Economics, Literature and Scepticism

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I am a PhD student in Economics. I am originally from South Africa and plan to return there after my PhD. I completed my M. Comm in Economics and my MA In Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Cape Town, where I worked as a lecturer before starting my PhD.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Leeson on Pirates

Posted by Simon Halliday | Sunday, May 31, 2009 | Category: , | too long ago, Peter Leeson published a paper, 'An-arggh-chy', on the internal governance structures of pirate societies in the 17th & 18th centuries.  I recently presented the paper to my PhD class 'Institutions of the Capitalism' with Professor Sam Bowles. You can download my presentation here.   Leeson produced a great piece of economic history, combining good discursive writing with high quality institutional analysis. 

Leeson provides evidence to indicate that pirate ships ran with democratic institutions (elected captains and quartermasters), that they obeyed unanimously ratified constitutions, and that they had universal suffrage for crew members regardless of race or gender (approximately 25-30% of crews were black and they all had equal voting rights).  If you have the time, read the paper, it is a highly commendable piece of work and should be relatively easy to read for the non-economist, though it may require you to look up some ideas like 'principal-agent problems'.

Currently have 1 comments:

  1. Thanks for pointing to this. I thoroughly enjoyed the article, though I really shouldn't have spent time reading it! :-)

    The bit about whether pirate institutions were efficient really annoyed me. Bad, bad, comparative method + manifest economists' trained incapacity.