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Captain Hook Meets Adam Smith

Debunking pirate myths reveals how
hidden economic forces generate social order
magazine cover

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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