Everything I Know About Management, I Learned From Pirates


Who would have thought that pirates could be a good source of study for organizational behavior? It's true. A paper that came out this month analyzes the organizational structure of pirates.

This paper investigates the internal governance institutions of violent criminal enterprise by examining the law, economics, and organization of pirates. These most treacherous rogues terrorized the waters of the Caribbean, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans during the 17th and 18th centuries. Pirates formed a loose confederation of maritime bandits outside the law of any government. To effectively organize their banditry, pirates required mechanisms to prevent internal predation, minimize crew conflict, and maximize piratical profit. I argue that pirates devised two institutions to overcome these obstacles to successful organization. First, I look at the system of piratical checks and balances that crews used to constrain captain predation. Second, I examine how pirates used democratic constitutions to minimize conflict and create piratical law and order. Remarkably, pirates adopted both of these institutions before the United States or England.

So Jimmy Buffet's A Pirate Looks At 40 is really a song about business?

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Thanks to Matt Demeusy for the pointer to the original post.