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Pack your cutlass and blunderbuss--it's time to go a-pirating! The Invisible Hook takes readers inside the wily world of late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century pirates. With swashbuckling irreverence and devilish wit, Peter Leeson uncovers the hidden economics behind pirates' notorious, entertaining, and sometimes downright shocking behavior. Why did pirates fly flags of Skull & Bones? Why did they create a "pirate code"? Were pirates really ferocious madmen? And what made them so successful? The Invisible Hook uses economics to examine these and other infamous aspects of piracy. Leeson argues that the pirate customs we know and love resulted from pirates responding rationally to prevailing economic conditions in the pursuit of profits.

The Invisible Hook looks at legendary pirate captains like Blackbeard, Black Bart Roberts, and Calico Jack Rackam, and shows how pirates' search for plunder led them to pioneer remarkable and forward-thinking practices. Pirates understood the advantages of constitutional democracy--a model they adopted more than fifty years before the United States did so. Pirates also initiated an early system of workers' compensation, regulated drinking and smoking, and in some cases practiced racial tolerance and equality. Leeson contends that pirates exemplified the virtues of vice--their self-seeking interests generated socially desirable effects and their greedy criminality secured social order. Pirates proved that anarchy could be organized.

Revealing the democratic and economic forces propelling history's most colorful criminals, The Invisible Hook establishes pirates' trailblazing relevance to the contemporary world.

Published: Princeton University Press on
ISBN: 9781400829866
List price: $16.95
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Lots of interesting details on pirates and pirate life, but forces these historical details into what he claims is an economic framework -- in fact an ideological framework, very free market conservative view -- that he claims is the only way to understand pirates... This tendentious approach really is ham-fisted and undermines what could have been a much more interesting book.more
If this book were half as good as the title, it would be awesome. Sadly, it’s extremely repetitive and uses really crude rational actor economics. There’s still some fun stuff about how pirates governed themselves, why pirates were democratically governed among themselves, why pirates were so violent to those who resisted piracy, etc. But I can’t recommend a book that says (1) government is coercive by nature, which is its distinctive feature; (2) private organizations like condo associations are not coercive, because you can decide not to follow their rules and leave (ignoring that what ultimately puts you to that choice is that the government will enforce the property/contract rights of the condo); and (3) because people can leave the jurisdiction of a government, governments are subject to Tiebout competition. (2) doesn’t make much sense under any circumstances, but it’s laughable to say all three things in a single argument.more
I awaited the release of this book with great anticipation as it contains three elements I can't resists: pirates, quirky application of social sciences, and a terrific pun in the title. Overall it did not disappoint. Leeson examines the Golden Age of Piracy (roughly 1680-1720) through the lens of economics, seeking economic reason for what pirates did. Much of pirate behavior is based in reaction to the harsh and unrewarding life of sailors under cruel captains. Leeson shows how pirates preceded both James Madison and Adam Smith by decades by creating democracies and free market capitalism aboard their floating communities. It was beneficial to the crews as a whole to elect their captains and to sign pirate codes that would determine fair treatment - and a fair share of the booty. Pirates also should a fair amount of tolerance for black sailors among their crew making their racism subservient to the economic benefits of a good hand on board no matter what his color.The "Jolly Roger" and the wild antics of pirates like Blackbeard also have an economic purpose - to force the pirates' prey to surrender without a fight. Sea battles would damage the pirates' prize, their own ship, and perhaps even the pirates so it behooved them to act as threatening and crazy as possible to actually prevent violence. For many of these reasons, pirate ships were actually popular among the ordinary sailors who were willing recruits into a society that would allow them a voice in how things are done and take home a greater share of wealth than they'd earn in the merchant marine. The book concludes with a humorous management course as taught by a pirate with a syllabus of articles and books that back up the economics behind the pirate way.One quibble I have in this book is that Leeson often deviates from economics to slip in Libertarian ideology in tangents that seem odd and out of place. For example, he takes up several pages to convince the reader that all government is based on the threat of violence as opposed to pirate societies which were freely joined. He even writes of the benefits of pirate torture in regulating the behavior of commercial ship captains (who had to treat their sailors well lest they too be caught and tortured by pirates) but seems to see only evil in any regulation whatsover by government. Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable and educational book that brings the dismal science to life through the romance of piracy. Arrr!more
An entertaining look at the economic incentives that gave rise to the behaviors of pirates in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, making sense of such seeming paradoxes as crazed, bloodthirsty marauders who ran their ships through constitutional direct democracy more than half a century before the American Revolution. The summary chapter at the end is given as a prospective syllabus for Management 101 by Prof. Blackbeard, and is a hoot. (My wife, who has an MBA, wishes this had come out when she was in school.) Heartily recommended for any storyteller who wants to get into the world of piracy.more
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Reviews

