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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: February 2015

10 - An Argument for Anarchy in LDCs*

Summary

Somalia's experience highlights the importance of comparing really existing anarchy to the really existing government that might replace it. For the rest of the least-developed world, where governments exist, Somalia's experience highlights the importance of comparing really existing governments to the really existing anarchies that might replace them.

Anarchies and governments come in a range of qualities, from very-high-quality (or close to ideal) anarchies and governments, which are highly functional, to very-low-quality anarchies and governments, which are highly dysfunctional. Without explicitly acknowledging as much, the approach most commentators take when comparing anarchy and government is to compare high-quality government with low-quality anarchy. Somalia, considered in the previous chapter, is a case in point. Most everyone who sees central government as a solution to the current “chaos” created by anarchy imagines replacing that anarchy with a Western-style government – a government that looks and operates similar to the highly functioning ones that exist in the countries from which such persons typically hail, rather than a least-developed country (LDC)-style government, such as the brutal and predatory one that actually dominated Somalia's reality under Mohamed Siad Barre. This is problematic: comparing high-quality government to low-quality anarchy is sensible only if the anarchy one expects would prevail in a particular circumstance is of the most dysfunctional kind and the government one expects would prevail in that same circumstance is of the most functional kind.

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Leeson, Peter T., and Williamson, Claudia R.. 2009. “Anarchy and Development: An Application of the Theory of Second Best.” Law and Development Review 2(1): 77–96 [© 2009 Law and Development Review].