Author: Peter T Leeson
Institution: University of West Virgina
Publication Date: 2007
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This paper asks the question: could anarchy be good for Somalia’s development? It argues that the Somali government’s collapse and subsequent emergence of “statelessness” opened the opportunity for Somali progress. It investigates the impact of anarchy on Somali development, concluding that on nearly all key indicators Somalis are better off under anarchy than they were under government. The paper will pose some useful questions to people working in the fields of governance, service provision and politics in a Somalia context, and those engaged in fragile state work more broadly.
Indicators of Somali welfare remain low in absolute terms but contrary to many expectations show an advance compared with their status under government. Life expectancy has increased, access to health facilities has grown, infant mortality has dropped, civil liberties have expanded, and extreme poverty has fallen. In many parts of the country even security has improved.
Nevertheless conventional wisdom sees Somalia as a case of deterioration and war. There are two reasons for this: firstly, the common view that government is universally superior to anarchy; secondly, the tendency to see the ‘failure’ of the current situation but ignore the worse state which preceded it (see page 3).
The author takes the view that, whilst a properly constrained government is superior to statelessness, it is not true that any government is superior to no government at all. Where commercial activity is allowed to flourish in the absence of government predation, progress on economic recovery can be made; private providers of law and order step in to fill the space left by the absence of state policing and courts, with a significant reduction in indications of corruption; education benefits. The author concludes that the attempted re-establishment of government in Somalia is likely to lead to more conflict and obstacles to progress than to less (see page 30).
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