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As Absolute Austro Libertarians we believe in people not governments. As such, we are constantly being targeted with arguments which, at first glance, seem to prove that a Libertarian society without government can never developed. As of lately, the Somalian case has been used repeatedly and almost up to a nauseating point to “prove” that we are wrong.

We are here today, to analyze the arguments and to see if they hold together. Let’s begin by stating the opposition’s point of view.

THE ARGUMENTS

The arguments are based on Somalian history and therefore we need to take a quick look at it. In summary:

A (very) short Somalian history

1960-1969 - Decolonization: Somalia is de-colonized and unites under a civilian government. This government is democratic with relative high levels of freedom with legal equality and reasonable political institutions. The two regions (North and South) retain their vastly different ways of living inherited from their previous colonial masters (UK and Italy) and tribal or clan traditions. Political efforts to unify those points of view fail. Different governments also attempt to recover territories from Ethiopia and Kenya by force and these efforts also fail. Governments slowly begin to lose control due to the widespread variations of opinions, clans, profusion of parties, election fraud, legal recuses, official corruption, nepotism and other problems.

1969-1991- Dictatorship: A coup d’etat is performed against the Democratic government and a military Council takes over. Members of the former government are arrested, political parties banned, the parliament and the Supreme Court dissolved, and the constitution suspended. The Council adopts an overall Marxist set of policies, nationalizing industry and land. They also launch large scale public works, literacy campaigns but also emphasize self-sufficiency, direct ownership of the means of production as well as Muslim principles of social progress, equality and justice. In 1977 Somalia tries to recover territories from Ehiopia through war and fails. From this point on, the military dictatorship becomes increasingly totalitarian, repressive and widely unpopular. Clan-based armed resistance movements (supported by Ethiopia) appear throughout the country.

1991-1995 – Civil War: Resistance groups rebel. The military regime is toppled. The Somali army is disbanded. Civil war breaks out as these groups begin to compete for influence in the power vacuum. The UN intervenes for humanitarian purposes and fails. UN troops are removed from Somalia.

1995-1998 - Decentralization: Resistance groups become factions and revert to older tribal customs and lands. Several coherent mini-states are formed (Somaliland, Puntland, Southwestern Somalia, Jubaland, Banadir and Galmudug) eventually adopting somewhat working administrations based on a mix of old republic’s, secular, traditional and Islamic laws.

1998-2006 – Consolidation Begins: Diplomatic efforts lead in 2000 to the formation of the Transitional National Government (TNG), which arguably diminishes violence between factions. The TNG is politically opposed by the Somalia Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC - warlords). The TNG is unstable and in 2004 it is replaced by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) with many terms dictated by the SRRC. The TFG is a formal government presiding over quasi-independent mini-states. Violence continues.

2006-2009 –Consolidation Continues: The TFG battles factions and particularly the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC - a powerful faction) and defeats it several times but not definitively. Eventually a quasi-diplomatic solution is found and the TFG absorbs the UIC. The TFG enacts Islamic law, but conflicts with other Islamic, separatists factions continue in the south.

2009-present – Civil War and Federal Government: The TFG continues to battle Islamic separatist factions in the south with some success. The remaining of the country arguably remains at peace. Once separatists are defeated, a new Federal Government is set-up.

The argument

The argument is based on two events:

  1. During the Decentralization stage (a point at which there was literally no government), people did not choose a Libertarian way and instead they reverted to their old clan-based structures of government. Libertarianism was supposed to have appeared by itself once the formal government was gone.
  2. Economic growth did not happen until governments (local and federal) were established. This proves that without a government to uphold laws, Libertarian-based Free Markets cannot operate.

Conclusion: A Libertarian way of life did not appear given the opportunity and economic growth was impossible without formal laws and therefore truly Free Markets (as indicated by Libertarian and Austrian Economic principles) can never work.

THE REBUTTAL

The GDP

If we are going to analyze what happened in Somalia in economic terms, we need an indicator. We chose to use the GDP. Although this indicator is far from ideal, it is the best we can have to measure some sort of generalized economic activity over time.

Somalia GDP

Re-stating Argument #1

The following graph depicts the essence of the first argument.

Somalia as Anti-Libertarian Argument

In other words, according to them, as soon as the dictatorship was eliminated and by means of a Magic Process which we, Libertarians, are supposed to know or provide, the entire country should have turned Libertarian.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

 Continue to Somalia - the great austro-libertarian failure? - Part 2

 

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