Anarchy vs. social order in Somalia

In light of the Somali transitional government’s recent military triumph over Islamist forces, the BBC did a piece of very interesting testimonials from everyday Somalis — they all want a government for peace and order in their lives. Anarchy is extremely unpopular. (more info on this.) A musician complains that since nightclubs are shut down, his only work is at occasional weddings, and adds:

The wedding parties are big, spectacular affairs, you wouldn’t think they were in a country without a government.

But it’s only the people who are members of the big armed clans who can have these parties.

Other people get married but they cannot have big parties in case they are attacked and robbed. They just get married in secret.

I’ve been re-reading Hobbes and this sounds familiar — the enjoyment of all sorts of goods requires a strong organization protecting you, to deter would-be thieves. That’s what a good government does.

The musician concludes:

I cannot see all the different warlords working together. They are not going to fulfil their promises to disarm their militia.

They all still want to be president and we cannot have 15 presidents in Somalia.

And there’s the case for central authority over multiple holders of power — multipolarity, disunity, or whatever you want to call it. If the incentives for cooperation aren’t there, which too often is the case, central authority is the only way to achieve order.

Somalia — to say nothing of other places in the news like Iraq — seems a textbook case illustrating why social order is the very first requirement for a society in which members can achieve happiness.

Surely order is not sufficient for people’s happiness, as any totalitarian regime illustrates — but it is absolutely necessary. Argue about tradeoffs between justice, liberty, and equality all you want; they’re nothing without order to start with.

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