Privatization

Pirates and Pinkertons

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The gradual privatization of policework proceeds apace. Piracy—real piracy, with boats and weapons, not some kid downloading Hannah Montana songs—has been increasing lately (a result, I assume, of efforts to control global warming). One effect, according to ISN Security Watch: "both states and the private sector are turning to private security companies…to help meet their maritime security needs."

Whole story here. Via IntelFusion.

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  1. Where can I apply for a Letter of Marque and Reprisal?

  2. “both states and the private sector are turning to private security companies…to help meet their maritime security needs.”

    Is this good or bad? On the one hand, there is competition between the private companies, presumably leading to better service and less abuse, while also taking unilateral power away from law enforcement. On the other, this hasn’t exactly worked out very well in Iraq.

  3. Is this good or bad?

    To the extent that we’re talking about purely private arrangements, I think it’s good. To the extent that we’re talking about government contracting, it may be a mixed bag.

  4. Is this good or bad? On the one hand, there is competition between the private companies, presumably leading to better service and less abuse, while also taking unilateral power away from law enforcement. On the other, this hasn’t exactly worked out very well in Iraq.

    Iraq is not working out, but that has nothing to do with whether it’s a good idea to contract these services out to private enterprises.

  5. Solution – Hire Ninjas.

  6. Hm. The history of privateering shows fairly clearly that “independent pirate-hunting contractors” in the past have generally been little better and questionably more scrupulous than those they were hired to hunt.

    Oddly enough, this is because the best people at hunting pirates are…former pirates.

  7. Armed merchantmen is not exactly a revolutionary idea. A 3″ 50′ and a 25mm chain gun would likely keep these assholes at bay.

  8. Ninjas are for attacking ships (in the dead of night), not defending them. Samurai would be better.

  9. Now, with working links (I hope).

    Armed merchantmen is not exactly a revolutionary idea. A 3″ 50′ and a 25mm chain gun would likely keep these assholes at bay.

  10. Jesse Walker,

    We need to raise the corpse of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus to deal with this issue. 🙂

  11. We need to raise the corpse of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus to deal with this issue.

    The last thing we need is another fucking populist in charge, especially an undead populist.

    Fear the undead populist!

  12. Dang it, Jesse. Half way thru your 2nd sentence I had decided to make a Global Warming joke. But your preempted me in the last half of that sentence.

  13. Calling an organization a “private security company” seems to be a PR move by these firms and the Governments who hire them. There are already words in our language that sufficiently describe these groups depending on thier activities such as “privateer” and “mercenary.” I don’t have a problem with either of them as long as they are held accountable for thier actions

  14. “…a 25mm chain gun would likely keep these assholes at bay.”

    Arrr, aye matey.

  15. Maybe Jimmy Buffett wasn’t actually born 200 years too late.

  16. Taktix?,

    Fear the Optimates!

  17. Taktix?,

    The irony of course being that Pompey – once he was up against – became a leader of the Optimates. Or perhaps there is no irony at all in his fate, given the nature of Roman politics at the time.

  18. To the extent that we’re talking about purely private arrangements, I think it’s good. To the extent that we’re talking about government contracting, it may be a mixed bag.

    It may be a bit more complicated than that. I’m curious what sorts of rules Blackwater-Blue Water Edition will operate under when protecting private ships. Are these guys accountable for excessive use of force?

  19. Don’t forget, corporations don’t have the same hoops to jump through when buying NFA firearms. So incorporate before you apply for the Letter of Marque. It’ll make getting those .50 cals to mount on your patrol boats easier.

  20. Are the Blackwater guys accountable? NO, dependable.

  21. I’m curious what sorts of rules Blackwater-Blue Water Edition will operate under when protecting private ships. Are these guys accountable for excessive use of force?

    I expect that they would be just as accountable as the regular crew and owners of the ships would be.

    What constitutes excessive force on the high seas? Very interesting question. I suspect that deadly force is allowed against anyone who crosses the line into piracy, which I suspect includes anyone trying to stop or board your ship without your permission or any legal right to do so.

