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.


CodeSlinger says


Now that is interesting. Even more so when you consider that pirates often sailed under the skull and crossbones (the “Jolly Roger”), which just happened to be the maritime battle flag of the Knights Templar. Not only that, but Columbus sailed under a red cross pattee on a field of white, which just happened to be the peacetime flag of… the Knights Templar. Now widen the field of view to bring into focus the Templar roots of Freemasonry and the Masonic roots of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America.

And suddenly the connection between pirates and constitutions doesn’t seem quite so surprising…

— October 13, 2010

David C says

“Where the law is subject to some other authority and has none of its own, the collapse of the state, in my view, is not far off; but if law is the master of the government and the government is its slave, then the situation is full of promise and men enjoy all the blessings that the gods shower on a state.” – Plato

— October 13, 2010

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