Pirate economics?

Normally, I can’t be motivated to read economics—no offense, economists, but I think the economics part of my brain got left behind on one of my many moves around the country, and it was locked in to one particular latitude and longitude anyway—but maybe adding a little swashbuckling and really bad puns in the title would help. Hilzoy has found some interesting examples, anyway. Here’s the abstract to one:

This paper investigates the internal governance institutions of violent criminal enterprise by examining the law, economics, and organization of pirates. To effectively
organize their banditry, pirates required mechanisms to prevent internal predation,
minimize crew conflict, and maximize piratical profit. I argue that pirates devised two
institutions for this purpose. First, I analyze the system of piratical checks and balances that crews used to constrain captain predation. Second, I examine how pirates
used democratic constitutions to minimize conflict and create piratical law and order.
Remarkably, pirates adopted both of these institutions before the United States or
England. Pirate governance created sufficient order and cooperation to make pirates
one of the most sophisticated and successful criminal organizations in history.

Maybe I should read that more carefully. If a group as anarchic as pirates could find a way to stably organize, maybe there are some hints for us atheists.

No, gang, boarding churches and looting them of their wealth probably isn’t a viable strategy to give us a unifying profit motive. We’re going to have to think about something more abstract. Although I do confess that a viking lifestyle does have some appeal…


  1. #1 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    June 15, 2007

    How is it that when national governance isn’t effective, organized crime such as pirating or mafia steps in? Maybe there is something in those sayings that there is only a difference in labeling. (Or framing, as it is known here.)

    Although I do confess that a viking lifestyle does have some appeal…

    Perhaps you are dreaming about raping virgins again.

    Hmm, boarding churches may get you access to more of these, at least nominal ones. Not the young boys though, seems they are often introduced to the finer points of religion.

  2. #2 David Marjanovi?
    June 15, 2007

    Gremlin, you just earned a molly nomination for coining (or at least using) the term ‘free-bootery.’

    Ah, is that new? I thought I had finally found the word for translating German Freibeuterei. What do you say instead? Privateering?

    Wasps, citing is no different from citing Answers in Genesis. Take a short look outside the US of A, and then come back, with evidence.

  3. #3 David Marjanovi?
    June 15, 2007

    The irony here is that you’re probably American.

    Austrian. Currently living in France. Not been to the USA for longer than six days (for a congress).

    (Funny what the world has come to: two Europeans accusing each other of being Americans. Makes one pause.)

    Thanks for the links, I’ll have a look at them over the weekend, including the one from Just so much tonight: how would you avoid having lots of people end up with either no or almost no health insurance?