Tuesday, February 19, 2008

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Best title for an economics paper.... ever

Peter T. Leeson, "An-arrgh-chy: The Law and Economics of Pirate Organization," Journal of Political Economy, vol. 115, no. 6 (December 2007): 1049-1094.

Here's the abstract:

This article 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. Pirates devised two institutions for this purpose. First, I analyze the system of piratical checks and balances crews used to constrain captain predation. Second, I examine how 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.

posted by Dan on 02.19.08 at 10:58 AM


Except for the Pirates of Penzance!

posted by: David Pinto on 02.19.08 at 10:58 AM [permalink]

I've had a look at the piece, and it doesn't strike me as an economics paper at all (though, it's published in a Political Economy journal). Seems the author's aim is to move the literature on criminal organizations from an emphasis on the markets that spawn them to their internal organization, which since they can't rely on the state for goverance, starts to look a lot like international "anarchy." Except, like other anarchical systems, pirate communities turn out to be anything but. This is a story about the emergent properties of governance, and the way in which proto-laws can be made to trump individual self-interest in anarchic settings.

posted by: Diodotus on 02.19.08 at 10:58 AM [permalink]

And I successfully defended the Maginot Line in graduate school (true). The old saying goes something like "it looks good on paper..."

posted by: Useless Sam Grant on 02.19.08 at 10:58 AM [permalink]

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