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Captain Hook Meets Adam Smith

Debunking pirate myths reveals how
hidden economic forces generate social order
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From countless films and books we all know that, historically, pirates were criminally insane, traitorous thieves, torturers and terrorists. Anarchy was the rule, and the rule of law was nonexistent.

Not so, dissents George Mason University economist Peter T. Leeson in his myth-busting book, The Invisible Hook (Princeton University Press, 2009), which shows how the unseen hand of economic exchange produces social cohesion even among pirates. Piratical mythology can’t be true, in fact, because no community of people could possibly be successful at anything for any length of time if their society were utterly anarchistic. Thus, Leeson says, pirate life was “orderly and honest” and had to be to meet buccaneers’ economic goal of turning a profit. (continue reading…)

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The Myth Is The Message

Yet another discovery of the lost continent of Atlantis shows why science and myth make uneasy bedfellows
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Myths are stories that express meaning, morality or motivation. Whether they are true or not is irrelevant. But because we live in an age of science, we have a preoccupation with corroborating our myths.

Consider the so-called Lost Continent of Atlantis, a mythic place that has been “found” in so many places around the planet that one wouldn’t think there was anywhere left to look. Think again. On June 6 the BBC released a story about satellite images locating Atlantis in, of all places, the south of Spain. The story quoted Rainer Kuhne of the University of Dortmund in Germany as saying, “Plato wrote of an island of five stades (925 m) diameter that was surrounded by several circular structures — concentric rings — some consisting of Earth and the others of water. We have in the photos concentric rings just as Plato described.” (continue reading…)

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