by Adam Reger
Slightly related to this earlier post on economics and how I find it fascinating, to the extent that I ever understand it, I ran across something interesting this morning.
At my office, there is a department that publishes a journal that is essentially a bibliographic list of economics books. They receive a ton of books on various strains of economic thought, of varying levels of seriousness, from Freakonomics-level stuff for people like me to data-heavy reference books for the hardest of hardcore econ weenies. Every few months, there accrues a surplus of these books and an e-mail goes out announcing that whomever so desires can take whatever books he/she wants (from certain, marked shelves; it’s usually a surefire laugh (for me, no one else) to reach for an adjacent shelf, which will send one of the bibliographers into a mini-conniption, as they go to great lengths to keep their shelves organized and have to account for every book).
Anyway, I ended up taking Peter Leeson’s The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates. It looked interesting, meant for the layman, and concerns an area that I’m doing some minor research in for a project. (See this earlier entry re: pirate research.)
I went to thumb through the table of contents and came across this dedication: “Ania, I love you; will you marry me?”
This caught my attention and I hoped there’d be more to the story. There was. In the foreword, he singles out his girlfriend, Ania, for all the support and the hours of research help she’s given him, and says, “If I’ve succeeded in hiding my plans from her since writing this, she should be very surprised. I hope she says ‘yes.’ If she doesn’t, I might have to turn to sea banditry, which would be tough since I don’t know how to sail (though I’ve tried to learn).”
I had to know what Ania’s answer was. A quick Google search provided it, over at Peter Leeson’s home page. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll perform an econometric analysis of the effects of 17th-century trade policies on merchant seamen of that era.
(As an aside, Leeson’s back-flap bio says that he’s Professor of Capitalism at Johns Hopkins, but the article linked to above says that he teaches the economics of anarchy. Both sound fascinating, but together they seem, I don’t know, incompatible?)
Update: Evidence of what an economic naif I am: I just now got the “invisible hook” joke/reference, to the “invisible hand” of capitalism. As pirate-economics jokes go, that’s not bad.