December 1, 2007

An-arrgh-chy: The Law and Economics of Pirate Organization

  • Peter Leeson

    Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
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This article investigates the internal governance institutions of violent criminal enterprise by examining the law, economics, and organization of pirates. To effectively organize their banditry, pirates required mechanisms to prevent internal predation, minimize crew conflict, and maximize piratical profit. Pirates devised two institutions for this purpose. First, the paper analyzes the system of piratical checks and balances crews used to constrain captain predation. Second, the paper examines how pirates used democratic constitutions to minimize conflict and create piratical law and order. Pirate governance created sufficient order and cooperation to make pirates one of the most sophisticated and successful criminal organizations in history.

Read this article at JSTOR.org.

Citation: Leeson, Peter. "An-arrgh-chy: The Law and Economics of Pirate Organization." Journal of Political Economy 115, no. 6 (2007):1049-1094.