Sunday, July 08, 2007

The economics of pirate practices

Peter Leeson, an economist at West Virginia University, is writing a three-part series on the economics of pirate behavior and institutions. The first two parts are available online.

Part 1, "An-arrgh-chy: The Law and Economics of Pirate Organization," describes how pirates solved the problem of predation by captains that was common among naval and merchant ships by a system of checks and balances involving written constitutions and democratically elected captains and quarter-masters--in the 1670s, before England and a century before the United States introduced similar political developments.

Part 2, "Pirational Choice: The Economics of Infamous Pirate Practices," looks at the reasons for the use of the "Jolly Roger" as a pirate flag and the practices of pirate torture and pirate conscription.

Part 3 has been promised for the fall of 2007...

These papers are an addition to the literature about non-governmental institutions of law and order that arise within criminal organizations, in the fringes between government jurisdictions, and in areas of governmental neglect. Some other works addressing these topics include Diego Gambetta's excellent book The Sicilian Mafia: The Business of Private Protection, Robert Neuwirth's book Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World, Ian Lambot and Greg Girard's City of Darkness: Life in Kowloon Walled City, and the HBO series Deadwood and The Wire.

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