The Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of Privateers
By Alexander T. Tabarrok
This article appeared in the Spring 2007 issue of The Independent Review

Privateers—private ships licensed to carry out warfare—helped win the American Revolution and the War of 1812 but fell into disuse after the federal government made it hard to monitor their performance. Like the government’s use of private military companies in today’s hotspots, privateering was an instance of the “contracting out” of security services, not the full privatization of security, and thus operated in the context of incentives and constraints established by the government.

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