecute be transferable, as was done in medieval Iceland. More complicated formulations could arise, but a simple version would say that if you killed me, my heirs or family would then have the legal right to collect reparations and whatnot from you.

        • myth buster says:

          Which is why most clan-based justice systems include the provision of kinsman avenger of blood. The murder victim’s next-of-kin is responsible for prosecuting the case, and when he produces enough evidence to convict the perpetrator, he then kills the perpetrator himself with the approval of the court. Depending on the local traditions, they may or may not allow for the murderer’s life to be ransomed, but the point is that most clan-based systems authorize the death penalty for murder, to be executed by the victim’s relative. Indeed, a court might rule that one who murders a breadwinner is to be put to death AND his property confiscated to support the widow and orphans.

    • So, I’ve been kind of sitting on the sidelines here, and I think I’d like to throw in a few points.

      1.) Yes, I think if Donald Trump shot a guy he would get away with it unless he was super blatant about it. The rich and powerful literally get away with murder all the time.

      2.) In the current system, the government protects the poor because it needs a dependent class in order to perpetuate itself. Essentially, it needs a reliable voting block which will always vote for a larger state so that it can use that voting block to hold the productive classes of society hostage. After all, Democracy is the larger group voting to take from the smaller group, so you need to make sure the larger group stays larger. A stateless society may very well mean an end to poverty (in the absolute value sense) because the markets can be so supremely efficient. Indeed, poverty was on a decline until we started a war on it… then again, so was terrorism, and drugs, and numerous other things. Tongue firmly in cheek, I propose that, since we get more of whatever we’re fighting, the US needs to declare a war on efficient markets.

      3.) The “I shouldn’t save a stranger from drowning” argument is a paper tiger. Specifically, it doesn’t have anything to do with statism vs. non-statism, because no remotely rational state would prosecute you for failing to risk your own safety to save someone. Hell, even police are not required to do that, and that’s their *job*. Ultimately, in both societies, whether you try to save a drowning person comes down to basic human decency, and you can’t legislate that into existence, no matter how much Democrats love to try.

      4.) As an aside, this whole discussion brings to mind an observation I made years ago – Anarchists assume their fellow human beings are fundamentally smart and good. Statists assume their fellow human beings are stupid and evil. Personally, similar to the idea of “innocent until proven guilty”, I’d rather presume that people are decent until proven otherwise, than the reverse.

      5.) Private property is the lowest-cost way to ensure proper stewardship of said property because the costs to utilization and damaging of said property cannot be externalized to your fellow humans. The problem with the tragedy of the commons (where everyone can graze their sheep on the commons and they get over grazed), and the ONLY reason that the commons needs to hire a policeman to protect against over grazing is because the costs are externalized. In areas where grazing lands are private property, pretty rapidly granger’s associations emerge, because everyone cooperating is cheaper than putting up a ton of fences. Lost cattle are returned, and anyone who continuously grazes his cattle on someone else’s land appeals to the association for justice and recompense. If the violator refuses to pay, then he will become a pariah and be ejected from the organization – which means now no one will help him when his cattle run off, and folks will be vastly less understanding of accidents – trespassing cattle are likely to be shot. The costs of conflict are so high, people choose the route of voluntary cooperation. Again, this is what happens *now*, no state required.

      6.) Yes, my insurance company asked if I own guns and jewelry. They offered me a rider for the additional value of same. I get a break on the rate because they’re in an enormous safe lag bolted to a concrete floor. My doctor asked me too, because I have young kids.

      7.) Part of the problem with quilby’s criticisms in general (and, admin, you mention this in your last post, but I want to call it out more explicitly) is that the conversation generally goes like this:
      Q: How will X work?
      A: Well, conceivably, this is how it could work…
      Q: Well, but that doesn’t cover Y, and therefore we need the state.
      Now, this is valid – it doesn’t cover Y. However, the problem is that you are using central planning logic in order to invalidate what a market solution *might* be. That, flat out, does not work. I mean, that’s like saying that, because Back To the Future 2 and Blade Runner still had people using pay phones that we can’t have cell phones. Even if you take portable comms devices (Star Trek communicators, Dick Tracy watches) no one saw “computers in our pockets” coming along nearly as fast as they did. Why did this happen? Because they were largely unfettered by government monkeying, and people smarter than you, I and admin were working on the problem.

      Essentially, it comes down to “Central planning is as smart as the aggregate intelligence of the central planning committee. A market is as smart as the aggregate intelligence of the participants in that market” and you are trying to say that a system based on markets won’t work because you can’t see a central planning solution to it. The beauty is that you don’t need to because there are smarter people out there who are now explicitly incentivized to solve that problem.

      8.) And this brings us to the ducks on the 101. *sigh*

      Firstly, this was stupid. Whomever stopped the traffic was an idiot. Ducks are food. You wouldn’t stop traffic for an hour for $50 worth of steaks, would you? But, it’s also not surprising. Anyone who would live in that area and have to frequent its roads can’t be very bright to begin with. (I’m convinced wanting to live in population-dense areas is a mental illness, hence why city people are so messed up). But, I digress.

