As an opponent of statism I’m often confronted with statists who want to know where welfare would come from without a government. Explaining how mutual aid has worked before governments involved themselves in the industry doesn’t appease them because they can simply write such examples off as archaic solutions that cannot work in the modern world. I therefore keep my eyes open for examples of mutual aid being practiced in the modern world.
I’ve been reading Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles. So far it has been a really good overview of modern history in various African countries. The opening of the chapter on Senegal introduced a fascinating Islamic Sufi order. From pages 255-256:
In 1895 the Senegalese Islamic mystic and poet Cheikh Amadu Bamba Mbacke got out of the boat that was taking him to exile in Gabon and, kneeling on a mat that appeared miraculously in the water, prayed to Allah. Then he walked across the water back to Senegal and founded a global African trading company based on Islamic principles. Those who work for it are known as Mourides. In any city in the world today, if an African street trader offers you jewellery, belts or bags, he is almost certainly a Mouride, a follow of Amadu Bamba.
The movement he founded is based on three rules: follow God, work and provoke no-one.
Later his followers founded dahiras, prayer circles where they could meet, socialize and read the Koran and Amadu Bamba’s poems. They were also required to pay a subscription to help follow members in trouble and to contribute to the expenses of the whole movement and its leader.
For rural people arriving in town for the first time, the dahira provides a base and a network. The subscription enables new members to find accommodations and work. If one of their number dies, it gives money to bring the body home for burial.
Furthermore, taxes aren’t paid in the city where the order was founded, an autonomous zone in Senegal. From pages 257-258:
One shopkeeper in a long robe and Muslim kufi, selling music CDs and tapes, tells me that he came here and joined the Mouride because no-on pays taxes in Tourba. ‘Touba is not part of the state,’ he says.
If there is a problem that requires money the Marabout calls a committee and they ask everyone to contribute. And immediately everyone gives, it’s called Adiya. They give because they follow the Marabout but also because if they give, people know the road will be fixed and the water will run again. This is not like Dakar … It’s all one family here. If you believe in the father, you believe in his sons. Then there is the money you pay for the poor here — two and a half percent of your profit, so no-one suffers.
Entrepreneurs who have setup a network of mutual aid to help other members of their entrepreneurial order? And membership in the order is voluntary? I’ve been told that such a thing is impossible.
I’m not claiming that Tourban is an anarchist utopia or that the Mouride are anarchists. But they are practicing a way of life that provides the commodities most people ascribe to statism without statism. The Mouride are demonstrating today that there is more than one solution to the problems statists mistakenly believe can only be solved by governments.