Thursday, November 20, 2008

Maritime Piracy

I have become increasingly intrigued by pirates operating out of Somalia. With no central government and a breakdown of the social order, I am impressed by the success of these bands of pirates boarding shipping vessels, demanding and actually collecting ransoms. Granted there is some danger associated with being a pirate, especially as the international community starts to step up its presence along shipping lanes.

The pirate gangs are similar to street gangs and outlaw motorcycle clubs in the United States. In some communities and social circles, there are very few opportunities to feed one’s family and the lure of fast money, with a calculated risk becomes very reasonable. Just as street gangs move from organized muggings and drug distribution to extortion and protection rackets, I feel that pirates will graduate. They will no longer actually board vessels, but simply demand a small donation to allow boats to safely pass through their turf.

Given the 10,000s of vessels and billions of dollars of cargo at stake asking each ship to pony up $5000 or 0.01% of cargo value annually and contribute to the pirates fund would save everybody a lot of trouble. This line of reasoning is precisely why there is world aid programs and on many modern domestic fronts social welfare programs.

Collecting taxes from individuals and paying out welfare is done only to the point of keeping the crime rate at an acceptable level. In the absence of social welfare programs crime would escalate as the risk of imprisonment or death no longer outweighs an individual’s living condition.

There are other alternatives to aid. Vessels will soon be armed to defend themselves. Private parties consisting of mercenary forces can escort precious cargo. This will become just another cost of doing business. Multinational companies have been paying off local corrupt governments for years in order to expand their operations. On domestic fronts more and more individuals will arm themselves and secure their homes to provide security above and beyond what a local police force or corrupt police force can provide. “Make my Day” laws will become increasingly more commonplace and extend to vehicles and business locations.

It is just another step towards necessary social revolution every now and again.

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