      Answering the specific question asked, even though damages (in terms of delays) were inflicted on the people so delayed, in order to lawfully gain recompense for said damages, they would need to bring suit against the person who caused the delay. Further, said suit would need to be heard by some arbitrator, and the arbitrator would need to be convinced of the damages. This does not change whether the arbitrator is a judge serving under the auspices of the state or whether it’s a contractor who provides mediation services for dispute resolution organizations.

      However, that is the *wrong* question. Why do we have such traffic congestion? Why do we have people having to drive the road to begin with? Because the government has made it so by zoning, tax incentives, subsidized roads (which, in turn, subsidize the auto industry), and licensed/monopoly mass transit. So, let’s say the roads exist, but are paid by usage. Further, let’s say that the government does not have a monopoly on buses. As such, you can get a bus from where you are to where you want to go within 5 minutes of deciding you want to go there (either because routes are plentiful or because of Uber-type smartphone route optimization). Would you still need a car? Likely not, and certainly not for commuting, because the economy of scale of running a bus would make it cheaper. Now, all of a sudden, instead of gridlock on the 101, traffic is reduced by 75% and everyone gets to where they want to be on time – all without coercion, theft or violence. Enter the same ducks. The bus stops, a bunch of folks get off the bus, move the ducks, get back on the bus, and get a warm fuzzy for their day.

      9.) What the hell does Brexit have to do with anything? Removing power from one statist master and restoring it to another really has nothing to do with anarchy, an anyone who claims that Brexit is a serious reduction in statism is a fool. Sure, there will probably be some deregulation, but overall, the state will be tremendously powerful. It’s kind of like having to choose between being shot in the leg vs. the chest. The real answer is “I’d rather be not shot at all”.

      10.) Anarcho capitalism doesn’t really ignore externalities. In fact, strict liability for damages based on the core concept of property rights really drives that pretty well home. For example, when the railroads first started going cross country, the sparks would set farmers fields alight. Railroads had to compensate the farmers. Then they lobbied the government, and the government said “can’t stop progress!” and absolved them from those damages. Had government not done this, we likely wouldn’t have the problems with pollution we have today, because such pollution costs would have to be borne by the companies doing the polluting.

      11.) It does, however, ignore “social costs”, because that’s not really a thing. More specifically – it’s a squidgy unquantifiable thing, like “God” or “feelings”.

      12.) You can’t show up and extract monies from the duck rescuer under a stateless system anymore than you can under the current one. You’d show up, he’d say no, you’d try to kick in his door, he’d call his security contractor, they’d come there and kick you off his property and tell you to take it up with your DRO. If you escalated the situation, duck man would either shoot you (which would be justified) or the DRO guys would, because deadly force common law still applies. You are the aggressor in this situation by not using proper dispute resolution channels. Further, you’re likely going to be in breach of contract with your DRO if you do that, because that contract would likely stipulate that “unless you’re in immediate physical danger, you need to call us so we can pursue proper legal remedies. Vigilantism is grounds for contract termination.” And, without a DRO at your back, you’re a social outcast.

      Cheers, all.

      • Thanks – very thorough! I appreciate you taking the time to put this together.

      • >So, I’ve been kind of sitting on the sidelines here, and I think I’d like to throw in a few points.
        Thank you. I like the intellectual challenge of addressing them.

        >1.) Yes, I think if Donald Trump shot a guy he would get away with it unless he was super >blatant about it. The rich and powerful literally get away with murder all the time.
        Agreed, But does the proposed system increase or decrease the chance that the rich get punished. The proposed system is explicitly saying that a given amount of money can get you out of any crime. This is not an improvement.

        >2.) In the current system, … (government makes people dependent..) (no government >improves efficiency so less poor people)
        Yes, a role of government is to protect the powerless. But this doesn’t mean that these people are not productive or a bad thing. Before child labor laws were passed I would call the working children very productive. Because people have no money, doesn’t mean they are a drain on society.

        If you are implying that the government is the cause of the power discrepancy between the rich and poor, I think it’s been shown that the less government regulation you have, the greater the gap between the rich and poor.

        The problem is your definition of efficiency and I question the desirability of having an efficient society as you define it. Although it’s efficient to mow down the duck and save tens of thousands of hours of time, it’s not desirable(to me, perhaps not to you). Although it’s efficient to make sure I kill your dog when I run over it so I don’t have to pay shitloads of vet bills, It’s not desirable. Efficiency means that no resources are wasted in going from point A to point B. We can still debate on what point B is and I think the whole Ayn Rynd, Mises, libertarian capitalism group takes a pass on the HARD question of what kind of society is a good society and finds solace in upholding “Property Rights” as the single objective of society without seriously questioning it. It’s a much simpler world when you only have one value with which to judge any human interaction be it the bible, the koran, or property rights. It seems a cop out to me.

        How do we reconcile our different definitions of good and efficiency? We do that through negotiation and communication. The process we come up with to do that is called the government. Whether we call that the grazing council that manages the public grazing lands in your world or the statist local government. They are essentially the same thing. The only thing is in your anarcho-capitalist society, the power a person has is explicitly set to be the amount of money he controls instead of the mixed up system we currently have.

