Regular price: $19.95

Free with 30-day trial
Membership details Membership details
  • A 30-day trial plus your first audiobook, free
  • 1 credit/month after trial – good for any book, any price
  • Easy exchanges – swap any book you don’t love
  • Keep your audiobooks, even if you cancel
  • After your trial, Audible is just $14.95/month
OR
In Cart

Publisher's Summary

Pack your cutlass and blunderbuss - it's time to go a-pirating! The Invisible Hook takes readers inside the wily world of late 17th- and early 18th-century pirates. With swashbuckling irreverence and devilish wit, Peter Leeson uncovers the hidden economics behind pirates' notorious, entertaining, and sometimes downright shocking behavior.

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.

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.8 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    33
  • 4 Stars
    38
  • 3 Stars
    21
  • 2 Stars
    9
  • 1 Stars
    6

Performance

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    26
  • 4 Stars
    18
  • 3 Stars
    7
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    5

Story

  • 4.0 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    22
  • 4 Stars
    20
  • 3 Stars
    11
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    1
Sort by:
  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Dara
  • Raleigh, NC, United States
  • 09-21-12

A great read for people who love pirate history.

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Doubtful history

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Pirates lived in a Libertarian Paradise!!!!

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.

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Really interesting and enjoyable.

Must listen to if you have even a small interest in either pirates or economics.
You will understand how pirate society and ships were able to function and how they were, by necessity, ahead of it's time.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Pirates and Economics: College Dreams Come True

I quite enjoyed Leeson’s rendition of the typical pirate sort and would highly recommend it. The approach that he takes is that of Economic Rules and profit maximization. The book should not be seen as perfectly comprehensive or a detailed account of the time period, but conveys a new way to think about piracy.

Warning: If you are an economist or economics student, you will spend about 15% of the time just relearning some basics from school. Good luck.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Unique Sales Force Leadership Training

If you manage a sales team (especially a commission-based one where you don't control their compensation), you must listen to this book. Enlightening and entertaining.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Could have been summed up in a much shorter book.

This book was very interesting and has several great stories of real pirate happenings. It also shines a very different light on pirates and pirating, and what may have actually gone on on the high seas. My complaint is that the author spends a good deal of time repeating himself, whether to ensure his point is understood, or simply to fill more pages is unknown. The later chapters seem to just regurgitate information from earlier chapters, much the way I am doing in this review. Still, I can't help but recommend this book because I found it to be informative, entertaining, and well narrated.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Set sail for economics

A swashbuckling exploration of the economics of pirates. A great listen for people interested in economics, the golden age of pirates, or both.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Dry

I just couldn't bring myself to finish this book. The narrator brutally murders it. While the material is interesting, I just couldn't finish it.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

Sort by:
  • Overall
  • David
  • 10-30-11

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sort by:
  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Garth
  • 01-31-17

Great!

Both entertaining and informative, the Invisible Hook was well paced and a great book for a long drive.I couldn't fault it