Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Somalia & Security

A few months ago, I found a video clip about Somalia – a libertarian paradise terribly and painfully amusing. Libertarianism continues to be misunderstood and here I attempt to clear up a few misconceptions.
Cartman-PirateBelow, you can find the aforementioned clip followed by a libertarian explanation of what happens in Somalia. You only need less than a minute to make fun of the libertarian ideas, (see the excellent video clip by Cogg + Southpark Fatbeard -wiki-fatbeard); to explain why Somalia is much better off now than it was during the communist dictatorship or why Somalia is better than its neighbours with functional governments, FreedomRadio needs 26 minutes. To really get it, you need an open mind and the ability to use Google and read / understand the results.
WARNING: Watching the video clip might bring you cholera!

Libertarianism, just like freedom, causes anxiety. The concept of anarchy is perceived by many as lack of security and it is particularly undesirable to those who feel weak or inadequate. Supporters of this doctrine in the overwhelming majority are young and educated men, probably because males are generally more tolerant and even willing to risk, while women prefer trodden paths.

1. Short introduction to libertarianism

A somewhat artificial difference between libertarians and anarchists is that although both (pseudo/anti-) ideologies consider beneficial the disappearance of government as an instrument of oppression, libertarians think it should take place legally and orderly, wishing that company members. Libertarianism (wiki-lib) also has a multitude of (sub)currents. Bill Maher for example is more minarchist than libertarian (minarchism refers to minimizing the government). Noam Chomsky (Noam Wiki) is a Libertarian Socialist - a trend that sees central government minimized or demolished and replaced with the collective of workers who are self-organizing, leading and own factories / co-operatives / workplaces.

2. Yugoslavia, Chomsky & libertarian-socialism

It is interesting that Yugoslavia has implemented a version of Libertarian Socialism with a spectacular success in the '80s. Unfortunately, as any radical system of social organization (kibbutz, hippie commune, communist utopia, Switzerland) could not survive just because it had become too big for own good. Yugoslavia has lasted more than its founding genius, Joseph Broz Tito. What I find very interesting is that Chomsky seems to suggest that the success of Libertarian Socialism is also why it was bombed by NATO. However, in his interviews and writings he never says that clearly, this is my own personal interpretation. You could absorb the same materials and reach a completely different conclusion.

3. Somalia – state of the nation

As explained in the clip #3 above, to determine to what extent Somalia is better or worse as a result of (semi)anarchy it is necessary to define the term of comparison. It is obvious that Somalia is doing worse than France or Canada. But compared to how a government takes time but how functional (Siad Barre), and even in comparison with its neighbours, an incomparably better results.
For example, life expectancy increased by several years, child mortality has fallen sharply, the rate of immunization of children is among the highest in Africa, the rate of HIV infection - AIDS is among the lowest on the African continent (0.4%), citizens have much more freedom than before and are not systematically killed (under Siad, gossip was punished with death). Somalia has the worst statistics in regards of GDP per capita and trade, which virtually ceased. Another statistic where Somalia lacks is higher education (duh!). However, it is more than likely that the old GDP figures were artificially inflated by the government, as is usual in any centralized communist economy, and also by the huge amounts pumped into the economy in the form of charitable aid. Last but not least, though trade generally collapsed, some businesses have been successful: cell phone service is among the cheapest and best performing on the continent, airlines fly to more destinations, etc. Here’s what the CIA World Factbook says on Somalia (do not forget that USA does not see kindly to Somalia and has even bombed it a few times):
Despite the lack of effective national governance, Somalia has maintained a healthy informal economy, largely based on livestock, remittance/money transfer companies, and telecommunications. Agriculture is the most important sector, with livestock normally accounting for about 40% of GDP and about 65% of export earnings. Nomads and semi-pastoralists, who are dependent upon livestock for their livelihood, make up a large portion of the population. Livestock, hides, fish, charcoal, and bananas are Somalia's principal exports, while sugar, sorghum, corn, qat, and machined goods are the principal imports. Somalia's small industrial sector, based on the processing of agricultural products, has largely been looted and sold as scrap metal. Somalia's service sector also has grown. Telecommunication firms provide wireless services in most major cities and offer the lowest international call rates on the continent. In the absence of a formal banking sector, money transfer/remittance services have sprouted throughout the country, handling roughly $2 billion in remittances annually. Mogadishu's main market offers a variety of goods from food to the newest electronic gadgets. Hotels continue to operate and are supported with private-security militias. Somalia's arrears to the IMF continued to grow in 2008. Statistics on Somalia's GDP, growth, per capita income, and inflation should be viewed sceptically.
The rate of HIV / AIDS infection of Somalis compares very favourably to the rate of infection of blacks in the USA which is in some U.S. states over 80% (cnn, wash-post). Moreover, in the U.S. many black citizens have undergone hideous experiments where they were purposely infected with syphilis - without their knowledge or consent (wiki-Tuskegee-Study-of-Untreated-Syphilis-in-the-Negro-male).

