Saturday, May 09, 2009

Somalia under anarchy. We should be so lucky

Over at Filipino Voices, Ding Gagelonia quotes reports from Reuters and the Norwegian Refugee Council that the Philippines is second only to Sudan in the number of internal refugees. Read it and, as they say, weep, but what he wrote in the very first paragraph caught my eye:

If there are two places in the world where I would shudder to live in, these would be Somalia (where there has been no functioning government for some time such that it has become the base of sea pirates who continue to target commercial ships in the Gulf of Aden), and the desert nation of Sudan...

Somalia has always been a favorite example of statists against those who advocate that government should be limited: "Oh yeah? Well why don't you go live in Somalia, wiseass?" But is the example apt? The implicit basis of comparison of the anarchy in Somalia is with countries that have working governments, the United States or Japan for example, comparing the government of the US with its humungous government institutions, and the anarchy of Somalia. That's not fair. The proper comparison is between Somalia when it had a functioning government, and Somalia now. Is Somalia better off now than when it was under a "vampire" government? According to this study, it is. From the abstract:

Many people believe that Somalia’s economy has been in chaos since the collapse of its national government in 1991. We take a comparative institutional approach to examine Somalia’s performance relative to other African countries both when Somalia had a government and during its extended period of anarchy. We find that although Somalia is poor, its relative economic performance has improved during its period of statelessness. We also describe how Somalia has provided basic law and order and a currency, which have enabled the country to achieve the coordination that has led to improvements in its standard of living.
The study finds that general living standards improved in Somalia since the collapse of its government as compared with other sub-Saharan African nations, with improvements in death rate, life expectancy, main telephone lines, tuberculosis, and immunization for measles and DTP. It is only in infant mortality that it has seen a decline. Life expectancy for example has increased by 5 years as compared to when they had a government where life expectancy declined by 2 years from 1985 - 1990. And this:

Telecommunications is one major area of success in Somalia. The one measure for which we have complete data, main lines per 1,000 of population, shows dramatic relative improvement since Somalia became stateless, moving from 29th to 8th among the African countries included in our survey. We only have data since the collapse of the state for mobile phone, Internet usage, and households with televisions. Somalia ranks highly in mobile phones (16th) and Internet users (11th), while it ranks 27th in households with televisions. In many African countries state monopolies and licensing restrictions raise prices and slow the spread of telecommunications. In Somalia it takes just three days for a land-line to be installed; in neighboring Kenya waiting lists are many years long (Winter 2004). Once lines are installed, prices are relatively low.

This isnt to say that we in the Philippines should advocate for the elimination of our government, although I for one would not weep to see it go. Im just pointing out that the proper basis of comparison is between Somalia when it was under a government, and Somalia under anarchy. Are the Somalis better off now? In many indicators, they are.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

5 for playing: The Band

Taking a page from the Grif's nostalgia trip to when he was dancing to Tarzan Boy as a kid growing up in the Cagayan Valley, I bring you The Band. They got their name from when they backed Dylan when he decided to use electric guitars. He was Bob Dylan and they were... The Band.

I never even heard of them until my classmates and I decided to kill the hours between subjects and go see a movie documentary by Martin Scorsese on this band's (Who? What band?) farewell tour called The Last Waltz. The movie was a couple of years old by that time, but it was all new to us, and we came away fans and paved the way for my appreciation of Americana by musicians like Neil Young, Springsteen, and Tom Waits.

5. It Makes No Difference.

4. Up on Cripple Creek

3. I Shall Be Released (this once isnt from the movie)

2. The Weight

1. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down