The difference between a pirate, and a privateer, is that privateers traditionally have a letter or charter that legalizes their otherwise illegal behavior. Traditionally it was known as a "letter of Marquee" and would give the pirate permission to prey on enemy ships and make war on enemies of the state for the duration of a war between States. They were supposed to stop when peace came. Indeed most elite pirates who got hung as pirates were privateers who just hadn't been able to stop themselves when the war ended, from seeking loot. Captain Kidd spent most of his life as a privateer, not a pirate. A lot of smugglers were also pirates. A lot of privateers were too. Captain Kidd just got caught. When a privateer or smuggler engaged in piracy, and wanted to keep his image of "respectability" he'd operate under a fake name, and to make sure things went right, he'd kill his victims. "Dead Men Tell no Tales" was a corollary to "Pirates hang, but gentlemen retire a squire." There is know way of knowing how many pirates really were hung and how many were more successful than they let on. Piracy is thievery after all. The pirates we all hear about and that are depicted in tall tales were mostly open thieves living on the edge of a noose. But when J.P. Morgan boasted being a descendent of Henry Morgan, the official story was that Henry Morgan died in Panama. Piracy is also about the successful operation of secrecy. Blackbeard was really Edward Tech. The official story there is that he was killed and his head chopped off by the captain who killed him. It makes a great story. A lot of pirates ended under mysterious conditions with stories of their families continuing and them continuing under a new name. Who knows? A lot of important families were founded by folks who made their money elsewhere and suddenly arrived acting like a gentleman. After the age of the classic privateers we had the freebooters known as Filibusterers who led private armies all over the world. Some of them established or came from established families who have names that are still important. William Walker for instance tried to conquer Latin America to reboot slavery there.
Privateers, Buccaneers and modern Freebooters.
Well nowadays we have freebooters who use their corporate charters as letters of marquee. Privateers who seek to privatize more than war, but whole functions of government that were traditionally the prerogative of Kings. These Buccaneers and Freebooters have set it up so that they sail the entire world. Lafitte would be envious and his ghost and descendents probably are running a New Orleans smuggling operation. Blackbeard's descendents wear expensive suits. Morgan's operation has become a giant company that wears his name and only flies his flag on the owners ghost yacht or a rum brand. French companies are members of this new "brotherhood of the coast" every bit as English Buccaneers and even Indian, Chinese, and Japanese buccaneers. They even use each other ships. Where-as before the pirates sailed the seas looking for loot, or carrying smuggled goods, or dealing in drugs and liquor, now it's all legal-like. The corporate charter has become a "letter of Marquee", and instead of declarations of war, they freeboot based on trade treaties that give them license to loot and steal all over the world.
Modern Buccaneers form armies of corrupt lawyers, propagandists, and legislators. Some examples of their freebooting:
- leveraged buyout followed by junking the company. Perfected by Baine Capital under Buccaneers like Mitt the 47% Romney. Buy the company with borrowed money. Strip it of it's assets. Anything worthwhile ship overseas and then close down the factory, loot it's pension plans, and put it in bankruptcy and junk it, or simply sell it to the unsuspecting.
- "Lean and Mean" Six Sigma reform driven by lowest price producers usually involving prison camps in Vietnam or China. Usually following after "restructuring" as jargon for looting.
- "Reverse Mercantilism" Buccaneering involving exporting dollars to buy goods cheap while paying high tariffs or other hidden costs to US exports in return. We hire pirates in other countries to use prisoners and prison camps to make our goods -- at least until we can setup a similar prison industry here (well on the way).
- Privatizing privateering. Who needs to be a pirate if one can wear a nice suit. Run politicians 'against government' and then use their offices to loot and steal at will and all "legal right." At this point we have buccaneers taking over entire cities so they can loot them "legal light". Most modern piracy gets it's modern "letters of Marquee" from the government while decrying any form of socialism that actually helps the marks. "libertarianism" is the motto of modern pirates. After all one can't be free if one can't freeboot! Who needs to worry about Government if you own it? Henry Morgan got to be such a great pirate by being Governor of Jamaica. Buccaneers ever since have aimed their guns at Governments so they can take them over and loot at will.
- Once you've got the loot what better way to use it than to buy the bank? Old style freebooters would put their gold in a vault and then lend out paper money bills until something happened and people wanted their gold back. Then they'd flee town. Such cons were known as grifters. Nowadays you don't even have to have any gold. Just a charter from the Government and the government will pick up the tab if anyone gets wiser about your reserves. So the buccaneers operate their reverse mercantile and "corporate takeover" looting from the safety of a banking Headquarters with gold plated faucets in the bathroom! Henry Morgan's descendent J.P. Morgan used to fly his father's flag on his yacht. His ghost gets hauled into court again and again for fraud, with never an admission of guilt or a single person going to jail. Henry Morgan would be proud, court settlements of this kind are basically bribes to keep the records sealed so that the stolen-from can't sue in court. Henry Morgan and J.P. Morgan would both be proud. Banking looting is perfectly legal. They are almost back to Robin Hood era holding peasants upside down style robbery.
- Ground Looting piracy in the form of energy companies who get "mineral rights" to property they have no business acquiring and then move in and steal minerals or oil resources, pay off (in bribes) local officials and politicians around the world (including in the United States) to get access to trillions in resources and loot these resources til they are gone -- often leaving behind poisoned wells, soils, rivers and destroyed mountains, towns, countries. Imagine if Henry Morgan had spoken better Spanish. Again he and JP would be proud.
- Nuclear Piracy; A particularly diabolical form of ground looting that involves building nuclear power plants, looting out poisonous rocks and refining them into pure poison that can be used for nuclear blackmail or to produce electricity and high levels of radiation which kill workers and periodically blow up like a cheap iron cannon, killing everybody nearbye. All paid for by local governments who think that somehow possessing a nuclear weapon is a magic key to entry into modernity. The nuclear pirates are polluting countries from China to Europe and ocean shores from the entire Pacific to the Mediterranean, even to Somalia.
- Arms Smuggling pirates; build weapons, including nuclear ones and gin up wars and conflict so they can sell expensive arms to both government and the folks the government is repressing, and to both sides of ethnic conflicts which are usually over the equivalent of which side to break a soft boiled egg on.
- Oh and the pain buccaneers, who take voodoo medicine and turn it into placebo pills and poisons which they market all over the world, and then use their money to buy hospitals and doctors and raise prices so that the only way people can get medical service is to buy insurance, which then becomes a protection racket for the privateers.
I could go on with more details of just how this piracy under the marquee of a corporate charter amounts to modern privateering and filibustering but I think this brief list gets the point across.
- Further Reading:
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