The Economics of... Anarchy?

I received this in the mail today:

2010 FEE Prize for best book in Austrian Economics

Peter Leeson, The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics Pirates, New Jersey: Princeton University Press

Third, and perhaps most importantly given the goals of the SDAE, Leeson makes an important contribution to the growing literature on the 'economics of anarchy.' This area of research attempts to understand how order can emerge in the absence of a formal state. What mechanisms facilitate interaction and cooperation where formal rules and regulations are either non-existent or dysfunctional? The power of Leeson’s analysis is to illuminate some of the mechanisms creating order where we would least expect it to emerge. Pirates, of course, were criminals—they stole from others and relied on violence where necessary. Given this, it is logical to assume that the anarchy in which pirates operated was disorderly and chaotic. In reality, however, pirate behavior was orderly and cooperative.

First of all, congratulations, Pete.

But, secondly, I am puzzled. Now, I admit that I haven't read the book yet (sorry, Pete), but I have heard Pete discuss it several times, and I must say, I don't get this talk about anarchy. What Pete describes, as far as I can tell, is that the pirates established their own government on each ship. They had laws, punishments, a captain, voting, and certainly no one was free to opt out this mini-state without emigrating -- why isn't this a story about the inevitably of government, rather than about anarchy?


  1. Only the coercive systems we don't like are called government or the state. Those we do like are called anarcho-hyphen-thing-we-like.


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