        >3.) The “I shouldn’t save a stranger from drowning” argument is a paper tiger. Specifically, it >doesn’t have anything to do with statism vs. non-statism…
        There is such a thing as negligent homicide. I want to live in a society where If there were a person who would watch a person die, there would be an institution that would get that person off the streets. (As long there was no danger to the rescuer in saving the victim). In a stateless society you give this up.

        >4.) As an aside, this whole discussion brings to mind an observation I made years ago – >Anarchists assume their fellow human beings are fundamentally smart and good. Statists >assume their fellow human beings are stupid and evil. Personally, similar to the idea of >“innocent until proven guilty”, I’d rather presume that people are decent until proven otherwise, >than the reverse.

        This is very well said and interesting. I object however to your characterizing me as thinking people are stupid and evil. But it’s strange that you say on one hand that you think people are fundamentally good, then on the other you seem to accuse the statists of a lot of evil intentions. Can you entertain the fact that the very government bureaucrats that screw up society for their own benefit through the government will figure out ways to screw over society without the government? How do you reconcile this?

        >5.) Private property is the lowest-cost way to ensure proper stewardship of public resources >because the costs to utilization and damaging of said property cannot be externalized to your >fellow humans. (argument that private property protects resources and private associations
        >will arise to manage the public resources.)
        Seems logical, but again you use the typical down home folksy example and hypothetical and assert that it equally applies to our complex society. Are you saying that there should be a person who owns the air? Will I have to pay someone tax to breathe? You really want someone knocking on your door to tell you you need to pay them to use their air? Does the person who owns the air have right to sound too? How do you protect noise pollution. Who owns the water to make sure it’s clean? Who is going to stop DDT production? Who owns the birds?. Because someone owns 100 acres somewhere, that person has no intrinsic right to render it uninhabitable for all future generations. I have no faith that great solutions will arise in an anarcho-capitalist system and I’m not just willing to fucking up my kids air and water and land with faith that it will all work out. Not knowing how things will work out is not an advantage.

        >6.) Yes, my insurance company asked if I own guns and jewelry….
        The issue at hand is how much do you have to disclose to your police insurance agency. Holy crap I would strenuously object if I had to divulge all this personal information so the police can know how much to charge me. I don’t care how “efficient” the system is, I don’t want to open my life up to the insurance companies just to have somewhere to go to if I get shot by a burglar. And no, the free market will not provide privacy controls. You see that in the internet, credit card, loyalty cards and so on. Without government regulations there will be no limits on companies trading data on you and knowing all the details of your life. The road company WILL require you to have a license to drive on their roads and to divulge to them all your personal information which they will sell. You have the freedom to say no, but no, you don’t really have a choice to say no.

        >7.) Part of the problem with quilby’s criticisms in general (and, admin, you mention this in your last post, but I want to call it out more explicitly) is that the conversation generally goes like this:
        Q: How will X work?
        A: Well, conceivably, this is how it could work…
        Q: Well, but that doesn’t cover Y, and therefore we need the state.

        That’s a valid point and I get frustrated by this too. Here is another loop.

        Point) The laws were created to solve a problem that the free market didn’t address.
        Counterpoint) Well we didn’t actually have a free market at the time.

        This is basically the one-true-scotsman argument. It seems that the only way to get what you want and what you claim will work is a complete overthrow of the existing system. There are so many potential problems I can point out that I’m not willing to bet that the final society developed will be better, instead I highly suspect it will be MUCH worse.

        With so many intelligent people in the anarchist libertarian camp, why not focus on policies that bring us closer to your free market ideals? Join the camp that
        Allows people to do whatever they want in the bedroom.
        Worship however they want.
        Have free borders.
        Legalize drugs.
        Eliminate overbearing government surveillance.
        Get out of foreign wars.

        These are achievable goals and this is the democratic party. This is why I switched. It frustrates me so much when something could actually be accomplished if the libertarians joined with the democrats and worked within the system.

        >8.) And this brings us to the ducks on the 101. *sigh*
        >(attack on city people),(lawful process against duck rescuer) (government causes traffic congestion, no monopoly on busses)
        You mention “in order to lawfully gain recompense”. You seem to forget this is an anarchy: There are no laws and anyone can open up a protection company as long as they can fight off the other protection companies.

        Anybody can start a bus service. Bus services and public transportation run at a loss. You are essentially advocating for getting rid of bus services. Part of where I live there is a express lane that allows people to pay cash and bypass all the traffic. Although it may be efficient to the economy that the rich don’t have to deal with traffic, That is not the type of society that I want to live in. In my world I have an end goal of living in a society where (IN SOME SENSE) a poor person and a rich person are equally valued as a person. Of course there should be some differences in the two, but I feel express lanes are just demeaning. But the statists have decided that the rich get to travel faster. (And no, I can afford to travel in the express lanes. I’m not asking for a handout)

        >9.) What the hell does Brexit have to do with anything?
        In my mind it was an emotional reaction to some problems and people seemed so angry they just decided to burn it all to the ground without really thinking things through. I perceive a real sense of anger from some libertarians and they decide to waste their vote voting for the libertarian party when you could actually do some good if worked with others to achieve your goals. Then they actually think that the republicans are more in line with their point of view than the democrats. If you think that we can get rid of government, lets get rid of things we can agree on, like the TSA. Let’s get rid of this police state the republicans have set up.

