Monday, June 08, 2009

The economics of piracy

For the Register's Sunday Commentary section yesterday I reviewed Peter Leeson's fascinating new book, "The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates." The George Mason econ prof uses economic analysis to explain why most pirate crews were democratically run, with the crew able to install a new captain at any time (except in the middle of a fight, of course), why the loot was divided evenly among the crew, why pirates flew the skull and crossbones, and other aspects of pirate life. A worthwhile read that will sneak a little economics lesson in almost painlessly.

Since reviewing books is a small part of the writing I do, I seldom review books in order to pan them. I enjoy reading reviews that are pans and have decided on the basis of some that I'd just as soon no spend my time on that particular book, so they serve a purpose (though I have decided the same thing on the basis of raves too). If I did a book review every day or even every week I would probably slip in a few I hated to warn readers away from them, and to have a little fun. But since I do fewer -- maybe 15-20 reviews a year -- I prefer to use that opportunity to introduce readers to books I think are genuinely worthwhile. So it's not that I'm uncritical, or that I don't read books that don't especially impress me. I just usually don't write about them.

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