sights & sounds

June 7, 2010

the authoritarian’s trump card

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jay @ 6:50 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Just as any lengthy political discussion will inevitably involve a Godwin, any lengthy debate on anarchism must involve Somalia – just as your opponent must resort to ‘But that’s what Hitler would say!’ when he’s run out of arguments, the empty-headed statist who hasn’t bothered to engage in any independent research or critical thinking will say, “We can’t get by without the state! LOOK AT SOMALIA!”, and then smugly stew in his own ignorance, as though invoking Somalia automatically wins the debate. However, the seemingly self-sufficient ‘wut about Somalia, guise’ point actually rests on several assumptions, all of which are either highly dubious or blatantly incorrect.:

  • The assumption that poor conditions in Somalia are all (or largely) the direct result of statelessness; or that they’re exacerbated by statelessness. Considering the fact that Somalia also wasn’t stable before 1991, this point is dubious.
  • The assumption that a stateless U.S. would resemble a stateless Somalia. If someone has any significant amount of evidence for the argument that a region privileged with extensive infrastructure and a relatively wealthy, well-educated populace would degenerate into a violent, poverty-stricken morass absent government authority, I’d love to hear it – I crave the amusement.

Granted, some of the pre-1991 stats can be unreliable due to government misreporting; but marked gains are obvious, particularly in telecommunications. People who wave off these improvements as insignificant often make the mistake of comparing the current stateless Somalia to the current U.S. (or to similar ‘first world’ countries), but this is an enormous mistake – it’s like trying to argue ‘fresh veggies are bad for you and fried snacks are good!’ by comparing salmonella-tainted spinach to a bag of organic potato chips. In short, it makes no sense; and a more honest comparison would be between Somalia now and Somalia before 1991, as above; and between Somalia and its neighbors, here:


From Leeson:

The data reject the hypothesis that Somalia would have improved equally whether it
remained under government or not. Consistent with Table 1, Somalia performs worse on adult
literacy compared to its neighbors between the periods. Still, on the majority of the indicators
considered here, Somalia improved more than its neighbors over the same period, suggesting that
the collapse of government resulted in greater development improvements than would have
occurred in its absence. In a number of cases, Somalia has been improving while its neighbors
have been declining.

To illustrate again just how silly the ‘YOU WANT SOMALIA’ crowd sounds, I highly doubt that statists would respond well if I were to argue the following: “Hitler’s Germany was horrible; therefore statism fails.” Of course not – they’d point out the absurdity of trying to refute statism in general by bringing up its worst abuses; and then they’d chide me for making a Godwin. Interestingly, though, people are incredibly fond of invoking Somalia in just that way. Why?

To sum up: Obviously, if given the choice between living in the current statist U.S. (or a similar country) or the current stateless Somalia, the vast majority of people (including me) would choose the former.

..however, the question isn’t “Would you rather live in Somalia or the U.S.?”, but “Would you rather live in Somalia now or Somalia before 1991?” or “Where would you rather live now – Somalia or Djibouti?”

Somalia isn’t all kittens and rainbows, obviously; and the Somalis are in a great deal of pain. But invoking Somalia to discredit anarchism in general still rests on the above^ assumptions; and apologists for government authority should stop bringing it up as though it’s a particularly novel or relevant critique. In fact, it’s neither.


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