        >10.) Anarcho capitalism doesn’t really ignore externalities.
        Yeah. Basically I think you are wrong. You can look at the many environmental and social laws that have been passed to fix things that were broken in the (freer) market. You have nothing to point to except folksy hypotheticals that blame the polluting nightmare of the industrial revolution on big government.

        >11.) It does, however, ignore “social costs”, because that’s not really a thing. More specifically >– it’s a squidgy unquantifiable thing, like “God” or “feelings”.

        This is an important point. There are some things that are unquantifiable and because they are unquantifiable doesn’t mean they should be ignored. How much is it worth it to me that the cows I buy were slaughtered humanely? I don’t really know and frankly I don’t want to have the freedom to make a choice. This is one of my basic problems with anarchist capitalism. It can only optimize things that can be measured and you cant measure the pain inflicted on a cow when it’s slaughtered. There are some things that can’t be measured. You going around without a burka is offensive to me and my god. How much should I ask you to compensate me for?

        >12.) You can’t show up and extract monies from the duck rescuer.

        You just watch. You seriously you think I give a f– about the guys DRO or if I’m an outcast? There are tens of thousands of people on my side and hundreds of my friends think I’m a bad-ass. “Proper resolution channels? This is anarchy remember. There are no laws. I think it would be awesome for the DRO to try and enter my neighborhood where me and my friends will just FUCK THEM UP with my machine guns and remotely operated explosives. I will also blow up the DRO offices too while I’m at it (and anybody who is a client of the DRO). There is absolutely no incentive for the guy’s DRO to protect him when there are tens of thousands of people on my side.

        • > Thank you. I like the intellectual challenge of addressing them.

          And I enjoy your replies. Apologies for not being more prompt, as I have been too busy pretending to be an adult and have gotten behind on my correspondence.

          > Agreed, But does the proposed system increase or decrease the chance that the rich get punished. The proposed system is explicitly saying that a given amount of money can get you out of any crime. This is not an improvement.

          It is to the people who are so harmed. Let’s put it this way. If someone kills me, the current system will put that person in jail. So, not only do my wife and children not get my income, they also get to PAY for the person that killed me to be in jail. Under a system where you need to make the family of the person who you killed whole, my wife would be paid by the person who killed me. So, under which system is she better off?

          > Yes, a role of government is to protect the powerless. But this doesn’t mean that these people are not productive or a bad thing. Before child labor laws were passed I would call the working children very productive.

          You realize that this is a bit of revisionist history, right? Basically, child labor was on the way out to begin with, as not being particularly productive. Forcing an end to it by legislation was basically mandating something that was going to happen anyway, just a few years sooner. Everyone always makes these types of social movements out to be so radical and out of the blue, and yet it ends up really being a broad social shift and finally the government just smacks around the vestiges of the old system and drags them into the current century – which likely would have happened organically without government intervention.

          > Because people have no money, doesn’t mean they are a drain on society.

          It is if they vote for the armed thugs of the state to come play Robin Hood. By definition, they are draining monies from those who have earned it and taking it themselves.

          > If you are implying that the government is the cause of the power discrepancy between the rich and poor,

          No, I’m flat out stating that poverty was going down until the government declared a war on poverty, in which case it stopped declining.

          > I think it’s been shown that the less government regulation you have, the greater the gap between the rich and poor.

          I’m going to ignore the power dichotomy, because political power goes away when there is no state to try and get to grant you power over others. A free market is a fundamentally a meritocracy and, absent a government to seek rent from, rent seeking behaviors and the search of power don’t happen.

          Now, with regards to wealth, I’d argue that relative wealth doesn’t actually matter. If I have a roof, food, cars, stuff, etc. I don’t really care that people have fancier cars, etc. than me. So, once you get “the poor” up to a decent standard of living, they care less and less that other folks have it better than they do, because they’e doing okay. And, you know what has lifted more people out of poverty than anything else? Markets.

          > The problem is your definition of efficiency and I question the desirability of having an efficient society as you define it. Although it’s efficient to mow down the duck and save tens of
          > ** snip **
          > solace in upholding “Property Rights” as the single objective of society without seriously questioning it. It’s a much simpler world when you only have one value with which to judge any human interaction be it the bible, the koran, or property rights. It seems a cop out to me.

          Not really. My worldview is “do whatever you like, just don’t try and force it on me”. Your worldview is “this is the society I want and men with guns are going to make you do what I want, for your own good”.

          > How do we reconcile our different definitions of good and efficiency? We do that through negotiation and communication. The process we come up with to do that is called the government. Whether we call that the grazing council that manages the public grazing lands in your world or the statist local government. They are essentially the same thing.

          Except for that whole “monopoly of force they can use to lock you in a cage”, they are indeed, exactly the same. Unfortunately, it is exactly this issue which is where my objections to government lie.

          > The only thing is in your anarcho-capitalist society, the power a person has is explicitly set to be the amount of money he controls instead of the mixed up system we currently have.

