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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Somalia: Hope in Statelessness?

O.K., maybe calling Somalia an economic success “overstates the situation slightly,” Benjamin Powell concedes in an essay in The Freeman. But poor as it is, Somalia has improved living standards faster than the average sub-Saharan African country since the early 1990s, he says. That’s thanks to rule by decentralized clan networks relying on legal custom, he contends, and no thanks to chaotic outside efforts to impose centralized rule.

Even the recent scourge of Somali piracy is “a tribute to the internal effectiveness of Somali customary law,” Mr. Powell argues, since the pirates don’t target Somali ships. So, yes, combat piracy, but not with the imposition of an internationally “friendly” government likely to plunder its people:

Somalia’s lesson should not be overstated—it is no libertarian utopia. I certainly don’t plan to move there anytime soon. But Somalia does demonstrate that a reasonable level of law and order can be provided by nonstate customary legal systems and that such systems are capable of providing some basis for economic development.

This is particularly true when the alternative is not a limited government but instead a particularly brutal and repressive government such as Somalia had and is likely to have again if a government is re-established.

[The Freeman]

Source: The Freeman


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