Everybody’s an Anarchist Sometime

5f40unknownflags Everybody’s an Anarchist Sometime

Ben Powell of the Independent Institute
explains at the Freeman:
Consider Cambodia in the late 1970s. The Khmer Rouge
government intentionally killed more than two million of its own
citizens. That’s an average of eight percent of the population
killed each year while government simultaneously inflicted
countless other horrors. Do you think the Cambodian people, faced
with that government, would have been better off with no government
at all? Congratulations. You are, sometimes, an anarchist.

The anarchist-minarchist debate usually revolves around how well an
ordered anarchy could work. How well could law and order be
provided without state provision? That is an important question—one
that Murray Rothbard, David Friedman, and James Buchanan made
important theoretical contributions to in the 1970s. Bruce Benson
and others started making historical contributions in the 1980s.
And starting in the late 1990s,
scholarship ;on the question virtually
exploded. ;

Reasonable classical liberals can digest this scholarship and
disagree about how well an “ordered anarchy” might work. But
whether you cling to Hobbesian notions of a nasty, brutish, and
short life in anarchy, or believe anarchy would be libertarian
paradise, you have only answered half the question about anarchy’s
desirability. The other half of the question is, “Compared to what
He takes the infamous example of Somalia, one of
liberals’ favorite strawmen for libertarianism:
Cases like Pol Pot’s Cambodia are easy calls for most
of us. It would take extraordinary Hobbesian assumptions about life
without a state to think that Cambodians were better off with his
government than they would have been without a state at all. The
Chinese under Mao, Russians under Stalin, Germans under Hitler—they
all fall in the same category.

The real question is how far to move the line. Somalia had a fairly
predatory state until its collapse in 1991, but it wasn’t nearly as
murderous as those above. It’s been in a state of anarchy since
then. To the extent we can measure them, living standards seem to
have ;improved ;since
the state collapsed. In fact, they’ve improved faster than the
sub-Saharan African average.

When classical liberals ;talk
about Somalia ;it is not because it represents some ideal
libertarian anarchy. It doesn’t. We talk about Somalia because it
passes the comparative institutions test. Its imperfect anarchy
seems to be doing better than the very imperfect state that
preceded it and many of those states it shares a continent

This does not prove that a limited minimal government wouldn’t work
better in Somalia. But that is not the relevant question. As I
argued in response to a bunch of nation-builders at a conference on
Somalia a couple of years ago: Whatever version of a government you
think is ideal, it is probably not achievable in
Somalia. ;

Consider other African governments today. Most brutally suppress
the freedom of their subjects and have horrible standards of
living. Check out their ;Polity
IV ;scores on how liberal/democratic they are, or their
economic freedom ;scores. How many of them, like
Somalia, would be better off ;stateless?
Read the rest of Powell’s piece
here and more Reason on Somalia here.


Everybody’s an Anarchist Sometime

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