Monday, April 25, 2011

Pirates, Libertarians and Infrastructure

So, you're thinking that piracy is the product of failed states?  Not quite, argues The Economist, in a piece subtitled "Why Pirates Like a Little Law and Order."  In a word "infrastructure:"

because piracy is a “market-dependent” crime. Pirates may benefit from protection from other criminals. Selling the loot requires transport and the ability to store goods. All this requires some rule of law—but not enough to cramp bandits’ style.
 So piracy does not flourish in/around Haiti, Liberia, Sierra Leone . They need a "sweet spot," (E's phrase)  like Cambodia or Cameroon where they can draw on the social capital they need.  Even in pirate-ridden Somalia, it appears, the real piracy comes from the more stable north rather than the utterly wasted south.

Where pirates go, libertarians may follow.  Or vice versa.  It has seemed to me that one thing missing in the libertarian argument is any sensitivity to the level of civility and order you need to make piracy libertarianism work: what by way of safe and dependable harbors, reliable night watchmen, fully stocked ATM machines you need in order to support your enterprise and exactly how you get them. It was one of the principal vices of Reaganism that it undertook to demonize not "incompetent civil servants" but "civil servants," as if you could do without the lot. Of course there is no evidence that there has ever been: even if you'd settle for the Cameroon, you don't want Haiti. On this and so much else, where Captain Kidd leads, Ayn Rand may follow.  

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