The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates

By Peter T. Leeson | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE
OMNIPRESENT ECONOMICS

Pirates provide at least one other lasting lesson: the ubiquity of economics. The rational choice framework, introduced in chapter 1, truly is a universal way of understanding human behavior. Every person who has goals and takes steps to attain those goals is susceptible to economic analysis. That pretty much covers everyone—from politicians, to lovers, to thieves. The power of economics isn't just that it can be applied so widely. It's that only with economics can we make sense of a great deal of otherwise unintelligible individual behavior. Without economics, pirates, for example, are a veritable ball of contradictions. They're sadistic pacifists; womanizing homosexuals; treasure-lusting socialists; and madmen who outwitted the authorities. They're stealthy outlaws who loudly announced their presence with flags of skulls and bones. They're libertarians who conscripted nearly all their members, democrats with dictatorial captains, and lawless anarchists who lived by a strict code of rules. They're torturous terrorists who command honest men's adoration.

Economics and, I'd argue, only economics, can disentangle this mess of piratical paradoxes. This, in fact, has been one of the major purposes of this book. History is critical. But history alone cannot accomplish this task. The “raw material” contained in the historical record needs to be “filtered” through a theoretical framework that makes sense of its of en puzzling elements.

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