Wednesday, November 12, 2008


History Lesson of the Day: Piracy and venture capitalism

In the 17th and 18th century privateers were backed by financiers, much like modern multi-national PLCs. The way that privateering was operating back in the golden age of buccaneering, is that a group of individuals come together, and agree to kit out a ship to sail the seven seas to see if they can pull in some gold. It was a global gamble for enormous rewards. These predatory voyages are the roots of modern venture capitalism, with these modern multi-national corporations out to get all they can get. That’s the sort [of] privateering that led to the Credit Crunch. —Dr Peter Hayes, Senior Lecturer in politics at the University of Sunderland, as quoted in "Did Pirates Create The Credit Crunch?"

Dr. Hayes is on to something, but not the source of the "credit crunch." What led to the "credit crunch" was an overleveraged asset bubble. But so far as I know the value of booty never deflated—which is to say, crashed—even if it may have been overleveraged through the sale of treasure maps, which bear a startling resemblance to financial derivatives.

On the other hand, if the investing class of the buccaneer era thought of the pirates themselves as the asset in which they were investing, and then used the presumed future value of this investment as a 1% down payment on a new château to be paid in full when their ship came in, and then used the château to borrow more money to equip more pirates... No! Surely no one of the 18th century could have been that dumb!

Related post
"First" of the Day: The death of IPOs (10/23/08)


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