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Author Topic: Xeer  (Read 1599 times)

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LTKoblinsky

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Xeer
« on: February 09, 2011, 11:49:29 PM »

OK, I brought this up in the leftist libertarian thread, but feel it's worthy of its own thread. Xeer is a system of common law indigenous to Somalia. Now, despite the stereotype of chaos, there are many independently studied indicators that this is not the case:
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If the expectation was that Somalia would plunge into an abyss of chaos, what is the reality? A number of recent studies address this question, including one by economist Peter Leeson drawing on statistical data from the United Nations Development Project, World Bank, CIA, and World Health Organization. Comparing the last five years under the central government (19851990) with the most recent five years of anarchy (20002005), Leeson finds these welfare changes:

    * Life expectancy increased from 46 to 48.5 years. This is a poor expectancy as compared with developed countries. But in any measurement of welfare, what is important to observe is not where a population stands at a given time, but what is the trend. Is the trend positive, or is it the reverse?
    * Number of one-year-olds fully immunized against measles rose from 30 to 40 percent.
    * Number of physicians per 100,000 population rose from 3.4 to 4.
    * Number of infants with low birth weight fell from 16 per thousand to 0.3 almost none.
    * Infant mortality per 1,000 births fell from 152 to 114.9.
    * Maternal mortality per 100,000 births fell from 1,600 to 1,100.
    * Percent of population with access to sanitation rose from 18 to 26.
    * Percent of population with access to at least one health facility rose from 28 to 54.8.
    * Percent of population in extreme poverty (i.e., less than $1 per day) fell from 60 to 43.2.
    * Radios per thousand population rose from 4 to 98.5.
    * Telephones per thousand population rose from 1.9 to 14.9.
    * TVs per 1,000 population rose from 1.2 to 3.7.
    * Fatalities due to measles fell from 8,000 to 5,600.

Another even more comprehensive study published last year by Benjamin Powell of the Independent Institute, concludes: "We find that Somalia's living standards have improved generally not just in absolute terms, but also relative to other African countries since the collapse of the Somali central government."

Somalia's pastoral economy is now stronger than that of either neighboring Kenya or Ethiopia. It is the largest exporter of livestock of any East African country. Telecommunications have burgeoned in Somalia; a call from a mobile phone is cheaper in Somalia than anywhere else in Africa. A small number of international investors are finding that the level of security of property and contract in Somalia warrants doing business there. Among these companies are Dole, BBC, the courier DHL, British Airways, General Motors, and Coca Cola, which recently opened a large bottling plant in Mogadishu. A 5-star Ambassador Hotel is operating in Hargeisa, and three new universities are fully functional: Amoud University (1997) in Borama, and Mogadishu University (1997), and University of Benadir (2002) in Mogadishu.


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There is time in this short talk to give you only some of the highlights of the Xeer. First, law and, consequently, crime are defined in terms of property rights. The law is compensatory rather than punitive. Because property right requires compensation, rather than punishment, there is no imprisonment, and fines are rare. Such fines as might be imposed seldom exceed the amount of compensation and are not payable to any court or government, but directly to the victim. A fine might be in order when, for example, the killing of a camel was deliberate and premeditated, in which case the victim receives not one but two camels.

Fines are used in another interesting way. It is expected that a prominent public figure such as a religious or political dignitary or a policeman or a judge should lead an exemplary life. If he violates the law, he pays double what would be required of an ordinary person. Also, it should be noted, since the law and crime are defined in terms of property rights, the Xeer is unequivocal in its opposition to any form of taxation.

Second, in order to assure that compensation will be forthcoming even in cases where the perpetrator is a child, or penniless, or crazy, or has fled abroad, the Xeer requires that every person be fully insured against any liability he might incur under the law. If an individual cannot make the required payment, a designated group of his kin is responsible. Van Notten describes in an interesting way how this happens:

    A person who violates someone's rights and is unable to pay the compensation himself notifies his family, who then pays on his behalf. From an emotional point of view, this notification is a painful procedure, since no family member will miss the opportunity to tell the wrongdoer how vicious or stupid he was. Also, they will ask assurances that he will be more careful in the future. Indeed, all those who must pay for the wrongdoings of a family member will thereafter keep an eye on him and try to intervene before he incurs another liability. They will no longer, for example, allow him to keep or bear a weapon. While on other continents the re-education of criminals is typically a task of the government, in Somalia it is the responsibility of the family.

