The Pile for January 25, 2010

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The Pile is our weekly guide to what we’re reading to become better managers.

Pirates! The word is everywhere today, to describe everything from desperate men off the coast of Somalia to teenagers who download a little too much Lady Gaga. Leave it to an economist to take our current obsession and peer under it in search of a new interpretation. Peter Leeson, an economist, is libertarian roughly to the same degree that John Yoo believes in executive power: to the extreme. Leeson grew up interested/obsessed with pirates and now mixes that with his chosen field in The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates. The book is yet another pop-behavioral-economics tome in the mode of Freakonomics, although with an even more polemical bent: he evaluates how pirates self-organized and managed rather successfully without a central governing authority. Some of the observations are unintentionally funny (i.e., “Of course, pirate justice wasn’t all upside”), but if you push the libertarian dogma to the side, 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!

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