The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates


Product Details

Princeton University Press
Publish Date
5.23 X 8.2 X 1.01 inches | 0.73 pounds

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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.


"One of San Francisco Chronicle's 100 Best Books for 2009"
"Winner of the 2009 Best International Nonfiction Book, Week"
"Winner of the 2009 Gold Medal Book of the Year Award in Business and Economics, ForeWord Reviews"
"A brisk, clever new book, The Invisible Hook, 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."---Caleb Crain, New Yorker
"[S]urprising and engaging . . . . [Leeson's] seminars must be wildly popular."---Stephen Sedley, London Review of Books
"Economist Leeson leads readers though a surprisingly entertaining crash course in economics in this study of high seas piracy at the turn of the 18th century. . . . Illustrated with salty tales of pirates both famous and infamous, the book rarely bogs down even when explaining intricate economic concepts, making it a great introduction to both pirate history and economic theory."-- "Publishers Weekly"
"Mr. Leeson's book represents a serious attempt to use the tools of economics to make sense of the institutions of piracy. The book is another example of economic imperialism, the use of economics to make sense of real world phenomena that are outside the standard realm of economic science. It addresses an important force that did, and does, impact world trade. But as the skull and crossbones on its spine suggests, the book is also just fun. . . . [T]he book manages to be entertaining and informative. It is a fun read and provides parents with something to teach their children while looking for pirate treasure left long ago at the beach."---Edward Glaeser, Economix blog
"The Invisible Hook is an excellent book by one of the most creative young economists around."---Steven D. Levitt, Freakonomics blog
"Peter T. Leeson has done his part to dispel the pirate myths by using economic theory to explain pirate behavior and organization in his exemplary new book. . . . Mr. Leeson has produced a fresh perspective on an old topic. . . . The Invisible Hook is quick-paced but thought-provoking. Based on this work, the reader should look forward to more books by the author."---Claude Berube, Washington Times
"Piracy has not been Leeson's only obsession. The other has been economics. When he was 17 years old he had supply and demand curves tattooed on his right bicep . . . now the professor has brought his two enthusiasms together in a wonderful (and wonderfully titled) new book. The Invisible Hook is his study of the hidden economics of piracy."---Daniel Finkelstein, Times
"Jauntily characterising the typical pirate ship as akin to 'a Fortune 500 company', [Leeson] reorients pirates as precursors of Milton Friedman and the Chicago school of economics."---Ludovic Hunter-Tilney, Financial Times
"One of the finest introductory courses in economics since Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson. . . . The Invisible Hook is a good addition to the genre of popular economics: a fun and enlightening read, and rock solid in its scholarly bona fides."---Michael Shermer, Nature
"From countless films and books we all know that, historically, pirates were criminally insane, traitorous thieves, torturers and terrorists. Anarchy was the rule, and the rule of law was nonexistent. Not so, dissents George Mason University economist Peter Leeson in his myth-busting book, The Invisible Hook, which shows how the unseen hand of economic exchange produces social cohesion even among pirates."---Michael Shermer, Scientific American
"Given the flurry of piracy off the Somali coast in 2009, this relatively short narrative could not be timelier. The Invisible Hook, a play on Adam Smith's famous 'invisible hand, ' is an engaging, informative look at the economics of piracy and pirates."-- "Choice"
"Peter Leeson, an economics professor at George Mason University, offers a fascinating perspective into the world of Blackbeard, 'Black Bart' Roberts and 'Calico Jack' Rackham in his highly readable book The Invisible Hook."---J. Peter Pham, San Francisco Chronicle
"An engaging and thorough portrait of high seas banditry that goes beyond the pop-culture stereotypes to argue that though often brutal and always mercenary, pirates were ahead of their time when it came to matters of economic fairness and progressive labor practices."---Kevin Canfield, Mother Jones
"[I]n The Invisible Hook, Peter Leeson deftly explodes piratical myths . . . . [The Invisible Hook] offers many colourful, meticulously researched insights into the behaviour of some of history's most colourful anti-heroes, and it will appeal to anyone with even passing interests in history, politics, sociology and/or economics."---Michelle Baddeley, Times Higher Education
"Leeson says history cannot explain all piratical paradoxes. Only economics can disentangle the different strands."---Leon Gettler, The Age
"Leeson hangs the meat of his pirate tale on a sturdy skeleton of economics. . . . The Invisible Hook is a delightful read, thanks to Leeson's engaging writing. He reduces a veritable mountain of facts and history into an entertainingly educational experience."---Lewis Perdue, Barron's
"This engaging account is fun to read and full of humor, qualities not often associated with an explanation of economic theory. . . . This reviewer speculates that if more economic texts were written like this one, there would be a glut of economics majors to compensate for the shortage of pirates roaming the Atlantic."---Karl Helicher, Foreword Magazine
"Peter T. Leeson digs into the dollars and cents of piracy. He urges us to see pirates as economic actors, their behavior shaped by incentives, just like the rest of us. Once you're in an economic state of mind, you can begin to understand actions such as lighting one's beard on fire, voting, being decent to black people, and torturing captives 'for fun'--all equally nutty behaviors to the average 18th--century observer. When Leeson is done guiding you through the pirate world, life on a rogue ship starts to look less like a Carnival cruise with cutlasses and cannons and more like an ongoing condo association meeting at sea."---Katherine Mangu-Ward, Reason
"Cleverly written and witty. . . . [Casts] a penetrating glance at the social and political motives of these odd outlaw communities."---Daniele Archibugi, Open Democracy