If the family tires of bailing out a repeat offender, they can disown him, in which case he becomes an outlaw. Not being insured, he forfeits all protection under the law and, for his safety, must leave the country.
A third point about the Xeer is that there is no monopoly of police or judicial services. Anyone is free to serve in those capacities as long as he is not at the same time a religious or political dignitary, since that would compromise the sharp separation of law, politics, and religion. Also, anyone performing in such a role is subject to the same laws as anyone else and more so: if he violates the law, he must pay heavier damages or fines than would apply to anyone else. Public figures are expected to show exemplary conduct.

Fourth, there is no victimless crime. Only a victim or his family can initiate a court action. Where there is no victim to call a court into being, no court can form. No court can investigate on its own initiative any evidence of alleged misconduct.

Last, the court procedure is interesting. From birth, every Somali has his own judge who will sit on the court that will judge him should he transgress the law. That judge is his oday, the head of his extended family consisting of all males descended from the same great grandfather, together with their spouses and children. Several extended families make up a jilib, which is the group responsible for paying the blood price in the event a member kills someone of another jilib or clan. The oday, or judge, is chosen carefully, following weeks or months of deliberation by elders of the clan. He has no authority over the family but is chosen solely for his knowledge of human affairs and his wisdom, and he can lose his position if his decisions are not highly regarded in the community.


Enough quotes, but there are good descriptions of the court proceeding, description of the anarchy, and an explanation as to why democracy will fail in Somalia. All in all, I think this system would make Ian cum in his pants.
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TimeLady Victorious

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Re: Xeer
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2011, 07:48:26 PM »

If the family tires of bailing out a repeat offender, they can disown him, in which case he becomes an outlaw. Not being insured, he forfeits all protection under the law and, for his safety, must leave the country.

How is that different from violating the laws of a government enough to have to leave the country, else be imprisoned?
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LTKoblinsky

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Re: Xeer
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2011, 08:26:53 PM »

Losing the protection of the law and being threatened by the law are two entirely separate issues.
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TimeLady Victorious

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Re: Xeer
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2011, 08:28:47 PM »

Losing the protection of the law and being threatened by the law are two entirely separate issues.

Fundamentally, what is the difference between the two? You're fucked either way.
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LTKoblinsky

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Re: Xeer
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2011, 09:09:56 PM »

Losing the protection of the law and being threatened by the law are two entirely separate issues.

Fundamentally, what is the difference between the two? You're fucked either way.

Ummm, should I even bother seriously replying to you?! Fundamentally, "I'm going to kill you" is very different from "If someone else gets pissed off at your blatant and repeated offenses and tries to kill you, I'm not going to help you."
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TimeLady Victorious

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Re: Xeer
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2011, 09:59:20 PM »

Losing the protection of the law and being threatened by the law are two entirely separate issues.

Fundamentally, what is the difference between the two? You're fucked either way.

Ummm, should I even bother seriously replying to you?! Fundamentally, "I'm going to kill you" is very different from "If someone else gets pissed off at your blatant and repeated offenses and tries to kill you, I'm not going to help you."

Being outside the law with people having no responsibilty for killing you is fundamentally the same thing as actually being under risk of being killed.

If the group with the monopoly on the use of violence says that you may be killed because you have violated the law - and the group here being "the people under the law" does have a monopoly on the use of violence - what difference is it if it's some sort of bureaucracy or some sort of mob rule?
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LTKoblinsky

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Re: Xeer
« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2011, 10:36:46 PM »

What part of a lack of monopoly did you not read? I am willing to be my next paycheck you didn't do more than skim the article. There is no single entity that has punitive power. Outlaws only become so at the discretion of their immediate family.Also, there is no decree that they are to be actively hunted. Wait, why am I bothering trying to break this down for you? Read it for your own self.
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TimeLady Victorious

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Re: Xeer
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2011, 10:45:23 PM »

What part of a lack of monopoly did you not read? I am willing to be my next paycheck you didn't do more than skim the article. There is no single entity that has punitive power. Outlaws only become so at the discretion of their immediate family.Also, there is no decree that they are to be actively hunted. Wait, why am I bothering trying to break this down for you? Read it for your own self.

Except if "Xeer" is the law they're born into then it's no different from being born under the law of any one government.
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