The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates

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Princeton University Press, Mar 31, 2009 - 288 pages
36 Reviews

Pack your cutlass and blunderbuss--it's time to go a-pirating! The Invisible Hook takes readers inside the wily world of late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-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 fifty 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.


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Review: The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates

User Review  - Ken Hamner - Goodreads

Excellent book explaining not only the life and economics of pirates, but also the social and governmental innovations they contributed to history. Very interesting. Read full review

Review: The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates

User Review  - Troyvenuto - Goodreads

This book grew out of an academic paper, and its origins are very apparent in the "finished" product. The info and conclusions in it are very interesting, and it definitely gives a much richer view of ... Read full review

Selected pages


The Invisible Hook
Vote for Blackbeard The Economics of Pirate Democracy
Anarrghchy The Economics of the Pirate Code
Skull Bones The Economics of the Jolly Roger
Walk the Plank The Economics of Pirate Torture
Pressing Pegleg The Economics of Pirate Conscription
Equal Pay for Equal Prey The Economics of Pirate Tolerance
The Secrets of Pirate Management
Omnipresent Economics
You Cant Keep a Sea Dog Down The Fall and Rise of Piracy
A Note on Sources

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About the author (2009)

Peter T. Leeson is the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism in the Department of Economics at George Mason University.

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