Lots of interesting details on pirates and pirate life, but forces these historical details into what he claims is an economic framework -- in fact an ideological framework, very free market conservative view -- that he claims is the only way to understand pirates... This tendentious approach really is ham-fisted and undermines what could have been a much more interesting book.more
If this book were half as good as the title, it would be awesome. Sadly, it’s extremely repetitive and uses really crude rational actor economics. There’s still some fun stuff about how pirates governed themselves, why pirates were democratically governed among themselves, why pirates were so violent to those who resisted piracy, etc. But I can’t recommend a book that says (1) government is coercive by nature, which is its distinctive feature; (2) private organizations like condo associations are not coercive, because you can decide not to follow their rules and leave (ignoring that what ultimately puts you to that choice is that the government will enforce the property/contract rights of the condo); and (3) because people can leave the jurisdiction of a government, governments are subject to Tiebout competition. (2) doesn’t make much sense under any circumstances, but it’s laughable to say all three things in a single argument.more
I awaited the release of this book with great anticipation as it contains three elements I can't resists: pirates, quirky application of social sciences, and a terrific pun in the title. Overall it did not disappoint. Leeson examines the Golden Age of Piracy (roughly 1680-1720) through the lens of economics, seeking economic reason for what pirates did. Much of pirate behavior is based in reaction to the harsh and unrewarding life of sailors under cruel captains. Leeson shows how pirates preceded both James Madison and Adam Smith by decades by creating democracies and free market capitalism aboard their floating communities. It was beneficial to the crews as a whole to elect their captains and to sign pirate codes that would determine fair treatment - and a fair share of the booty. Pirates also should a fair amount of tolerance for black sailors among their crew making their racism subservient to the economic benefits of a good hand on board no matter what his color.The "Jolly Roger" and the wild antics of pirates like Blackbeard also have an economic purpose - to force the pirates' prey to surrender without a fight. Sea battles would damage the pirates' prize, their own ship, and perhaps even the pirates so it behooved them to act as threatening and crazy as possible to actually prevent violence. For many of these reasons, pirate ships were actually popular among the ordinary sailors who were willing recruits into a society that would allow them a voice in how things are done and take home a greater share of wealth than they'd earn in the merchant marine. The book concludes with a humorous management course as taught by a pirate with a syllabus of articles and books that back up the economics behind the pirate way.One quibble I have in this book is that Leeson often deviates from economics to slip in Libertarian ideology in tangents that seem odd and out of place. For example, he takes up several pages to convince the reader that all government is based on the threat of violence as opposed to pirate societies which were freely joined. He even writes of the benefits of pirate torture in regulating the behavior of commercial ship captains (who had to treat their sailors well lest they too be caught and tortured by pirates) but seems to see only evil in any regulation whatsover by government. Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable and educational book that brings the dismal science to life through the romance of piracy. Arrr!more
An entertaining look at the economic incentives that gave rise to the behaviors of pirates in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, making sense of such seeming paradoxes as crazed, bloodthirsty marauders who ran their ships through constitutional direct democracy more than half a century before the American Revolution. The summary chapter at the end is given as a prospective syllabus for Management 101 by Prof. Blackbeard, and is a hoot. (My wife, who has an MBA, wishes this had come out when she was in school.) Heartily recommended for any storyteller who wants to get into the world of piracy.more
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