Friday, April 10, 2009

In Praise of Pirates

National Public Radio -- We shouldn't let our condemnation of modern pirates spill over, unchecked, onto their more colorful, and socially contributory, early 18th-century forefathers. These Caribbean pirates, men like Blackbeard, "Black Bart" Roberts, and "Calico" Jack Rackam, were also watery thieves. But unlike their Somali successors, they didn't only take something out of the world. They gave the world something of value, too.

Historical pirates were harbingers of some of contemporary civilization's most cherished values, such as liberty, democracy and social safety. At a time when the legitimate world's favored system of government was unconstrained monarchy, Caribbean pirates were practicing constitutional democracy. Before setting sail each would-be pirate crew drew up and agreed to a set of written rules that governed them. These rules regulated gambling, smoking, drinking, the adjudication of conflicts and, in some cases, even prohibited harassing members of the fairer sex.

Pirate constitutions established democratic governance for their roguish commonwealths. Crewmembers elected their captains by popular vote and democratically removed captains who dared to misuse their power. Because of this surprising system, far from tyrannical, the average 18th-century pirate captain was a dutiful, elected executor of his constituents' will.

Pirates understood what James Madison pointed out in the Federalist Papers: that the most important check on leaders' use of power is society's ability to select them. Pirates recognized this, and implemented it, more than half a century before Madison put pen to paper.

~Peter Leeson, economics professor at George Mason Univ. and author of "The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates"


16 Comments:

At 4/10/2009 4:58 PM, Anonymous Charlie Arlinghaus said...

We should admire pirates because they had an ordered set of rules that governed what? A set of rules that governed a conspiracy to steal other people's property. Pirates may have been organized in some admirable ways but they were thieves. They did not trade, barter, purchase, or provide a service to make their livelihood. They stole. if we believe one of the underpinnings of a non-tyrranical government is the right to property, the pirates are a failure. Put another way, should we admire Argentina for seizing the privates assets of its citizens held in the equivalent of a 401K? Sure it was theft of private property but the thieves were democratically elected and governed by a written set of rules. Let's not get carried away.

 
At 4/10/2009 6:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the REAL story behind the pirates!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjreRSFNLTI

 
At 4/10/2009 6:27 PM, Blogger 1 said...

Hilarious!

Leave it the barking mad libtards to see something good in today's piracy, something romantic & nostalgic about yesteryear's piracy, and admire their business model...

Yet Halliburton is eviiiiiiil!

 
At 4/10/2009 6:54 PM, Blogger Jack McHugh said...

Charlie and the others said it well. I'm afraid Peter and the lefty radio network folk are letting the distance of time and soft focus of reams of romantic fiction distort their view. I assure them, your view would be quite differnt if you had been an honest trader traveling with your family and goods aboard a ship about to be boarded by the previous era's pirates, knowing that you were about to murdered, your goods stolen, and your wife and children raped, probably raped to death. It's unlikey that an agreement defining which of the murderer-rapists got to go first would change your opinon.

Next, shall we discuss how the Mongols were good for trade, say, from the point of few of an inhabitant of a besieged Kwarezmian city, knowing that within days every man, woman, child, dog, cat, chicken, golfish and gerbil in your city were about to be hacked to death with swords?

 
At 4/10/2009 6:56 PM, Blogger Jack McHugh said...

PS. I imagine ships being sunk by pirates was good for the economy, too - all those shipyard jobs to build replacements!

 
At 4/10/2009 6:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on you guys! In todays world of PC Obama Voters, Thay are NOT called Pirates. They should be called Wealth Redistributionists.

Like Democrats in the USA only with different Uniforms

Dave Johnson
Sacramento CA.

 
At 4/10/2009 7:10 PM, Anonymous Ralph Short said...

Someone from PBS should try to explain this to the Captain of the ship being held by pirates.

Madison had it right a couple of hundred years ago, destroy them.

 
At 4/10/2009 7:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the REAL story behind the pirates!

First, this was an American ship delivering food aid to Kenya destined for Somalia, not dumping nuclear waste. So, this "unofficial coastguard" of yours doesn't seem very concerned with who they attack and ransom, as long as they get paid?

Second, no one really knows the extent of any dumping or it's potential health impact since researchers cannot work in Somalia because of the chaos and violence. Further, it's very doubtful that these pirates are distributing their takings to those suffering from the side effects of chemical or radioactive poisoning.

This is what we have a Navy for, to protect U.S. interests on the high seas. The important thing is that none of these guys lives to attack another vessel. They should be given an ultimatum and shot if they fail to meet our demands. Hell, they should be shot even if they meet our demands, but I'm sure Obambi will only apologize for the inconvenience we've caused and promise to deliver the ransom money faster next time.

 
At 4/10/2009 7:12 PM, Anonymous gettingrational said...

James Madison's mentor, Thomas Jefferson, had to deal with pirates off the Barbary Coast. Jefferson refused to pay tribute as Secretary of State to keep the pirates away from American ships. The pirates in the Meditteranean were from a long standing philosophy of taxing non-Muslims as a right to be in proximity to their territories. The beat goes on even today. The professor is full of fried cukoo bird as far as his decmocratic underpinngs thesis goes.

 
At 4/11/2009 3:58 AM, Blogger 1 said...

We should remember that the USS Constitution was reconstituted to fight the Barbary pirates...

 
At 4/11/2009 10:58 AM, Anonymous Mika said...

I'm quite sure the NPR piece was a "tongue in cheek" report, orchestrated to be provocative and ironic, so lighten up and have a good laugh.

 
At 4/11/2009 2:56 PM, Blogger Curt said...

I am sorry, but I fail to see the difference between a government that considers my home their property to farm for tax revenue, my retirement their money to redistribute, my creativity and risk something that they should tax - all of which are at the point of a gun, real or implied -- and a pirate who directly appropriates my property for redistribution to his friends and family.

Wait. I get it. Actually, there ISN'T any difference.

One group gets together and takes from another by violence. THe pirates are just honest about it.

Hoist the Jolly Roger! Fill The Sails!

 
At 4/11/2009 10:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

TO 1,
The author, Peter Leeson is a graduate of Hillsdale College and received his Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University, he has been an F. A. Hayek Fellow at the London School of Economics.
Hillsdale College is not generally associated with what I think you mean by “libtards” nor is GMU. I believe that GMU is considered to be the center of the “.Austrian School” and is where Professor Perry earned his PhD.
Here is the publication list for Professor Lesson from his GMU page.
http://www.peterleeson.com/Papers.html

 
At 4/12/2009 7:04 AM, Blogger 1 said...

"I'm quite sure the NPR piece was a "tongue in cheek" report, orchestrated to be provocative and ironic"...

Well mika, what's tongue in cheek about having an AK47 held to one's head?

"The author, Peter Leeson is a graduate of Hillsdale College and received his Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University..."...

Hmmm, and this is suppose to be his get out stupid comments pass because his connection to the real world is at best tenuous anon @ 10:37 PM?

 
At 4/13/2009 12:13 AM, Blogger misterjosh said...

1,
I'd say that anon @ 10:37 PM is attempting to make the case that Peter Leeson is not a libtard, but rather just a regular tard, or perhaps a republitard.

 
At 4/13/2009 8:40 AM, Blogger 1 said...

"I'd say that anon @ 10:37 PM is attempting to make the case that Peter Leeson is not a libtard, but rather just a regular tard, or perhaps a republitard"...

Good point Misterjosh since God knows we've suffered through a few republitards in the recent past...

 

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