Life Expectancy Grew Almost Twice as Fast in Somalia’s Stateless Period as Its Historical Record With One

I wrote an article last month entitled “What the History of Somalia Can Actually Tell Us About the Practicability of an Anarchist Society” to address the common argument of people pointing to Somalia as “proof” that a stateless society doesn’t work, and that those who favor a stateless society should move there to see how their system would work in practice. My summary of the article was that

(1) If the power and involvement of the State are larger prior to its collapse, the incentives will be bigger to get oneself and one’s faction to fill out that “power vacuum” to attain the power over others that the State previously had; (2) people are quite able to adjust to take care of many public goods in the private sector; (3) judging point 1 antithetically, if the powers of the State are instead smaller before its collapse or dismantling, those incentives will be smaller and the system will be more stable than from the results in point 1.

But that was before I had seen the graph of life expectancy at birth in Somalia. According to statistics from the Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED), the rate actually increased significantly faster during the stateless period than under both the previous and subsequent periods with a state. From the state collapsed in 1991 to transitional state institutions were established in 2000, the life expectancy rate in the country increased with 5.609 years, while the rate only grew with 5.009 years from 2000 to 2015 (the latest available data). In other words, the life expectancy rate in Somalia grew 12% faster during the 9-year-period without a federal authority than the subsequent 15 years with one!

Lest we too quickly draw the line between correlation and causation, let’s just look at the changes to the graph:

Life expectancy

The graph hits its low and starts increasing in 1991 and hit its turning point in 2000 and had its growth slowed thereafter. Thus, things turn out to have improved far faster for the Somalis without a federal government than with one, at least if one deems the life expectancy rate a reliable metric for that.

The linear growth from Somalia became independent in 1960 until its peak in 1986 was about 0.3546 years (~4.25 months) annually and about 0.334 years (~4 months) annually between 2000 and 2015. In the stateless period of 1991-2000, on the other hand, the average growth annually was 0.623 years (7.5 months). The life expectancy thus increased almost twice as fast under stateless Somalia than in the two other periods in its history with one!

For the extra skeptical, let’s quickly take a look at the source of the numbers. The FRED graph is based upon data from the World Bank. The World Bank claims that its numbers are based on interpolated data from 5-year period data in weighted averages between six sources:

Source: (1) United Nations Population Division. World Population Prospects: 2017 Revision, or derived from male and female life expectancy at birth from sources such as: (2) Census reports and other statistical publications from national statistical offices, (3) Eurostat: Demographic Statistics, (4) United Nations Statistical Division. Population and Vital Statistics Reprot ( various years ), (5) U.S. Census Bureau: International Database, and (6) Secretariat of the Pacific Community: Statistics and Demography Programme.

Skeptics may point to the fact that bureaucrats in communist China and the Soviet Union manipulated statistics in favor of their own government, but what would be the incentive to manipulate data in favor of stateless Somalia among governmental agencies like the World Bank, the United Nations, Eurostat (statistical office of the European Union) and the U.S. Census Bureau? And if the Somali government was itself involved in the data collection and publication, shouldn’t the opposite trend be the case if they were to manipulate it?

If one is to trust this data – and if one doesn’t, I don’t think there’s much statistics left to trust if one is to be consistent – it indicates that a stateless society can work, and may even make things better than they were with a state, though a lot of factors play in in this regard, which I address in my earlier Somalia article.


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