Anarchy in Somalia

Alex de Waal has an outstanding article published in The New York Times that will interest anarchists and political scientists of all kind.

De Waal gives a brief opinion on why foreign efforts to buttress the transitional government will fail.  He points to the fact that most Somalians are wary of central authority, given their experiences under the dictatorship of Siad Barre, and he suggests that things are not going so bad right now,

For quite a lot of Somalia and for quite a lot of the last 20 years, quite a lot of things have worked. Above all the country has a booming private sector, self-regulating and helped by the country’s simple monetary policy (no one can print banknotes). The efficient, informal hawala system of money transfer  allows the Somali diaspora to send money home. And Somalis enjoy one of the cheapest and most modern mobile phone networks in Africa, if not the world.

A lot of people like to point out all the bad aspects of Somalian society, and I am sure that there are quite a bit of imperfections (or, maybe even worse than “mere” imperfections).  But, these people need to remember that the market process takes time.  It took centuries for Western Europe to accumulate sufficient capital to provide a stable supply of food.  Now, the developed world does not really suffer from the threat of starvation.  Thankfully, an expanding division of labor (through trade) makes it possible to bypass these centuries, but ironing these imperfections will still take time.

So no, I am not about to pack my bags and move to Somalia.  But, maybe in 20–50 years (depending on the institutional road that Somalia ends up taking) I may want to.  My point, it is the fact that the market process is working — progress is happening — that matters, not that Somalia still has not developed to the level of the United States.  It took two hundred and fifty years for the United States to develop into what it is now.  Why can we not give Somalia the same patience?

3 thoughts on “Anarchy in Somalia

  1. Ángel Martín Oro

    Jonathan, See here an interesting discussion on this topic: http://chrisblattman.com/2012/02/22/somalia-needs-a-chamber-of-commerce-before-it-needs-a-cabinet-or-the-case-for-anarchy-in-the-horn/
    I provided several references in the comments. And for a Spanish reader: http://www.libremercado.com/2011-06-19/somalia-crece-y-se-desarrolla-en-medio-de-la-anarquia-1276426962/
    http://procesos-de-aprendizaje.libremercado.com/2011/07/21/brutal-hambruna-en-la-anarquica-somalia-continuara/
    http://procesos-de-aprendizaje.libremercado.com/2011/07/22/replanteandome-el-tema-de-la-anarquica-somalia/

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