Somalia After State Collapse: Chaos or Improvement?, and Better Off Stateless: Somalia Before and After Government Collapse raised several questions about the absence of classic Anarcho-Capitalist theoretical institutions and practices in the now stateless Somalia. One thing both mentioned that is common to Rothbardian Anarcho-Capitalist theory is the primacy of precious metals, especially gold, as a medium of exchange to the exclusion of all paper currencies.

Rothbard and other Anarcho-Capitalists are typically steeped in western European and American history and traditions. That is their background, their educational base, their academic focus, and their native culture. It does not matter if their area of expertise is economics, history, philosophy, medicine, or some other discipline. They come to it haveing grown up and been educated in the same American or western European societies.

In western European history the development of media of exchange went through a number of both clearly demarked evolutions, and vague less clear evolutions. At different times, and in different places the medium of exchange might have been various species of live stock, copper ingots, stone axes, weights of grain or wine, or other objects. The tendency in western Europe was that the evolution eventually worked out almost exclusively and almost universally to weights of precious metals. Gold and silver. Gold and silver circulated both exclusively to each other and together in different places at different times. When states began to monopolize currency production they continued to use gold and silver.

In American and western European tradition gold and silver have been the currency almost exclusively for over 2000 years. It is only within the last century and a half or so that paper fiat currency has replaced them in primary circulation. And even now whenever economic crises looms people rush to transfer funds into gold and silver understanding that it will hold it’s value independently of the fluctuations of a national fiat currency. Preparedness advocates advise keeping some gold and silver on hand at all times to avoid the rush. The use of gold and silver is well and deeply entrenched in the minds and culture of Americans and western Europeans.

Africa is another story. African cultures remained in what Americans and western Europeans consider to be primitive states until exposed to the “benefits of the modern world” through colonialization. And why shouldn’t they? Their methods and institutions were perfectly adequate to meet their needs right up until they were invaded by war prone states. In Africa a tribal and clan based common law prevailed. Tools, and live stock served as the medium of exchange and filled the need perfectly. Precious metals were rarely used and then mainly in north Africa where there was greater trade with Europe, and the middle east. So most of Africa was never exposed to much precious metal. Most of Africa never experienced it used as a currency except by their colonial occupiers. Most of Africa never developed a cultural attachment to precious metals. It’s use by colonial powers may even have helped foster a nascent aversion to useing precious metals.

In the west were government to suddenly disappear we would likely quickly revert to useing precious metals because it is already a part of our thoughts, our education, our experience, our history, and our culture for thousands of years. In Africa they could not revert to something they never did in the first place. So the market, unhampered by a predatory state, found a solution that met the needs of the people and that worked, all by itself.