Why did pirates fly flags of Skull & Bones? Why did they create a "pirate code"? Were pirates really ferocious madmen? And what made them so successful? The Invisible Hook uses economics to examine these and other infamous aspects of piracy. Leeson argues that the pirate customs we know and love resulted from pirates responding rationally to prevailing economic conditions in the pursuit of profits.
The Invisible Hook looks at legendary pirate captains like Blackbeard, Black Bart Roberts, and Calico Jack Rackam, and shows how pirates' search for plunder led them to pioneer remarkable and forward-thinking practices. Pirates understood the advantages of constitutional democracy - a model they adopted more than 50 years before the United States did so. Pirates also initiated an early system of workers' compensation, regulated drinking and smoking, and in some cases practiced racial tolerance and equality. Leeson contends that pirates exemplified the virtues of vice - their self-seeking interests generated socially desirable effects and their greedy criminality secured social order. Pirates proved that anarchy could be organized.
Revealing the democratic and economic forces propelling history's most colorful criminals, The Invisible Hook establishes pirates' trailblazing relevance to the contemporary world.
©2009 Peter T. Leeson; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
"Leeson hangs the meat of his pirate tale on a sturdy skeleton of economics.... The Invisible Hook is a delightful read, thanks to Leeson's engaging writing. He reduces a veritable mountain of facts and history into an entertainingly educational experience." (Barron's)
"A brisk, clever new book." (The New Yorker)
The book sucked drew me in with it's premise (whacky economics and pirates) and delivered. The narrator speaks with a clear, calm voice explaining the economic rational behind violent (and in the chapter on torture the first hand accounts Leeson cites are graphically violent) sea banditry in the 18th century Carribean.
Leeson has obviously done his research; taking 17th century primary sources such as government documents and first hand accounts of piracy an applying modern economic theory to explain it.
The only drawback I can forsee with this book is that a reader who doesn't have any prior knowledge of the carribean pirates may need to pick up an Eyewitness series or other book on piracy to understand a bit more of the context.
If you like pirates, history, economics, or theories on why people commit violent crimes this book is a must listen.
Basically, it's "Freaknomics" with pirates - trying to explain piracy in terms of economic rationalism. Sounds fun, right? Somewhere early on in the book, something goes horribly, horribly wrong. The book is generally unhistorical, and armed with a few facts, the author goes on to make many conclusions. Some of those conclusions are just plain strange, and a few verge into offensive territory. Most of the conclusions serve a subtext of the book, namely that the pirates created something of a perfect Libertarian society. Even I, who arcs Libertarian in thought, call B.S. on this. There's just not enough to support the claims. The picture is over the top. As such, the book is pretty well a wasted opportunity. There's not enough untainted pirate information to make it a worthwhile read on that account, and there's plenty of better writers on economic philosophy to make it a good read on that account.
author of Lowcountry Legend's series
I wouldn't base any true history on the suppositions made in this book. There is simply isn't enough real data out there about pirates to decide that they had this wonderful society. I think that is merely wishful thinking, no different than thinking that chivalry really meant something in the middle ages other than dressing up warfare into a pretty package. This is the same thing only dressing up thievery.
"Patronising and Repetative"
The author takes ideas obvious to anyone who took a moment to think about the realities of the life of a pirate in the period under discussion and presents them, rather patronisingly, as some sort of revelation (e.g. at one point Leeson helpfully reminds us that "pirates were people", presumably just in case the reader had not been blessed with this stunning epithany). Add to this the extremely repetative nature of the book and you have to conclude that either the author didn't really have enough material or he genuninely thinks his audience is insufficiently intelligent to understand even the most basic concepts without their being explained in terms that an intelligent child would find simplistic and then repeated ad nauseum. I resent this from a man who appears to be under the impression that the fact that a group of people in a particular set of circumstances acted in a perfectly rational way in order to improve the success of their endevours is some sort of insight rather than it just being evidence that most people act much as you might expect them to in a given situation. Well, much as you might expect were you were possessed of even a passing familiarity with the underlying motivations which drive humanity, i.e. the need to balance the "selfish" survival instinct and the "altruistic" need to coopperate with others in order to maximise the chances of staying alive long enough to produce the next generation. Its no wonder that Economists didn't see the the current economic crisis coming if this book reflects the understanding of human nature present amongst such experts in the field.
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