          No it isn’t. It’s also the amount of (for lack of a better term) “social currency” he has. This can be a likable personality, a well-reasoned argument, or perhaps another thing I’ve not considered. If your goal is to convince people to help you, there are other ways to do this besides paying them.

          >There is such a thing as negligent homicide. I want to live in a society where If there were a person who would watch a person die, there would be an institution that would get that person off the streets. (As long there was no danger to the rescuer in saving the victim). In a stateless society you give this up.

          No you don’t. You could still conceivably bring suit against the person via the DRO and they could assess the person damages via his respective DRO, etc.

          But, quite frankly, I’d be willing to accept a few negligent homicides if it meant getting rid of cops shooting little old ladies on no knocks when they have the wrong house, or corporations externalizing their security costs to the American people, this leading to large scale bombings of brown people with marginally effective air forces.

          > This is very well said and interesting. I object however to your characterizing me as thinking people are stupid and evil.

          I’m sorry if I gave any offense, but it seems like much of your argument boils down to “some people are assholes, so we need to cede power to the biggest asshole on the block to protect us from all the other assholes”.

          > But it’s strange that you say on one hand that you think people are fundamentally good, then on the other you seem to accuse the statists of a lot of evil intentions.

          That’s because evil people are attracted to power, so the concentrate in government. 🙂

          > Can you entertain the fact that the very government bureaucrats that screw up society for their own benefit through the government will figure out ways to screw over society without the government? How do you reconcile this?

          There is a good chance they might, but government is unique in that it has a shit ton of guns and the legal authority to use them with relative impunity. I mean, if they don’t like you, they can come after you and embroil you in legal issues for decades, without having to actually worry about the cost. Then other branches can come in and audit you, etc. You effectively have no recourse against them because they own the courts. The problem is that they have too much power.

          > Seems logical, but again you use the typical down home folksy example and hypothetical and assert that it equally applies to our complex society.

          Sorry, but I live in the country. Down home folksy is my direct experience. Things are simply not that complex here.

          > Are you saying that there should be a person who owns the air? Will I have to pay someone tax to breathe? You really want someone knocking on your door to tell you you need to pay them to use their air? Does the person who owns the air have right to sound too? How do you protect noise pollution. Who owns the water to make sure it’s clean?

          All of this – noise, air, etc. come down to “if your pollutants find their way on to my property, you owe me damages.”

          > Who is going to stop DDT production?

          Lolz. I love this one. We’re going to let mosquitos kill millions of people over decades to save some birds. Fuck the birds. I’m on team human.

          > Who owns the birds?

          So, migratory species is admittedly one of the things that caused me to have to do the most thinking in this regard. Let’s take a herd of deer. The argument is that the deer belong to everyone and so poaching is illegal and you can buy a hunting license which pays for herd management and to prevent poaching. Under the current system, this is one of the better-run programs in most places.

          However, in a voluntarist system, I could see landowners getting together for mutual benefit and funding such an organization – they open their lands to hunters and, in exchange, they hunt for free (or get proceeds, or whatever). If someone doesn’t want to play ball, they can kill all the deer on their property, and they’ll get a single, one time bump in revenue – but it’s not sustainable in the long term. If you care about the future, which, if you own the land, you should, you’ll manage the deer herd carefully.

          The same with forests. Absent any stipulations against it, clear-cutting of forests happens in places where timber companies get timber rights for short periods of time, because it’s the right move for them. If they own the land, or have long-term timber management contracts, you get much more responsible stewardship because it is in your best interest to do so.

          > Because someone owns 100 acres somewhere, that person has no intrinsic right to render it uninhabitable for all future generations.

          I’d say that they do have that right, but why would they? Doing so reduces the utility of the land to them. They can’t sell it, they can’t use it, it’s just there, and it’s a potentially HUGE liability of whatever they did to it affecting their neighbors.

          Under the current system, they lobby the government to try and federalize their screw-ups.

          But, if you want to talk about what organization has rendered the most land unusable, I’m doing to give you a hint – it’s not a company. 🙂

          > I have no faith that great solutions will arise in an anarcho-capitalist system and I’m not just willing to fucking up my kids air and water and land with faith that it will all work out. Not knowing how things will work out is not an advantage.

          A predictably mediocre result is better than an possibly good one? I guess I can appreciate that decision.

          > The issue at hand is how much do you have to disclose to your police insurance agency. Holy crap I would strenuously object if I had to divulge all this personal information so the police can know how much to charge me. I don’t care how “efficient” the system is, I don’t want to open my life up to the insurance companies just to have somewhere to go to if I get shot by a burglar.

          Lucky for you, there is more than one provider of these services! 🙂

          > And no, the free market will not provide privacy controls. You see that in the internet, credit card, loyalty cards and so on. Without government regulations there will be no limits on companies trading data on you and knowing all the details of your life.

          There will be when people realize it’s valuable. Some companies are already starting to do that – “we will never sell your information, we only use it internally, etc.”. But, the majority of people really don’t care, so companies don’t take it seriously because there’s no real penalty.

          > The road company WILL require you to have a license to drive on their roads and to divulge to them all your personal information which they will sell. You have the freedom to say no, but no, you don’t really have a choice to say no.

