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Archive for February 10th, 2011


Pirates will be Pirates

Although Leeson’s book has a secondary purpose of portraying pirates not as bloodthirsty anarchistic men but as rational profit seeking individuals I find the idea of anarchy quite interesting. Even if pirates within the confines of their “governance” structure were able to survive for months at sea without plundering each other, does that really mean the entire system was without anarchy. Leeson’s brings up Hobbes’s Leviathon which I had the pleasure of reading recently. He contrasts the common view of pirates being in the “state of nature” with his findings that they are actually in a higher state and under a system of governance. I would argue that although individual pirate ships operate in an economically rationale way, for the passerby ship attacked or the governments (and governances) plagued by fear of plunder and pirates. The entire system was still prone to a mild degree of anarchy.

This all points me to the same conclusion our authors make–governance only works in small numbers. The larger a group becomes the harder it is to get consensus or even determine the values of individuals in the system. In addition, with more individuals, free riding becomes an increasing problem because social pressure to conform because less intense. Our example in class of the neighbors pitching in to pipe a canal illustrated this well. Trying to connect this to our modern political system, perhaps letting state and even more so local government make the decisions that effect them most would be a good solution. Is this why so many economists are republicans (as far as I can gather).