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.

Alexander T. Tabarrok is Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, Assistant Editor of The Independent Review, and Associate Professor of Economics at George Mason University.
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Other Independent Review articles by Alexander T. Tabarrok
Fall 2019 Premature Imitation and India’s Flailing State
Fall 2013 The Global Organ Shortage: Economic Causes, Human Consequences, Policy Responses
Summer 2000 Assessing the FDA via the Anomaly of Off-Label Drug Prescribing
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