          Until another road company (or, even better, a JETPACK company) comes along and says “we won’t ask you all that stuff, because it doesn’t matter and we value your privacy”.

          > That’s a valid point and I get frustrated by this too. Here is another loop.

          > Point) The laws were created to solve a problem that the free market didn’t address.
          > Counterpoint) Well we didn’t actually have a free market at the time.

          > This is basically the one-true-scotsman argument.

          Indeed it is. That doesn’t, however, make it wrong. When you’re saying “this truck I want to build will tow a boat” and I say “well, but my car won’t tow a boat”, and you say “but a car is not a truck”, you are absolutely correct! It doesn’t matter how much I say “but they both have doors and engines and wheels”, it’s not the same thing.

          > It seems that the only way to get what you want and what you claim will work is a complete overthrow of the existing system.

          Nah, you can slowly shrink government over a short-ish time.

          Besides, it could be that the optimal value of government is actually nonzero (the libertarian argument). I just know that societies with more government, control, and regulation stagnate and die, and societies with less of those grow and prosper. The logical question is “how low can you go”. I’ll argue for the position of “zero” and if what we end up with is “slightly less than zero, where the government provides dispute resolution and physical security services and not much else”, I could be okay with that.

          > There are so many potential problems I can point out that I’m not willing to bet that the final society developed will be better, instead I highly suspect it will be MUCH worse.

          I won’t deny that the future is uncertain. But, then again, so is the future under the current system.

          > With so many intelligent people in the anarchist libertarian camp, why not focus on policies that bring us closer to your free market ideals? Join the camp that
          > Allows people to do whatever they want in the bedroom.
          > Worship however they want.
          > Have free borders.
          > Legalize drugs.
          > Eliminate overbearing government surveillance.
          > Get out of foreign wars.

          Hence why I’m voting for Gary Johnson. 🙂

          > These are achievable goals and this is the democratic party. This is why I switched. It frustrates me so much when something could actually be accomplished if the libertarians joined with the democrats and worked within the system.

          Wait, what? Are you REALLY saying that the Democrats want all of those things? Shit.. this needs a point by point refutation:

          > Allows people to do whatever they want in the bedroom.

          Nope, they still want to keep polygamy illegal.

          > Worship however they want.

          Unless you’re a Christian who won’t cater a gay wedding, in which case you will be forced to do so by the state. (Now, that said, Gary Johnson supports making them do so as well).

          > Have free borders.

          Nope. They still want immigration quotas; they just want to bring in people who will vote the way they want. That’s not “free”.

          > Legalize drugs.

          Maybe marijuana, but certainly nothing more than that. The war on drugs is too profitable. It’s basically rent-seeking.

          > Eliminate overbearing government surveillance.

          Okay, now I think you’re having me on. Really? Did the Snowden leaks show you nothing?

          > Get out of foreign wars.

          Well, that was what Barry promised. He even got a prize for it. Instead, we’re still there, almost went to war in Ukraine (until Russia talked us out of it) and are in a couple more. (Syria and Libya). Those wars directly caused the migrant crisis which is now engulfing Europe, and Hillary was basically #2 on the “bomb the shit out of them” list. The days of Democrats being peaceniks are long over and, quite frankly, I miss them.

          >8.) And this brings us to the ducks on the 101. *sigh*
          >(attack on city people),(lawful process against duck rescuer) (government causes traffic congestion, no monopoly on busses)
          > You mention “in order to lawfully gain recompense”. You seem to forget this is an anarchy: There are no laws and anyone can open up a protection company as long as they can fight off the other protection companies.

          Your definition of anarchy might be outdated. I understand the confusion, we (anarchists) need a better moniker. “Advocates for a stateless society” is just too damned long. “Classical liberal” perhaps?

          Anyway, when I say “anarchist society”, I mean “no geographical monopoly on force in any area larger than the boundaries of my property”, not “no law”. There’s the inherent natural law of free people (property rights, etc.) which binds everyone coming from a basic western culture. So, if you violate my property rights, I have the right to try to gain compensation from you. In order to keep things efficient, we would all contract with specialists in this regard, and they would generally work out the details; much as how courts of law work now.

          > Anybody can start a bus service.

          Untrue. In many places, municipal bus services are the sole domain of a government-designated entity. There is no competition.

          > Bus services and public transportation run at a loss.

          Only because they are inefficient.

          > You are essentially advocating for getting rid of bus services.

          I’m advocating for market innovation. If a “bus service” doesn’t make sense, but there is a market for “public transit”, then maybe the answer is a “van service”.

          > Part of where I live there is a express lane that allows people to pay cash and bypass all the traffic.

          For what it’s worth, when I visit such places, I LOVE those lanes.

          > Although it may be efficient to the economy that the rich don’t have to deal with traffic, That is not the type of society that I want to live in.

          So, you want everyone to be equally miserable, because that’s “fair”?

          This reminds me of the “Bernie Sanders: fascist for mediocrity” bit that Crowder did.