4. Arms trade, War on Drugs, USA for Africa

It is also important to understand that Somalia is not a libertarian paradise for the reasons above, but is not even an anarchic one in the sense that central authority was replaced by a patchwork of Islamic fiefdoms. I do not consider Somalia a lifestyle model, but it seems surprising that this nation has made progress despite the hostile policies of USA toward Africa generally and Somalia in particular:
  • Bush has banned condoms and led an education policy against them - condition for all the charities receiving federal money (Guardian, Bushwatch, sptimes)
  • Clinton bombed the only medicine factory in Sudan (wiki-Al-Shifa)
  • It is Vatican policy to prohibit the use of condoms, even between husband and wife when one is HIV + (cnn, times, s2l)
  • USA has sponsored an Ethiopian invasion and even directly bombed a mountainous region of Somalia (NYT, FOX, Wired, Reuters, BBC, Globalresearch)
  • States that are permanent members of the UN Security Council are also the largest producers and exporters of weapons (USA, China, Russia, France, England). Arms trade flourishes within armed conflict.
  • Drug trade is second in profitability to arms trade. Drugs are also less lethal.
  • The war on drugs is a major beneficiary of weapons production and destroys the environment and lives of many in South America and beyond. Legalization of drugs in Portugal led to a decrease in their use (time, sciam, fk, btbw, salon). Dutch liberal policy on drug use led to the collapse of the population in prisons, while in the USA, with the most puritanical laws, is growing (Holland, http://bit.ly/DWdii).
Decriminalization of drug possession and weapons are based on the libertarian ideal that the state has no right to legislate the morality of the individual. Switzerland, which I consider closest to the libertarian ideal, has the highest rate of possession of weapons (over 90%, because every Swiss can keep their weapons after the compulsory military service) but the lowest crime rate in firearms. It also has a very permissive attitude about drug use. Governmental donations to Africa reach only the rich and corrupt, who use the money to buy arms from the donor states. That's why I donate through Kiva..
Sources / More info: yt, alicublog, mises-somalia, mises-forum, cato-anarchy, current-somalia, reason-anarchy-advantage, wiki-fatbeard, wiki-lib, wiki-noam, wiki-swiss, lib-sf
What It Means to Be a Libertarian: Charles Murray: Books
Libertarianism: A Primer: David Boaz: Books
The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism: Ronald Hamowy: Books
Anarchy, State, And Utopia by Robert Nozick (Paperback - Nov 10 1977) (.CA, .UK, .FR, .DE, .JP, .cn)
Libertarianism: A Political Philosophy for Tomorrow: John Hospers: Books
Transforming Free Speech: The Ambiguous Legacy of Civil Libertarianism: Mark A. Graber: Books
NATION, STATE, AND ECONOMY by LUDWIG VON MISES (Paperback - Aug 1 2006) (.CA, .UK, .FR, .DE, .JP, .cn)

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