The economics of pirates

Who knew pirates were democrats?

That tidbit of pirate history and more available in Peter Leeson’s An-arrgh-chy: The Law and Economics of Pirate Organization in the most recent issue of the Journal of Political Economy.

Leeson examines pirate history and lore and illustrates how these most treacherous rogues were in fact cooperative democrats who elected their captains and enforced discipline with constitutions.

In the absence of a state to enforce the rules, pirates had to develop their own self-enforcing institutions. It so happened that the particulars of ocean-bound thievery led the most efficient form to be one a relatively egalitarian rule-based one.

The book on guerrilla organization, meanwhile, remains to be written. Jeremy Weinstein has an excellent contribution, explaining rebel viciousness and recruitment styles by their resource bases, but more remains to be done on organizational structure, incentive systems, and conduct.

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