We had to create our first theory on piracy in Clarke Speed's class. It's funny because in the beginning I equated piracy to being this really bad thing, but honestly it's not that simple. Piracy, in some ways, keeps people accountable.
Preface: I am not anti-America(n), nor do I mean to imply that our entire government infrastructure is a failure, but that it has delineated from its origins (of pirates) in some not-so-desirable ways. The result is our modern day, intangible pirates of the internet.
Pirates were indeed, and paradoxically, the first to establish a democracy—albeit aboard ships containing a far smaller number of people than that of which a government holds today. They were, too, capitalists. The definite difference between their democracy and that which reigns today in the United States is 1) pirates required unanimity in regards to rules and regulations, 2) the principals were the agents, 3) the fact that the whole democracy theme is now a government and not a governance, and 4) mutual gain.
Even though unanimity results in a whole, understood consensus in terms of definition and punishment (or not), that first difference mentioned will not be addressed. This is primarily due to the fact that—with about 318 million people—it is practically impossible to obtain unanimity on a single topic, especially one that determines legality.
By “principals were the agents” I mean this: no one principal, or captain or quartermaster was an absentee, thus his concerns were inherently linked to those he was in charge of because he was also in their present situation. Leeson defines principals as “people with something at stake, who hire agents to help them in their duties when it’s not possible or profitable for them to do so themselves” (38). These now not only apply to merchant ships but to businesses and governments as a whole and pretty much any infrastructure /business /capitalistic enterprise that has an “owner,” a person who gets a cut of the pay and who also designates the cuts and the rules and the way whatever he “owns” functions. Whosoever else works for this owner, or larger establishment run by people higher and higher up in the chain, he or she is the “agent,” the worker-bee, the person stuck in a specific environment (in which case the principal cannot relate and is even incapable of knowing that any particular thing is going on, which is essentially a recipe for bad business).
So, since, in our democratic government, the principals are not simultaneously the agents, things go by unnoticed, people/the public/the agents get ignored (sometimes deliberately, sometimes by accident) and the initial democratic notion that was so ingeniously formed upon pirate ships is not so ideal anymore.
This next part might just be the quintessential moment of this entire paper: a government functions via force, and so “everything a government does is therefore backed by the threat of coercion” (Leeson 48). In this sense force and coercion are synonymous; indeed, a government has an armed force or military, taxes, jail, labor or work, etc. All of these things are forms of force, and not performing or agreeing with any one of these results in government-assigned punishment. There is no choice. Moreover, not only is there force, synonymous with coercion, but there is also cultural coercion. Essentially, if any given agent does not go along with the designated status quo (which can even be defined/molded by media and government), then that given agent is often ousted and ostracized. The entire system of the machine is oiled by coercion, a type of operational human behavior (or, in this case, government behavior) that closes off alternative routes sometimes even to truth, which ultimately shows lack of respect.
An almost byproduct of this is the non-mutual gain that tends to prevail. If those in the government and those with power—power anymore is equivalent to the amount of money a person or company has—can be considered as the captains to the ship that is the entire United States of America, then is their (the captain’s) gain truly a gain, too, of the public majority (the shipmates)? No, especially in regards to the wage gap—which was hardly a gap when democracy first got its legs, sea legs that is. And if money is truly the same as power, then this whole wage gap thing becomes quite a problem. When a democratic government is supposed to have “a dependence on the people,” but that same government has an overwhelming amount of power, then the common shipmate can do little to nothing in terms of influence or change. The government, then, can abuse their power—the origin of democracy has now degraded into that of the merchant ship.
Now, if that shipmate were not so common, he would be a pirate: “…citizens don’t sit passively when faced with such predation” (Leeson 28). Since this economically-deemed “paradox of power” is being unresolved, there has been (and still is) a shift and an affinity towards piracy, from the most basic level of copyright to the politically intentioned level. Though pirates are not on vessels or ships today, there are still an overwhelming amount of them. Ones that use the internet as their sea. They recognize and dislike the current hierarchical status that has formed in our culture and government today, and seek to almost create a social revolution. But any process of change is always a slow one. The goal is no longer a financial gain either; the booty of today lies in information/communication. A cyber-pirate’s goal is to disrupt the relaying, or shipping process, of information from one source to another. In this sense, there is still that overarching theme of movement. This form of piracy does not involve raping or pillaging—although it can involve stealing. More typically, however, “the aim is to encourage information sharing [or stopping, for the deemed ‘better good’ of the public] to achieve a common awareness of the types and quantity of [the aforementioned large, powerful, non-mutual gain governments/ people/ organizations]; the additional capabilities needed in order to place the necessary ships and [pirates] in positions where they can intercept or deter [unjust hierarchical powers within the internet/media] are daunting” (Murphy 384). Moreover, not all of these pirates’ goals are what everyone would deem as “worth doing” or “necessary.” It is all subjective, really. Some of these can involve things like the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) that hacks twitter to promote political messages, or to just show their capabilities, which can also instill fear: there have been multiple instances where the SEA hacked multiple accounts on twitter and Microsoft saying “the Syrian Electronic Army was here!” and also another where they said “Don't use Microsoft emails (hotmail, outlook), they are monitoring your accounts and selling the data to the governments. More details soon #SEA” . This statement is most likely not credible, but nonetheless.
Cyber-pirates, then, in this sense, are becoming the quartermasters of our American ship. If no one else can keep the democratic government in check but those within power/the government itself (which ignores the majority of its public), then Long-John-Silver-like pirates are going to have to take up the job, and they are. They, too, have their hands on the media, they too control the precious flow of information, they too have the means to communicate. Trouble only comes along if, like the original, sea-faring pirates, they get caught. However, since they are not driven by money, perhaps they are not as likely to become a traitor as Long-John Silver is so feverishly inclined; perhaps, these cyber-pirates are more like Captain Smollet, the only character in the entirety of Treasure Island who remains untainted by the greed that surrounds him. But then again, everyone’s only human.
“If only citizens guarded their polity's division of power as jealously as pirates” (Leeson 37)
 Possibly due to the fact that our current democracy occupies a whole land mass rather than, what was, different ships that people could withdraw from or join at any given time.
 United States Consensus Bureau. "Population Clock." Population Clock. U.S. Department of Commerce, n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2014. <https://www.census.gov/popclock/>.
No matter how truly ideal that really sounds.
 Not that the pirate life was an ideal one anyways, but that’s beside the point. It was their governance/idea that was ideal.
 Found in Leeson’s book on page 34, quoted from Madison
 As well as force, as well as the control of information (which they can in fact facilitate through their power-money)
 In most first-world cases that is
 Ha, how conveniently abbreviated
 Warren, Tom. "Skype Twitter Account Hacked." The Verge. Vox Media, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 16 Apr. 2014. <http://www.theverge.com/2014/1/1/5264540/skype-twitter-facebook-blog-accounts-hacked>.
Kelsey Hamlin is finishing up her last year at the UW. Though her time is typically spent telling others' stories, here's a chance to get a peek at hers.