Skeptic - Captain Hook Meets Adam Smith; October 2009; Scientific American Magazine; by Michael Shermer; 1 Page(s)
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. "To cooperate for mutual gain—indeed, to advance their criminal organization at all—pirates needed to prevent their outlaw society from degenerating into bedlam." There is honor among thieves, as Adam Smith noted in The Theory of Moral Sentiments: "Society cannot subsist among those who are at all times ready to hurt and injure one another.... If there is any society among robbers and murderers, they must at least ... abstain from robbing and murdering one another."