June 1, 2010

Rationality, Pirates, and the Law

A Retrospective
  • Peter Leeson

    Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
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In the late 1720s Caribbean piracy was brought to a screeching halt. An enhanced British naval presence was partly responsible for this. But most important in bringing pirates to their end was a series of early 18th-century legal changes that made it possible to effectively prosecute them. This short paper’s purpose is to recount those legal changes and document their effectiveness. Its other purpose is to analyze pirates’ response to the legal changes designed to exterminate them, which succeeded, at least partly, in frustrating the government’s goal. By providing a retrospective look at anti-piracy law and pirates’ reactions to that law, this paper looks to supply some useful material for thinking about how to use the law to address the contemporary piracy problem.

Read the paper at Peter Leeson's website.