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The Invisible Hook.


I finished The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates by Peter T. Leeson. I would probably have enjoyed reading about the hidden economics of anything, and pirates proved to be no exception. If you would like a little introduction to economics, or you just can't get enough history about pirates, you should give it a read.

In explaining the apparent race equality on many pirate ships, the author provided the following scenario, excerpted from page 159. (I've added the emphasis.)

Consider a bigoted employer who loves brunettes but loathes redheads. Our bigoted employer owns a shoe factory and needs employees. Redheads and brunettes are equally productive; a redhead with 60 hours of training and a brunette with 60 hours of training produce the same number of shoes per hour. But redheads are willing to work at the shoe factory for $10 per hour, whereas brunettes demand $20 per hour for the same labor.

The author then goes on to explain that it costs the factory owner $10 per hour (per worker) to indulge his preference for brunettes over redheads, and that this profit motive can lead the factory owner to operate the business in a non-discriminatory manner, even though the factory owner retains his personal prejudices.

I found it interesting that (in the scenario) redheads and brunettes were willing to work for different wages. To me this suggests that the factory shoe owner is not alone in this bigotry; that there exists a culture of discrimination which drives the different acceptable wages.


Tags: economics reviews

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