Saturday, September 22, 2007


Bloggers have been having fun this week with Talk Like a Pirate Day. I resisted the temptation this year (at least until I wrote the title for this post) though I do confess to being a huge fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. And there is even a skull and crossbones flying on my granddaughter's swing set in my back yard.

I have to admit that I had always assumed that pirate crews were pretty much anarchic organizations. Those PotC movies reinforce that stereotype with the running joke that the much invoked Pirate Code is "more what you'd call guidelines than actual rules, matey."

But then I came across this recent (apparently serious) academic paper entitled An-arrgh-chy: The Law and Economics of Pirate Organization by Peter T. Leeson of the Department of Economics at George Mason University. In the paper Leeson, citing numerous historical texts and using game theory, argues that...

  • Pirate crews developed a system of checks and balances to constrain abuse of the crews by their captains.

  • Pirates used democratic constitutions to minimize conflict and create piratical law and order.

  • Pirate governance created sufficient order and cooperation to make pirates one of the most sophisticated and successful criminal organizations in history.
Well, blow me down. Eat yer heart out, Jack Sparrow.


Anonymous said...

A belated Argh to ya me hearty

Carol Anne said...

Yes, pirate ships' crews had far more say in the operation of the ship than any other vessels'. I wonder if that's part of the romance that has been attached to pirates.

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