The economics of “Certaine Lewd and Ill-Disposed
Persons”: Comment on Leeson
Published online: 28 April 2010
Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010
Abstract In The Invisible Hook, Peter T. Leeson explores “the hidden economics of
pirates.” The implications of his work are many, and there are several clear ways in
which scholars can build on his insights. First, exploring piracy helps us better
understand the rent-seeking societies of mercantilist Europe. Second, public and private
policy toward pirates helps us better understand the institutions and organizations that
emerge in order to govern and manage common resources. Third, the nearly universal
condemnation of pirates by religious authorities and political leaders as well as the
association of pirates with the demonic and satanic suggests further directions for
research into the interactions between ideology, politics, and economic institutions.
Keywords Austrian economics
New institutional economics
JEL Codes A11
In The Invisible Hook, Leeson (2009) contributes to the literature on self-government
by showing how cooperation emerged even among “certaine lewd and ill-disposed
He takes us on an entertaining and swashbuckling
Rev Austrian Econ (2010) 23:287–292
This is a characterization of pirates quoted by Ormerod (1926:1).
Art Carden is Assistant Professor at Rhodes College. This essay was prepared for a symposium on Peter T.
Leeson’s The Invisible Hook, held at the Southern Economic Association meetings in San Antonio on
November 23, 2009. I thank the student workers at Rhodes College (particularly Kelly Gillean and Dan
Truong) for research assistance and participants in the SEA Symposium for comments. Michael Warby
caught two errors in the first version of this essay that appeared online.
A. Carden (*)
Department of Economics and Business, Rhodes College, 2000 North Parkway, Memphis, TN 38112,