Pirates and Policy
Dave Killion — October 9, 2010
Although the Victoria Libertarian Book Club has been working its way through “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”, I must confess to seeing another book on the side. Peter Leeson has produced a fun piece called “The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates”, within which he examines the challenges faced by pirates in their pursuit of profit, and the mechanisms they developed to overcome those challenges. I have been particularly struck with the two chief means of minimizing conflict within the group: democracy and constitutions.
According to Leeson, each ship had a constitution which outlined such things as the division of plunder, code of conduct, and the manner in which officers were to be selected, and anyone who wished to be on the crew had to agree voluntarily to abide by the constitution. Constitutions typically permitted officers to be elected by a simple majority, and an election could be held at any time.
I find this striking. Because the constitution required 100% approval, it didn’t matter very much whom was the captain. The captain was bound by rules that everyone knew, and to which everyone agreed. The rules were more important than the elected officials. I think a great many of our problems arise from being forced to obey governments ‘bound’ by constitutions we don’t understand, much less agree with.
Disclaimer: The articles and opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Libertarian Book Club.