Saturday, December 18, 2004

I've run across a couple fascinating articles

on how the Somali's are coping without a government.

A Peaceful Ferment in Somalia
Published in The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty - June 1998
by Spencer Heath MacCallum.

And a more up to date study Anarchy and Invention: How Does Somalia's Private Sector Cope without Government?

The latter makes this interesting statement, "Somalia boasts lower rates of extreme poserty and, in some cases, better infrastructure than richer countries in Africa."

How do they do it? Why, they cheat, of course. From the second article:
Somali entrepreneurs have used three methods to compensate for the lack of effective government regulation. First, "importing governance" by relying on foreign institutions--for example, for airline safety, currency stability, and company law. Second, using clans and other local networks of trust to help with contract enforcement, payment, and transmission of funds. Third, simplifying transactions until they can be carried out with help from neither the clan nor the international economy.

The first article fleshes out the contributions of the clans. This is from MacCallum's summary of the "American Text" of a proposed Somali constitution pushed by Somali friends of his:
Sovereignty. Sovereignty resides in individual Somali citizens, over whom the Somali Federation shall exert no powers. The Federation's main purpose will be to conduct a foreign policy, to enable foreigners to deal with the Somali nation as a whole, and to make the Somalis credible in the eyes and minds of foreign governments and individuals. It shall not regulate relations between Somalis, between Somali communities, nor between Somali regions. The Xeer (customary law, pronounced "hair") will govern that.

Customary Law. The Somali nation has always been based on the Xeer, even during the period of colonization (for disputes involving only Somalis and not colonials) and after independence. The unity and peace of the Somalis, as well as their mutual understanding, are based on the Xeer. The Xeer stands at the center of the Somali identity; without it there could not be a Somali nation.

This would hardly be unprecidented. MacCallum says
...[T]he Somalis [are] seeking an alternative to legislative law by looking to their existing customary tribal law, the Xeer, and its further development to serve all of the needs of an emerging urban society. The Xeer promises to become one of the great bodies of customary law, like Anglo-American common law or Jewish traditional law (Halacha). These legal codes are flexible, responsive, and can be maintained without a large central state or legislative apparatus.
The Somali nation did not start with the tribes having a common language but by their common observance of the Xeer. Hence the law is called both father and child of the Somali nation.

We Hayek fans see much to love here.

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