          > In my world I have an end goal of living in a society where (IN SOME SENSE) a poor person and a rich person are equally valued as a person. Of course there should be some differences in the two, but I feel express lanes are just demeaning. But the statists have decided that the rich get to travel faster. (And no, I can afford to travel in the express lanes. I’m not asking for a handout)

          The statists have decided that, to some people, time is more important than money, so they will charge a premium for premium access, and (theoretically) use the proceeds for the betterment of the services that everyone uses. It’s a surprisingly market-oriented approach.

          >9.) What the hell does Brexit have to do with anything?
          >In my mind it was an emotional reaction to some problems and people seemed so angry they just decided to burn it all to the ground without really thinking things through.

          How the hell does leaving a bad union “burn it all to the ground”? The UK still exists, it’s just going to not be part of the EU.

          I mean, you’re basically saying that, if two people get divorced, their lives are destroyed, which is demonstrably false. Yes, there will be a period of adjustment, and no, they are not married anymore. However, they are still two people who will go along on their own and succeed or fail on their own.

          > I perceive a real sense of anger from some libertarians

          Maybe. I don’t know. All the libertarians I know are happier with the LP nominations than most of the Republicans (who wanted Cruz) and Democrats (who wanted Sanders) that I know. As an aside, the Republicans are voting for Johnson because they hate Trump, and the Democrats are voting for Stein because they hate Hillary.

          Aside from the fact that I’m pretty busy, I’m pretty happy. 🙂

          > and they decide to waste their vote voting for the libertarian party when you could actually do some good if worked with others to achieve your goals.

          What I’m seeing is that, for the first time in my lifetime, a vote for the Libertarian party is NOT a waste because Gary is actually likely to get a decent proportion of the votes, setting the LP up for better success next election cycle (ballot access, debate access, etc.). Will he win? Well, that depends on what the electoral college does, more than the popular.

          > Then they actually think that the republicans are more in line with their point of view than the democrats. If you think that we can get rid of government, lets get rid of things we can agree on, like the TSA. Let’s get rid of this police state the republicans have set up.

          Yeah. see.. it’s not the Republicans alone who set that up, and Democrats don’t really want to get rid of the TSA. You seem to think that there is more of a difference between the parties than there is.

          >10.) Anarcho capitalism doesn’t really ignore externalities.
          Yeah. Basically I think you are wrong. You can look at the many environmental and social laws that have been passed to fix things that were broken in the (freer) market.

          Without a specific one to reply, to, all I can say is that most of those laws fall into one of:
          1. “Fixing” things that weren’t broken, generally to give a handout to a crony.
          2. Fixing things that were broken, but were broken by government.
          3. Fixing things that were temporary and would have worked themselves out in time.

          I can’t recall something that I would agree was permanently broken with the market that was addressed by legislation.

          > You have nothing to point to except folksy hypotheticals that blame the polluting nightmare of the industrial revolution on big government.

          No, the polluting was done by corporations. Government just shielded the corporations from legal liability, which they can do because they own the courts.

          > This is an important point. There are some things that are unquantifiable and because they are unquantifiable doesn’t mean they should be ignored.

          I’m not saying you should ignore them. I’m saying you shouldn’t stick a gun in my face to make me try to care about them.

          > How much is it worth it to me that the cows I buy were slaughtered humanely?

          However much you are willing to pay.

          > I don’t really know and frankly I don’t want to have the freedom to make a choice.

          I think this is the real core of your argument. “Freedom is scary because it requires decisions and I don’t want to make those decisions; I want someone to make those decisions for me.”

          > This is one of my basic problems with anarchist capitalism. It can only optimize things that can be measured and you cant measure the pain inflicted on a cow when it’s slaughtered.

          Well, you could, but then the argument would be “do you care”.

          > There are some things that can’t be measured. You going around without a burka is offensive to me and my god. How much should I ask you to compensate me for?

          You can ask whatever you like, but now you’re applying coercive force to me for compensation where you are asking me to *do* something (rather than to “stop” doing something). So, you believe that your right to not be offended somehow trumps my right to feel the wind through my hair. So, I’ll wear the burka if you compensate me for my loss.

          Now, ironically, it is only in a statist society where you could be forced to wear a burka, because folks could force you to do it via legislation.

          In a free society, you’d say ‘no’, get sued, your DRO would either have your back and you’d work something out, or it wouldn’t, in which case you’d likely find another DRO because there’s competition there.

          Now, if the free society is burka-wearing, all the DRO’s will likely say “wear the burka” and you could then either find your own or simply not participate in the society (move, be an outcast, whatever). If the society isn’t, then they won’t say that.

          > You just watch. You seriously you think I give a f– about the guys DRO or if I’m an outcast? There are tens of thousands of people on my side and hundreds of my friends think I’m a bad-ass.

          Then congrats, you have a DRO! You can do business with his DRO and work something out.

          Also, as an aside – there is nothing to prevent you from doing this now. If you could raise an army of 30k people, you could take over a pretty decent area.

          > “Proper resolution channels? This is anarchy remember. There are no laws.

          Again, there is no *state*, but there are *laws*.

          > I think it would be awesome for the DRO to try and enter my neighborhood where me and my friends will just FUCK THEM UP with my machine guns and remotely operated explosives.

