22 Apr 2009

Private Law and the Somalis

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Dick Clark the Younger has an interesting article that he adapted from an actual law school assignment. An excerpt:

Because I recognize that government courts serve primarily to advance the interests of government power, my goals as an aspiring attorney are to use what I can from my legal education to work against the State—to oppose government action where private, voluntary action would better serve the interests of justice. It is the subsequent question—“How can private actors be entrusted with the provision of public goods like defense and justice?”—that makes a book like The Law of the Somalis important.

Van Notten, a Dutch lawyer, lived with the Somali people and applied his legal expertise to learning and understanding the Xeer, the traditional Somali legal system that has developed over thousands of years. The Xeer is remarkable because it is not dependent on a central government authority, but instead relies on familial, economic, and cultural pressures to insure that justice is done. While the details of the system leave some things to be desired—equal rights for women and greater alienability of property outside of the clan, for starters—it is based on core principles which are admirable and reasonable…

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