|Born||July 29, 1979|
|Institution||University of Chicago
George Mason University
West Virginia University
|Alma mater||Hillsdale College
George Mason University
|Contributions||The Invisible Hook|
|Information at IDEAS / RePEc|
Peter T. Leeson (born July 29, 1979) is Professor of Economics and BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism at George Mason University. He is best known for his work on Caribbean pirates, which uses rational choice theory to explain pirate behavior. His book The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates examines the economic conditions and incentives that influenced pirate behavior and resulted in their being pioneers of democracy. Leeson is also known for his writings on law and economics, which use rational choice theory to explain legal institutions, and for his work on the economics of anarchy.
Leeson earned a B.A. in economics at Hillsdale College in 2001 and a Ph.D. in economics at George Mason University in 2005 with thesis titled Cooperation and conflict: self-enforcing exchange among socially heterogeneous agents under the supervision of Peter Boettke. In 2003–2004 he was a Visiting Fellow in Political Economy and Government at Harvard University, and in 2005, he was the F.A. Hayek Fellow at the London School of Economics.
Career in economics
In 2005, Leeson accepted a position as an Assistant Professor of Economics at West Virginia University, where he remained for two years. In 2007, he left WVU to accept a position at George Mason University where he is Professor of Economics and BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism. In 2009, Leeson temporarily left George Mason for the University of Chicago, where he was a Visiting Professor of Economics, returning to George Mason a year later. He is the North American Editor of Public Choice and on the editorial boards of several other journals.
[T]he case for anarchy derives its strength from empirical evidence, not theory.... Despite... significant arenas of anarchy we do not observe perpetual world war in the absence of global government, shriveling international commerce in the absence of supranational commercial law, or even deteriorating standards of living in Somalia. On the contrary, peace overwhelmingly prevails between the world’s countries, international trade is flourishing, and Somali development has improved under statelessness.
The Fund for the Study of Spontaneous Orders, which is administered by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, awarded Leeson its Hayek Prize in 2006, noting of his scholarship that,
Leeson has concentrated on the study of the problem of order where no formal law exists, showing how in such diverse situations as trade among strangers, banditry in colonial West Central Africa and modern Somalia, and life in pirate societies over the ages often informal rules emerge that allow order to be preserved without heavy-handed government control.
Economics of piracy
In the wake of the Maersk Alabama hijacking, Leeson's book and numerous articles on the topic of piracy have drawn substantial media attention. In an article published by National Public Radio, he said that "early 18th century pirates, men like Blackbeard, "Black Bart" Roberts, and "Calico" Jack Rackam, were not only thieves. They were also early experimenters with some of the modern world's most cherished values, such as liberty, democracy, and equality."
Although Leeson is careful to note that he does not praise the criminal actions of pirates, he argues that their self-organization is a useful illustration of how even criminal conduct is based on rational self-interest. In an interview published by The New York Times, Leeson summarized his thesis:
The idea of the invisible hook is that pirates, though they’re criminals, are still driven by their self-interest. So they were driven to build systems of government and social structures that allowed them to better pursue their criminal ends.... The reason that the criminality is driving these structures is because they can’t rely on the state to provide those structures for them. So pirates, more than anyone else, needed to figure out some system of law and order to make it possible for them to remain together long enough to be successful at stealing.
He has a tattoo of a supply and demand curve on his right biceps.
- Anarchy Unbound: Why Self-Governance Works Better Than You Think. Cambridge University Press, 2014. ISBN 978-1107025806
- The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-691-13747-6
- Media, Institutional Change, and Economic Development (with C. Coyne). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2009.
- The Economic Role of the State (ed. with P. Boettke). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, under contract.
- The Legacy of Ludwig von Mises: Theory and History (ed. with P. Boettke). 2 vols. Aldershot: Edward Elgar, 2006. ISBN 978-1-84064-402-9
- "Peter T. Leeson." George Mason University Department of Economics
- Leeson, Peter T. The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates. Princeton University Press. 2009. p. 195.
- Weiss, Joanna. "Everyone in favor, say yargh!" Boston Globe. May 11, 2008. 
- Worstall, Tim. "Wifeselling: Is Selling Your Wife Slavery?" Forbes. June 21, 2011. 
- Balko, Radley. "Trial by Ordeal." Reason. February 1, 2010
- Levitt, Steven. "The Economics of Gypsies." Freakonomics.com. July 27, 2010. 
- Leeson, Peter. Curriculum vitae. peterleeson.com
- Leeson, Peter. "Anarchy Unbound; Or, Why Self-Governance Works Better Than You Think." Cato Unbound. Cato Institute. August 6, 2007. 
- Fund for the Study of Spontaneous Orders. Atlas Economic Research Foundation. atlasnetwork.org. 
- Trumbull, Mark and Mark Sappenfield. "Captain freed from pirates in daring rescue." Christian Science Monitor. April 12, 2009. 
- Abraham, Marc. "How pirates of old really did the business." The Guardian. April 6, 2009. 
- Caldwell, Christopher. "No honour among pirates." Financial Times. April 24, 2009. 
- Hagen, Ryan. "Pirate Economics 101: A Q&A With Invisible Hook Author Peter Leeson." Freakonomics Blog. New York Times. April 20, 2009. 
- Leeson, Peter. "In Defense of Pirates (The Old Time Ones)." National Public Radio. April 10, 2009. 
- Attributed to Crain, Caleb. The New Yorker. Princeton University Press. 
- Leeson's website
- Interview at ReasonTV on The Invisible Hook
- Audio interview with Leeson National Review Online
- Leeson's bio at the Mercatus Center
- Roberts, Russ (May 25, 2009). "Leeson on Pirates and The Invisible Hook". EconTalk. Library of Economics and Liberty.