          Why would they enter your neighborhood? They’re trying to protect him, not come get you. I mean, if you’ve managed to make him pay up, and they decide it’s not worth coming after you, then they’ll just reimburse him. He’s made whole, they take the loss. If it’s an isolated incident, you may get away with it. However, if you do this repeatedly, eventually they’ll all team up and come after you.

          > I will also blow up the DRO offices too while I’m at it (and anybody who is a client of the DRO).

          Again, there’s nothing to stop you from blowing up a police station now (and occasionally some nutjob does), but I have to ask what’s in it for you? I mean, if you’re a crazy person, sure, but why would a sane person do this? There’s no benefit in it. So, this whole scenario just gets very stupid, very fast. But, if you attack a DRO branch office (or a police station) then other offices of that DRO will likely come after you (just like the police do now) and they could even convince other DROs that you’re a really dangerous person, and they should help too (just like all the cooperating law enforcement agencies do now).

          > There is absolutely no incentive for the guy’s DRO to protect him when there are tens of thousands of people on my side.

          Except that they wouldn’t be protecting him, they’d be protecting all of their subscribers, and likely the subscribers of other DROs. If they’re shorthanded, then they can send out a call for help to their subscribers (in the old days, they called this “raising a posse”).

          But, again, at this point you’re well past the lifeboat scenario.

      • myth buster says:

        The fact is that my rights to life, liberty and property mean absolutely nothing if I cannot defend myself against a false accusation. That means even if I’m a bum on the street, naked, I still have the right to confront my accuser before a neutral arbitrator (i.e. one who is not on my accuser’s payroll). Furthermore, I retain this right even if I lack the intellectual prowess to defend myself. My right to confront my accuser is inherent in every right I have, else no right is secure from those who would railroad me, whether for profit, for revenge, or for sadistic pleasure. It follows then, that if I am accused of a crime, I have the right to the assistance of counsel, and if I cannot pay for it, then either my accuser or society at large must pay for it. Likewise, I have the right to subpoena witnesses in my defense, whether or not they wish to testify. If my worst enemy can exonerate me by corroborating my alibi, he has a duty to do so under pain of the just punishment for perjury, for in refusing to tell the truth to the best of his knowledge, he has assaulted me by his false testimony which jeopardizes my rights. Likewise, the witness who falsely testifies to the defendant’s innocence is a co-conspirator against the victim, and should be punished equally to the perpetrator. Now, what is perjury? It is a sworn statement that is known to be false by the one who utters it, or one which deliberately omits a material fact.

        • The problem is that if there is no witness protection, people who aren’t martyrs will not have courage to report violent street crimes to the police.

          If I reported a real street rapist to the police and the police told who I was to the rapist later, the rapist would later come to me beat me up. This has been a real problem in some countries without any witness protection. USA has witness protection program to protect witnesses from violent criminals.

          If there is too much witness protection(e.g. women can conceal their identity in rape accusation), false accusations will abound.

          The problem is that criminals can be either a false accuser or a criminal offender.

  7. Ashton Picas says:

    “The typical response, at this point, is that the clans are de facto governments. But it only seems that way because people are so conditioned to believe that only governments can provide justice. If the clans are providing justice, then they must be governments.”

    The definition of government: “the group of people who control and make decisions for a country, state, etc.”

    A clan IS, by definition, a form of government. Is there a system in place for arbitration of any kind? This is government activity… ‘a government’ isn’t a thing that exists, it is a word used to describe the actions of groups of people.

    Semantics are important. You could say ‘centralized government’ or ‘state/national government’ or ‘post-Westphalia state’.
    You should realize your argument is with the concept of a state, not with the concept of people working together to solve problems.

    • Thanks for the comment. Actually, governments are traditionally defined as the institutions that possess the monopoly of “legitimate” force in a geographic area. If you define government as just “people making decisions”, then neither I nor any anarchist has a problem with government.

      • This, indeed. The problems are not “working together” or “providing dispute resolution services” – these are valuable services. The problems are things like “monopolies are bad, except when ‘the government’ has them” and “people saying ‘give us money and do what we say or we’ll throw you into a cage’ is bad, except when ‘the government’ does it.”.

Trackbacks

  1. […] with whatever is going on in Honduras, but the line of reasoning sounded to me a lot like the “well why don’t you go live in Somalia, then?” kind of […]

  2. Quora says:

    What is every day life like in mogadishu?

    Yes, Xeer ( law) system of Somalia existed over thousand years ago and Yes the compensation system is amazing. In most of the world today, if you commit a crime, you get punished. This means going to jail, or paying monetary fines to the state. The vic…

  3. […] “Why don’t you move to Somalia?” is one of the most common things I hear when I tell people that I am an anarchist. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation about this region, but I have already written an extensive article on what anarchists can learn from Somalia. […]

  4. […] based just on particular experience would be silly. Categorical statements must be universal. http://governmentdeniesknowledge.com/anarchist-somalia/"%5DThis analysis quotes man who married into Somalia a studied, travelled it and studied its customary law for 12 […]

  5. […] rule). I know about Xeer. Anyways this was the article my friend wrote just for your info The "Anarchist" Experience In Somalia – What Libertarians Need To Know – Government Denies… plz read that article and respond on this thread what you feel about the […]

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