Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Piracy - just a way to make a living

A new book looking into the economics of piracy (or, as the NYT tortuously called it, "aaargh-onomics" - do they have editors there still?) has been getting some attention.

Called The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Piracy, the book by Peter Leeson examines the supply and demand side of pieces of eight. The book focuses on the pre-AK47 days of piracy, primarily the mid-1600s to mid-1700s when the pirates life was a good one.

Unfortunately, there isn't in the way of insight in Mr. Leeson's book. A few highlights:
  • Most pirates were young men. Wow! Some deep insights from Mr. Leeson here. In other news, pirates enjoyed the occasional drink of rum
  • A pirate could make 100 pounds a month (about $24k in today's money), which was about 4x the amount merchant seamen made
  • Pirates elected their leaders. I suppose the NYT would call that an "aaaarg-ocracy"
  • Pirates took PR seriously so would occasionally torture resisters and have them walk the plank so that the word got out that the pirates would brook no opposition

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