Are Pirates the Key to Understanding the World?

We can learn a lot about the evolution of democracy by studying pirates in history, says George Mason University economist Peter T. Leeson.

As early as the 1670’s, pirates were experimenting with elected leadership, worker’s compensation and checks on executive power, the Boston Globe reports in this preview of Leeson’s forthcoming book The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates.

On the other hand, high-seas piracy can also be the key to understanding 21st century terrorism, according to Douglas R. Burgess Jr.

Leeson previously wrote about the profit-maximizing strategies of pirates in his paper “Pirational Choice: The Economics of Infamous Pirate Practices.”

Dubner blogged about the economics of piracy here.

Pirates: Is there anything they can’t teach us?


how to play baseball

Andrew S.

"Pirates: Is there anything they can't teach us?"

Yeah--how to protect yourself against ninjas.

'cause ninjas could totally *kick pirate butt*.


Are pirates the key to understanding the world?

They arrrrr.


I thought I was going to be the first one to point out the relationship between piracy and global warming. I'm happy to see that people are aware of the recent scientific findings.

@Rubin: google "The Flying Spaghetti Monster"


The link between the decline of piracy and global warming seems to be clearly incorrect due to the simple fact that it is absurd ;-)


"Knock, knock."

"Who's there?'

"Interrupting pirate."

"Interrupting pirate w--"




"coldest global winter" doesn't disagree with global warming (which is either a misnomer or misleading, depending on your POV). The idea of global warming/global climate change is that while the average temperature will rise in the long term, one of the major issues will be more extreme temperature swings. So yes, we should see more extreme cold as well as more extreme heat.

It's not dissimilar to heatstroke, where your body quite simply freaks out and can't figure out how to regulate your temperature, so you'll easily swing between feeling like you're burning up to feeling like you're freezing, despite your core temperature steadily rising.

In his name, ramen.

Jolly Rodger

As far as the hollowing out of nation states is concerned a new book "The Sea Rover's Practice: Pirate Tactics and Techniques 1613-1730 by Benerson Little is being recomended by those with an interest in the impact of globalisation, etc.

The sea rovers written about in this book are described on Amazon as a "complex profession that sought wealth by stratagem and force of arms" .


The link between the decline of piracy and global warming expressed by the followers of the FSM seems to be clearly incorrect due to the simple fact that piracy is far from extinct, and there were more incidents of piracy in 2007 than previous years.

Dana G

They can also teach us about global warming:


Actually the upswing in pirate activity over the last few years neatly coincides with the leveling off of global temperatures (the world hasn't warmed in the last few years). The up tick in piracy in 2007 was accompanied by the coldest global winter in years. Since correlation is causation, the pastafarians have been proved correct: piracy levels control global warming. I, for one, welcome our new FSM overlords.

Mike B

Probably can't teach us much about sustainable business practices :-


"Pirates: Is there anything they can't teach us?"

Dental hygiene.

Michael Kriskey

That's right, Robert. Everything--but everything--that happens or could ever happen is evidence for global warming.

Get that through your head.

robyn ann

Dear Captain, My Captain;

We will have our day--soon-- thanks to you. And it will be written as "our collaborative day."

S Jones

You don't say but this idea probably originated from Buckminster Fuller (of geodesic dome fame). In 1969, he devoted two chapters in his "Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth" to the idea that most of recent world history and economics arose directly from the machinations of Great Pirates.

He meant the term literally, BTW, not as some colorful metaphor like "Robber Barons" because he believed that the wealth generated by worldwide sea trade fueled (even controlled) European monarchies and world capitalism.

In Bucky's sideways thinking (maybe genius, maybe crazy), Great Pirates were the real power behind Western states and shaped everything from economics to education.

For a short synopsis of his Great Pirates idea, see this article:
R. Buckminster Fuller's "Great Pirates" in World History ( )

Howard Campbell

S Jones, I beg to differ. I do credit R. Buckminster Fuller in a transcript regularly referred to as or Poker Without Cards.

Captain Mack is quoting a transcription of mine where I do cite the source. So, while I don't say in the text above where I am quoted, and I credit R. Buckminster Fuller. So, i do say... just not where I am quoted above.