The Invisible Hook

The Hidden Economics of Pirates

by Peter T. Leeson

Preview

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.


  • Princeton University Press; March 2009
  • ISBN: 9781400829866
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure ePub format
  • Title: The Invisible Hook
  • Author: Peter T. Leeson
  • Imprint: Princeton University Press

In The Press

"Light of touch and truly eloquent, The Invisible Hook is a terrific read on a fascinating topic. This is a beautifully written book."—Geoffrey Brennan, Duke University and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


About The Author

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