Caleb Crain reviews Peter Leeson's book The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates in the New Yorker.
A brisk, clever new book, “The Invisible Hook” (Princeton; $24.95), by Peter T. Leeson, an economist who claims to have owned a pirate skull ring as a child and to have had supply-and-demand curves tattooed on his right biceps when he was seventeen, offers a different approach. Rather than directly challenging pirates’ leftist credentials, Leeson says that their apparent espousal of liberty, equality, and fraternity derived not from idealism but from a desire for profit. “Ignoble pirate motives generated ‘enlightened’ outcomes,” Leeson writes. Whether this should comfort politicians on the left or on the right turns out to be a subtle question.