"Delightful. . . . Examines the hidden order behind the literal anarchy of pirates. . . . Entertaining and educational."---Roger K. Miller, Tampa Bay Tribune
"What possible connection could there be between economics and a book on piracy? A lot, it turns out. Peter Leeson explains this seemingly bizarre connection in page after page of his witty new book, The Invisible Hook."---David R. Henderson, Regulation Magazine
"[Offers] not only a thumbnail history of piracy but important insights into the economic way of thinking. . . . Fascinating, entertaining and educational."---Alan W. Bock, Orange County Register
"[A]n eye-opener. . . . The Invisible Hook is a gripping read that sheds as much light on 21st century economics . . . as it does on 17th and 18th century piracy."-- "Ethical Corporation Magazine"
"The book wittily demonstrates that economic theories and principles, if not the be-all and end-all, can illuminate notable historical trends."---Stephen Saunders, Canberra Times
"[W]ell-documented and very readable . . . covers pirates from bow to stern. In addition to some descriptions of high seas navigation, maneuvers and stealth that border on high adventure, Leeson supplies plenty of counterintuitive, even surprising, revelations about pirates. . . . And Leeson explains it all with economics. . . . Bottom line: Peter T. Leeson's The Invisible Hook is an insightful hoot, and scores a couple of extra points for originality. Economics-minded readers who enjoy historical adventure or relish over-the-top 'freakonomics' should get a hearty yo-ho-ho out of this book. Not to mention a 360-degree brain twist before diving into that new Michael Crichton novel."-- "Seeking Alpha"
"This is an enjoyable read that discusses the management style, branding, employee recruitment and retention, compensation and incentives and strategic planning of pirates and why these systems were effective. There are some valuable lessons to be learned."---Bill Sutton, Sports Business Journal
"Peter Leeson's The Invisible Hook argues that many of the founding principles of capitalist, liberal democracies are not rooted in the Glorious Revolution or the writing of the Declaration of Independence; but the incentive structures necessary to keep a group of rowdy ocean-bound outlaws working as a team of ruthless sea bandits."---Tim Wilson, IPA Reviews
"It's Freakonomics meets Pirates of the Caribbean. Jack Hirshleifer meets Jack Sparrow. Fischer Black meets Blackbeard. Adam Smith meets Captain Hook. . . . Peter Leeson claims, 'A pirate ship more closely resembled a Fortune 500 company than the society of savage schoolchildren depicted in William Golding's Lord of the Flies.' And by the end of the book, he had me convinced of it."---Rick Lax, Las Vegas Weekly
"Leave it to an economist to take our current obsession [with pirates] and peer under it in search of a new interpretation. . . . The Invisible Hook is an entertaining economic history of an era and a way of business rarely considered in such a way. Pirates were rational!"-- "MIT Sloan Management Review"
"Peter T. Leeson . . . puts salty flesh on the bones of the pirates' legend in The Invisible Hook, pulling off the formidable trick of being both rigorous and cheeky. . . . Leeson's lights . . . are bright and convincing. . . . [A] jaunty gem of a book. . . . [H]is argument assuredly does bolster the Chicago School case that the dismal science pervades every human endeavor."---Jonathan Stevenson, Democracy
"Leeson's book is stimulating, provocative, and, of course, a fun read."---Douglas Marcouiller, Journal of World Trade Review
"For those who are interested in a quick course in free-market political economy, or in a fresh approach to the history of piracy, The Invisible Hook provides many pleasures and provocations."---Philip Smallwood, Eighteenth-Century Studies
"The Invisible Hook is certainly a worthwhile read for various audiences. It can serve as an effective introduction to several key economic concepts with pirate society serving as an excellent vehicle for grabbing a reader's interest. This book would be an ideal supplemental reading for undergraduate principles of microeconomics or economic history classes. . . . The book can also be valuable to any historian of piracy seeking a uniquely economics-based perspective on their subject."---Andrew Young, Southern Economic Journal
"[Leeson] clearly is . . . an undoubtedly excellent teacher, because the style and tone of the book are that of an engaging lecturer who makes economics entertaining for his undergraduate students."---Mark G. Hanna, International Journal of Maritime History
"[T]here is much to be learned from Blackbeard and his compatriots: social order can arise without explicit design, and economics provides a powerful set of ideas for understanding how. This is the central idea of The Invisible Hook, and part of the reason why it is among the best popular works of economics in recent years."---Francis J. DiTraglia, Journal of Value Inquiry
"I guarantee that after the first few pages you won't be able to put this book down, and you will come away with a set of refreshing insights that you may very well find relevant to your own research agenda. . . . To put it bluntly, this book is a must read, or at least a 'should read, ' for comparative political scientists, particularly those with a taste for the world of economics. . . . Leeson should at least get a couple doubloons of your hard-earned booty."---Anthony Gill, Comparative Political Studies
"The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates, stands out as a novel contribution to international economics and, by extension, international relations."---Mitchell A. Belfer, Central European Journal of International and Security Studies
"Well shiver me timbers, this surely is a wickedly good book! In fact, Peter Leeson has produced a book applying the dismal science that is both fun to read, and entertaining. Arrgh-uably, it also has more economic relevance than 95 percent of the articles in mainstream economics journals. Furthermore, it is accessible to virtually any reader."---Bruce L. Benson, Public Choice
"With all the books on these colorful criminals, Leeson's is the only one to focus on the economic side of the matter. That is his great advantage."-- "Bibliotheque d'Humanisme et Renaissance"
"The Invisible Hook is a great read. I recommend it without hesitation to professional academics, students, anyone interested in a clear exposition of the economic way of thinking, and every scurvy dog who is interested in pirating."---Bruce L. Benson, Public Choice