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

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  • Peter T. Leeson

Abstract

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, I analyze the system of piratical checks and balances crews used to constrain captain predation. Second, I examine 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. (c) 2007 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter T. Leeson, 2007. "An-arrgh-chy: The Law and Economics of Pirate Organization," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(6), pages 1049-1094, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:115:y:2007:i:6:p:1049-1094
    DOI: 10.1086/526403
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Peter T. Leeson, 2007. "Trading with Bandits," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 50, pages 303-321.
    2. Steven D. Levitt & Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh, 2000. "An Economic Analysis of a Drug-Selling Gang's Finances," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 755-789.
    3. Stergios Skaperdas, 2001. "The political economy of organized crime: providing protection when the state does not," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 2(3), pages 173-202, November.
    4. Dick, Andrew R., 1995. "When does organized crime pay? A transaction cost analysis," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 25-45, January.
    5. Peter Leeson, 2007. "Efficient anarchy," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 130(1), pages 41-53, January.
    6. Benjamin, Daniel K. & Thornberg, Christopher, 2007. "Organization and incentives in the age of sail," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 317-341, April.
    7. Peter T. Leeson, 2008. "Social Distance and Self-Enforcing Exchange," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(1), pages 161-188, January.
    8. Juin-Jen Chang & Huei-Chung Lu & Mingshen Chen, 2005. "Organized Crime or Individual Crime? Endogenous Size of a Criminal Organization and the Optimal Law Enforcement," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 43(3), pages 661-675, July.
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