Yo Ho Ho By Roderick on November 23, 2008 7 Now that actual pirates are once again making the news, can we please stop using the term “piracy” for the peaceful dissemination of information? Thanks awfully. IP, Left-Libertarian
I hope with the resurgence of actual high-seas piracy, an empirical example of private defense services will be readily apparent. This might be enough to finally overturn some of the holdout minarchist arguments about defense on the high seas (I’m particularly thinking about the Barbary Pirates period from American history).
Does this mean I should stop humming “You Are A Pirate” when I start up soulseek?
There’s some evidence to suggest that the pirates began as guardians and later turned brigand. With the collapse of the central government and the civil war of the early 90’s, European companies gained a free hand enter Somali waters to dump toxic waste and deplete fishing stocks(http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/01/world/africa/01pirates.html?_r=1&ref=world). The pirates (sometimes paid by fishermen, sometimes fishermen themselves) sprung up in response to that, and while money was always their primary goal, they quickly came to see that going after the juiciest targets was more profitable than limiting themselves to people who had done something wrong.
Even still, claiming to guard Somali waters helps them to legitimize their actions.
“We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits those who illegally fish in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas. We are simply patrolling our seas. Think of us like a coast guard.”
That’s from an interview with the Somali Pirate, Sugule Ali, via satellite phone from deck of a seized Ukranian merchant ship carrying heavy weapons.
This brings to mind a potential problem with market-based defense that I haven’t seen addressed before: brigandage. In a forceful profession, people pick up skills that are equally suited to committing crimes as they are to stopping them. So when there’s a slump in demand, or crime looks more enticing, all these individuals are not only likely to turn to crime, but also better equipped to be successful at it. Europe following the First Crusade is a perfect example, when out-of-work knights and retainers returned home. I’d be curious to see if anyone’s addressed this before.
That said, SeaWolf Security Group may offer what you’re looking for. They train crews in the use of small arms, station marine contingents on ships and will soon begin their own patrols of global hot spots. I hear Blackwater is also getting in on that game, but I’m not too thrilled about that for obvious reasons.
With my friends here in colombia we have decided to call it “democratization” 🙂
In all of the news footage I have yet to see one eyepatch, jolly roger, hook hand, peg leg, or parrot. A sorry lot these pirates.
I would have thought that eyepatches, hook hands, and peg legs were signs of a relative lack of success at the piratical enterprise.
That’s very useful information Soviet Onion, thanks for bringing it to my attention.
It seems like what you’re concerned about has already been thought of and addressed, but perhaps you have some unique contributions to make to the formulation of the problem. You write, “…[B]rigandage. In a forceful profession, people pick up skills that are equally suited to committing crimes as they are to stopping them. So when there’s a slump in demand, or crime looks more enticing, all these individuals are not only likely to turn to crime, but also better equipped to be successful at it.”
Although this really looks like a more serious argument against a monopoly provider of security (or a cartel of security providers), I believe it might (with a stretch) lend itself to a critique of a free market as well. I think what you’ve described here as brigandage, is the birth of a state. The idea of the dominant protection agency becoming a state is one that has stimulated a lot of discussions among those who discuss market anarchism. I think this could be put forward as an empirical example against the idea, and so would be useful for minarchist debaters.
But perhaps only superficially. Left-libertarians specifically, and thick libertarians generally, have tended to focus on the need to change the dominant culture into one conducive to maintaining liberty, and as result making people ungovernable (I honestly didn’t intend to highlight the name of the Café Press store I link to). I have in mind militias made up of non-specialists (i.e. neighbors, mutual aid societies, clubs, religious organizations, etc.) as one check on the return of leviathan.
From personal reading I believe that the most widely given reply to the potential “return of leviathan” argument is that competition cannot be permanently repressed, and so a challenger to the new state will appear either internally or externally. In our present pirate example it seems that the pirates are focusing on external plunder opportunities instead of internal ones, and this would likely lead to an external challenge in response to it. It seems that this is what is already happening with governments beginning to get more cautious about the cargo ships that sail under their standards.
If SeaWolf Security Group, Blackwater, Defion, and Aegis start getting involved I think we’ll see something interesting… and probably bloody.