Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Eyepatches Cost Extra

A fellow asks Cecil Adams at The Straight Dope how much it would cost to fit out his own pirate ship, given the rather high and romanticized profile that piracy has had in popular culture in recent years.

Adams' answer: Around $36 million for a proper three-masted ship, cannon and assorted ne'er-do-wells who would probably be just modern enough to insist on being paid regular wages instead of taking a traditional cut of the profits. Somehow Adams avoided suggesting that the would-be lord of plunder pay his men according to their physical limitations or gifts -- by which I do indeed mean he should offer a buck an ear -- but fortunately for you, I went there.

Anyway, Adams notes that the most well-known modern pirates, mostly Somalis working in the Arabian sea and northeastern Indian Ocean, did not clear enough to justify such an expense, based on the best guesses about ransom, lost cargo and so on. He also notes that Somali pirates tend to have much lower overhead, eschewing three-masted ships and cannon for Zodiacs and AK-47s. Some of those are free for them (they are, after all, pirates), but even someone who feels a need to start out relatively under the radar by purchasing these items could find them for a good deal less than $36 million.

Adams closes by pointing out that traditional pirates as well as the modern-day crews tend to have short effective careers as well as short life-spans -- the two may be connected, in fact. However, the boardroom and trading floor "pirates" of the financial sector often escape the exposure of their misdeeds unscathed and frequently net substantial profits. But he overlooks another potential area, that of elected office, in which it is not unheard of to use your position for personal gain while actually being paid for it with public funds.

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