  22. Something that’s important to keep in mind when talking about defensive commerce warfare – there’s a definite difference between what you might call the active and passive modes. Authorising private individuals or organisations to “hunt” for pirates falls into the former, and I suspect would be very iffy on legal grounds. Although the US never did formally accede to the Declaration of Paris, its provisions have been settled international law for more than a century.

    Arming merchants ships, even if that included contingents of mercenaries, is an example of the latter mode – self-convoy, so to speak, in which one only engages the enemy if he attacks first. The legal issues here are less complex; you’re not talking about privateering or law enforcement, merely self-defence.

  23. I’ve heard rumor of some guy who bought a cheap fixer-upper yacht — of EBAY! — and fixed it up in ways never imagined in Egg Harbor. He and his crew are supposedly wandering around off of Southeast Asia with a triple-turbo-diesel 110-footer that supposedly will PLANE. If you know anything about big boats, you’re as impressed as I am.

    They cruise around, looking like an inviting target (they alter appearance with facades), then when attacked, they heave to. When the boarding party is about halfway between their ship and the yacht, the Good Guys obliterate it with the Bofors, then offer survival in exchange for immediate surrender. Their own boarding party then overwhelms the pirates (who really aren’t trained), puts a prize crew aboard, and heads toward the nearest friendly port.

    They will also ride to the rescue at 40 knots. According to the rumor, they have beat Naval Air to a couple of these. I guess when there’s a good profit, there’s an incentive!

    They fund their activities by collecting rewards (mostly, but not exclusively, for LIVE pirates) and selling stuff that dead and imprisoned pirates don’t need anymore.

    Photos I’ve seen include the muzzles of two Bofors 40mms peeking about two feet out of the forward well of the cabin of a modern-looking ship, one covering the bow-to-port-to-vertical and the other mirroring the first on the opposite side.

    The flying bridge is Kevlar/ceramic armored and equipped with 3 Browning M2s covering 360 degrees. Another pic showed a stowage rack holding several FN FALs and FN MAGs (similar to the M240G used by the US military) with battle pack ammo.

    That’s an awful lot of persuasion potential. The Bofors can reach any surface ship in sight, at 4 rounds per second.

    The only people in these pics are facing away from the camera, wearing Philippine camo and American body armor, so who knows? They’re all carrying FN P90s with 3 spare mags, radios, cameras and handcuffs — obviously a boarding party.

    Could be fun. And profitable. And definitely the libertarian solution to the problem!

  24. “both states and the private sector are turning to private security companies…to help meet their maritime security needs.”

    Is this good or bad?

    “To the extent that we’re talking about purely private arrangements, I think it’s good. To the extent that we’re talking about government contracting, it may be a mixed bag.”

    I think Jesse is dead on.

    True privatization that involves purely private arrangements — Party A hires Party B to provide services to Party A — is usually good.

    However, when Party G (the government) hires Party B to provide services to Party A, then the arrangement faces more hazards. Market forces are partly insulated, incentives are skewed, feedback loops are disconnected.

    – Party G isn’t spending its own money; it’s spending Party A’s.

    – If Party B performs purely or abuses Party A, Party A can’t fire Party B, only Party G can do that.

    – Party G may not give a shit about the quality of Party B’s work, at least not as much as Party A would.

    – If Party G is a monopsony buyer — that is, if no one else is allowed to hire Party B or its competitors — then from the POV of Party A, Party B is just as much a monopoly provider as Party G is, with all of its attendant problems. Party A has no one else to turn to.

    In short, this kind of “privatization” via government contract can be the worst of both worlds. Party G feels diminished responsiblity for services that are now provided by Party B, and Party B is not as accountable to Party A as it would in a true, direct, commercial customer arrangement.

    Whether that’s a problem in this particular case, I don’t know.

    I do recall an old Reason article about a private sea-rescue service in the U.K., which worked pretty well: “Life Savings.”

    https://www.reason.com/news/show/29503.html

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