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01/03/2006
Piracy

Inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's great novel Treasure Island, I am writing about piracy and markets with particular reference to such things as the constant changes in strategy that the pirates and Long John were always making. For example:

  1. Changing allegiance from pirates to treasure hunters on a dime.
  2. The large number of escape hatches they always had: keeping the boy as hostage, and holding the escape boats on Treasure Island with the Hail Mary defense of begging for clemency should their escape be impossible.
  3. The emphasis on short-term planning but lack of long-term planning so typical of the day traders who get drunk every night and don't keep good watch and go berserk when the nearness of the treasure chest beckons.
  4. Expert use of duplicity at all times, pretending to be cooks and ordinary seaman and getting hired as able seaman on just the right treasure boat, thereby front-running the squire and his party in a fashion so similar to that described by Harris.
  5. Their ability, even though untaught, to navigate almost as well as Jack Aubrey himself, by landmarks, entrances and shoals.
  6. The strict hierarchy of command with honor among thieves so that no one can dispose of the captain until he is given a fair trial and no stealing from one another is allowed. How similar this is to the pirates we meet with in our trading, whose word is their bond and who would rather go broke than dishonor a commitment to another member but take no prisoners vs-a-vs trades with the public.
  7. The secret respect we have for Vikings and pirates because of their ability to elude the law-abiding -- the same way we secretly admire those who have elaborate ways of front-running us in our day-to-day activities.
  8. The elaborate role of superstition -- for example, the fear of the ghost of Flint, and how this delayed the pirates. In the same way, so many traders use charts as a pacifier, thereby allowing them to fall victim to changes in fundamentals, as happened today. What other things can we learn from pirates? I'm out of my depth.

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