August 7, 2007

Pirates: The most effective organized criminal outfits in history

Peter Lesson argues that Self-Governance Works Better than You Think or Anarchy Unbound.

Even pirates had laws or "articles" as they called them
These included rules specifying the division of booty, “laws” against theft, and even workman’s compensation insurance to support crew members injured in battle.
To apply punishments and resolve disputes between crew members, pirates created an office called the “quartermaster.” Crew members controlled quartermasters both through their articles, which prescribed the “laws” quartermasters could apply, and by democratically electing crew members to this office.

The office of the quartermaster allowed pirates to overcome another obstacle anarchy posed for their organization—restraining potentially abusive pirate captains.

This system of governance was entirely voluntary. Pirates drew up the articles governing their ships before taking voyage and required unanimous consent before sailing. Any prospective crew member who disliked the proposed rules was free to exit before sail was underway.

The pirates’ private system of governance worked extremely well. Inter-pirate conflict was rare, order was well maintained, and pirates regularly successfully cooperated, making them among the most effective organized criminal outfits in history.

In some countries like Somalia, anarchy has proven better than an ultra-corrupt, predatory and abusive government.

Posted by Jill Fallon at August 7, 2007 6:33 AM | Permalink