Solving World Problems: Warlords

From: Adrian Tymes (
Date: Mon Jan 28 2002 - 21:26:00 MST

Anders Sandberg wrote:

> More seriously the problem of hunger is not really due to lack of food
> production but rather lack of distribution and buying power among the
> poor. Even a cornucopia tree won't help if local warlords tax you 100%
> at gunpoint. So the first step towards a solution to hunger may be less
> spreading modified tree seeds (I think that is part of the *second*
> step), but rather to spread satelite phones to make people able to
> communicate with each other outside local ruler's control.

Which is happening. It would also help if someone could find a good
solution to the problem of warlords in general.

The problem: almost nowhere in the world does the rule of law actually
apply fully. Any major nation on Earth has those who would track its
faults (USA; the EU - or, if you prefer, each of its member nations;
Australia; Japan; Russia; China; et cetera), and most non-major nations
barely have even a pretense of laws. It is in the latter that the
problem is most evident: a farmer's yearly harvest can be stolen in
seconds by thugs with guns, under the guise of "taxation", "fees", or
any of a number of other official excuses. The farmer, of course, is
usually left with enough for himself to survive...else, who would plant
the fields next year? The burden of taxation is also not always
consistent; some years, taxes - or just bad luck in the form of drought
or whatnot - are heavy enough to force the farmer to find work in the

Violent force has been proposed to roust these thugs, but that suffers
from multiple problems. First and most importantly, someone will rise
to power in the aftermath; what is to stop the new leader(s) from being
just as abusive, if not moreso? (Continued force would lead to outright
invasion of the poorer countries, which leads back to post-Renaissance
colonialism - which has largely been overthrown as unacceptable, most
notoriously in a set of thirteen then-weak colonies which subsequently
became known as the United States of America.) Second, force can not
always completely remove the old power structure - indeed, a number of
these countries are wracked by civil war between former, current, and/or
would-be governments. There are more problems with this solution, but
these seem to be the largest.

Market reform and capitalism have also been proposed, on the theory that
the naural laws of commerce will induce the oppressors to reform as they
see that, for instance, businesses prefer to invest where there are
stable (and enforced) laws, since this greatly reduces their potential
risk (risk-averse, relatively-low-reward businesses seem to be dominant,
though these all too often blind themselves to long-term risks in their
desire to minimise short-term risks). While this has been used to
limited success, for instance with China, it relies on there being an
internal economy and a large enough labor force that business contacts
must go through more than a few people: bribing a few people is easy;
bribing each of an army of bearaucrats is expensive.

So...what other solutions are there to this problem?

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