Monday, October 15, 2007

BBC goes all Libertarian

From Somalia, a success story (maybe)

A host of mobile phone masts testifies to the telecommunications revolution which has taken place despite the absence of any functioning national government since 1991.

And, that's from the BBC, mind you. Gushing.

Note that the claim is NOT that the government is taking a laissez-faire approach
to telecom regulation.

No, the "government" paid the haul-ass fare to get out of town in 1991, and there
hasn't been a government since.

Now I am not a fan of the whole "look at Somalia, they are doing fine without a government" movement, because they really aren't. Armed gangs of thugs are dangerous, and need to be controlled, regardless of whether they are Somalis in "technicals", or Durham police in black and whites. In both cases, you need a state to step in.

But it is true that governments are at least unnecessary, and possibly a hinderance, to the functioning of many kinds of markets.

(Nod to MAG)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The argument that anarchy "works" based on Somalia is wishful thinking, of course. Somalia is at present a tribal mess with little respect for individual liberty. It is remarkable what Somalis do end up getting done though, and it can be very instructive when we learn that they successfully solved without a government some problem that one might otherwise have thought of as an insuperable collective action problem.

I have usually told libertarian anarchists that the viability of society without government is a positive, empirical question that I don't know how to answer from first principle. Hell, I couldn't even derive from first principle whether passenger rail would be profitable in LA if there were no subsidies to highways.

But Somalia doesn't disprove the anarchists. We aren't likely to see a "natural experiment" like Somalia happen in, say, Switzerland, with its great and widely distributed wealth, strong traditions of property rights and courteous settlement of disputes, strong social cohesion and civil society, &c. Thus an anarchist may always claim that what doesn't work in Somalia might in Switzerland, and they have good reason to believe that in Switzerland at least it wouldn't fail nearly as badly.