Friday, May 20, 2011

A pirate’s life for me

(the original founder of the Pirate Bay, working on the side as an unlicensed speech therapist for George VI)

“I understand everything. Except that wig.” (Azoy)

What should we think of privateering? Larry Sechrest provides a perspective.
The claim that all legitimate defense functions can and must be privately supplied flies in the face of certain economic doctrines that are almost universally accepted. Almost all economists declare that there are some goods or services that will be provided in suboptimal quantities — or not provided at all — by private, profit-seeking firms. These "public goods" allegedly bring benefits to all in the society, whether or not any given individual bears his or her fair share of their cost. This "free riding" by some persons diminishes the profit incentive motivating private suppliers. Therefore, to make sure that such highly valued goods are provided, the government serves as the principal, or often the only, supplier and taxes all the citizens in order to finance the production and distribution of the good. [...] 
The purpose of this paper is to challenge just that sort of statement. The attack on national defense as a public good that must be provided by the state will be two-pronged. One part, the briefer of the two, will raise theoretical questions about public goods in general and national defense in particular. The second part will be devoted to a detailed survey of privateering, a form of naval warfare conducted by privately owned ships which lasted from the 12th century to the 19th century.  What privateers were, how they operated, the legal customs that grew up around them, how effective they were, how profitable they were, and why they disappeared will all be addressed. The common employment of privateers during wartime will be offered as empirical evidence that defense need not be monopolized by the state.
Don’t be lazy. Read the paper. I am still looking up information on Barbary campaign, but here is one bit I saw:

The Barbary campaign was simply a way for the merchant class to get its defense costs subsidized by American tax payers. It was the beginning of the long tradition of the American military advancing the interests of American businesses around the world. 
If America had been a free society, American vessels would have paid to fly the flag of a foreign power that either a.) had relations with the Barbary States or b.) would provide protection from them. In the 12th Century the English navy did exactly that. It paid Genoa to allow its ships to sail under the protection of Genoa's flag, the St George's Cross, which eventually became the flag of England as well. 
In the absence of State subsidized navies, private merchant defense navies would be created which merchants would hire.
I am still verifying the claim that American merchants tried to raise/borrow money to build a private defense fleet and were not able to do so. 


e said...

I am lazy. I will not read the paper. I will therefore remain unconvinced that a private army could adequately protect a nation.

e said...


Certified Ashkenazi said...

Well, I am looking into this topic. I can’t say I am completely convinced myself. The same regarding children’s rights. I am not convinced that "the market" can provide children’s rights as effectively as a centralized government.

There are problems with the government’s services in these area as well, however... (First of all, one must come up with a clear concept of how even a centralized government would define children’s rights vs. parents’ rights.) Using Barbary wars as an example, Jefferson’s navy did quite a bad job of protecting US merchant ships. It’s not clear that a private navy would be less effective. As to why a private navy was not raised then, I am looking into it...

e said...

"It’s not clear that a private navy would be less effective."

did you mean to write "more effective"?

Certified Ashkenazi said...

No, I meant "less effective". It is not clear that military protection by the government is more effective than private protection by the private organizations...