Taking Stock

Some of the big piracy “firms” have definite potential to take their companies public – in fact, some of them already have.

Mohammed, a former pirate, told Reuters that “we decided to set up this stock exchange.

We started with 15 ‘maritime companies’ and now we are hosting 72. Ten of them have so far been successful at hijacking. The shares are open to all and everybody can take part, whether personally at sea or on land.

The Economics of Piracy, a Geopolicity report from earlier this year, shows that income from piracy off the coast of Somalia (worth $238 million in 2010) “could rise to… $400 million by 2015 based on projections. Given the supply and demand for pirate services, and income disparity between pirates and non-pirates, there’s plenty of room for expansion.” In an indication of the sector’s strength, operations were shown to become more frequent even as trade in the area declined.

According to the study’s authors, the good potential for growth and demonstrated resilience to global economic trends in mind, means we should look at some of the big players in the sector not as maritime criminals, but more as “the very essence of rational profit-maximizing entrepreneurs described in neo-classical economics.”

Geopolicity’s “low case scenario for pirate revenues indicates remuneration at 67 times the current annual per capita GDP — and the higher case up to 157 times that,” over the course of a five-year career in piracy. Even if the number of pirates were to double, the report’s data suggest that the average earnings would not drop significantly, demonstrating a lack of overexpansion risk. Plus, up to 70% of their revenue goes to financiers and support activities, ensuring continued backing and providing a more sustainable business model than that of, say, Groupon.

However there is a moral angle to this, which in the capitalist frenzy seems to be forgotten. The flying cash shouldn’t detract from flying bullets – just because a group are very good at doing a very bad thing should not allow us to be distracted from the sheer evil of their stock in trade.

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