One of the more recent heckling techniques adopted by government apologists of all stripes is to point to the Horn of Africa, usually while chortling, and say, “There! You don’t like government? You want anarchy? Well, what are you waiting for? Move to Somalia!”
Indeed, the mainstream press have painted Somalia with the broad-brush catchphrases “anarchic,” “lawless,” and “chaotic.” This, however, could not be further from the truth.
Since U.S. troops deposed the dominant governmental regime in the early 1990s, Somalia has been a hotbed of would-be, wanna-be, and actual governments all vying for uncontested rule over the populace. At present, the U.N. and U.S.-backed “official” government is capable of controlling only a few blocks of Mogadishu surrounding its immediate headquarters. African Union troops, headed by the ruling elite in Ethiopia, have thus far proven wholly ineffective in stomping various warlord-run militias and hardline Islamic rebels out of existence. To the contrary, such heavily armed bands roam about the countryside, often entirely unopposed, seizing territory while looting, raping, and killing the inhabitants. Even al-Qaida affiliated or sympathetic groups are now increasingly drawing the attention of U.S. special forces military units, determined to bring the “War on Terror” to yet another front.
Meanwhile, the “civilan” Somalis attempt to live and work and trade with some semblance of normalcy, erstwhile under a hail of bullets, missiles, and bombs – both from factions domestic and foreign. The devastation and accompanying squalor on land drives many Somali men to piracy off the coastline, which prompts the U.S. Navy and armed vessels of other nations to step up their presence in the region, escalating the tensions and hostilities even further.
No, there is no “anarchy” in Somalia – not as that word is properly used; to denote an absence of rulers. While there may be many ways in which Somalis under such conditions are not hampered by the institution of taxation, and are thus free to trade what goods and services there are to be made or had on a voluntary, consensual basis, such conditions are not precisely conducive to optimum commerce. With a constant barrage of different warring factions running amok, each competing fiercely to be the one, uncontestable ruling force, there is only an atmosphere of impending statism with no current group of guerilla fighters able to muster enough firepower to snuff or drive away all of the others.
True anarchy – market anarchy – contemplates free and unbeholden individuals dealing with each other as peaceful traders for mutual benefit. If you want to do good business and turn a profit, you don’t go around killing current or potential customers, suppliers, partners and employees. You compete to be the best at providing quality goods and services at reasonable prices – not with threats and violence. Anarchism is, contary to popular belief, strictly a peaceful philosophy. Governments do and can only rest on violence as their ultimate defense. Markets, in and of themselves, don’t and can’t operate that way.
The truth is that there is nothing anarchic about Somalia. It is at present a rat’s nest of governmental (i.e. criminal) muscle-flexing, all ultimately to the ill of the Somalian people, and the world at large. It’s time the world learned this indispensable lesson.