Excellent Arrggguments

by Don Boudreaux on October 21, 2008

in Books, Complexity & Emergence, History

My colleague Pete Leeson has a new book on pirates — the economic, social, and legal organization of pirate institutions, to be more precise.  Pete is an incredibly creative young scholar.  You can pre-order the book here from Princeton University Press (and you should do so; because it’s not yet released, pirated editions are few!).  Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

Pack your cutlass and blunderbuss–it’s time to go a-pirating! The Invisible Hook
takes readers inside the wily world of late seventeenth- and early
eighteenth-century pirates. With swashbuckling irreverence and devilish
wit, Peter Leeson uncovers the hidden economics behind pirates’
notorious, entertaining, and sometimes downright shocking behavior. Why
did pirates fly flags of Skull & Bones? Why did they create a
"pirate code"? Were pirates really ferocious madmen? And what made them
so successful? The Invisible Hook uses economics to examine these and
other infamous aspects of piracy. Leeson argues that the pirate customs
we know and love resulted from pirates responding rationally to
prevailing economic conditions in the pursuit of profits.

The Invisible Hook
looks at legendary pirate captains like Blackbeard, Black Bart Roberts,
and Calico Jack Rackam, and shows how pirates’ search for plunder led
them to pioneer remarkable and forward-thinking practices. Pirates
understood the advantages of constitutional democracy–a model they
adopted more than fifty years before the United States did so. Pirates
also initiated an early system of workers’ compensation, regulated
drinking and smoking, and in some cases practiced racial tolerance and
equality. Leeson contends that pirates exemplified the virtues of
vice–their self-seeking interests generated socially desirable effects
and their greedy criminality secured social order. Pirates proved that
anarchy could be organized. Revealing the democratic and economic
forces propelling history’s most colorful criminals, The Invisible Hook establishes pirates’ trailblazing relevance to the contemporary world.

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