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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Many Kinds of Privateering

I'm using the word privateering in lieu of privatization, and other terms, for a specific reason. First of all the behavior is not new, is traditional, and while George Lakoff brought the term back the original word had the same meaning:

privateer (n.) Look up privateer at
1660s, "private man of war," from private (adj.), probably on model of volunteer, buccaneer.

Lakoff's revival from wikipedia:

"From a blend of privatization +‎ profiteer. Coined by George Lakoff in his book, The Political Mind. It describes a widespread and corrupt practice that has not previously had a name and, being nameless, has not been publicly aired or even notices as a single practice. The word previously existed with a related meaning, but has mostly gone out of use."

Lakoff is brilliant, but he didn't invent the word. He revived it. To be precise it originally meant a person, ship or company with a license to do private warfare. However, this older meaning, is what privateering was from the beginning -- private - warfare/ private government. For most of the same thing they were the same thing. Filibustering and freebooting were also privatized warfare, fought with private armies. And all these were privatizations of warfare originally. Privateers were pirates who had permission to steal (take prizes) from an enemy fleet of merchant ships. Privatized warfare (privateering) was once the only kind of warfare, so the only difference between a pirate and a privateer was whether the sponsoring government was considered legitimate by the victims. So Lakoff's revival of the term is consistent with it's etymology.

This becomes even more clear when one realizes that the predatory activities of early private pirate companies like the East India Company involved privateering of government functions. When Thomas Roe reached the court of the Moghul Emperor, the way that he and his successors were able to manage to loot most of India, involved convincing the Moghuls to give away privileges to the East India company, including formerly government functions. The term for that could be called "privatization" -- but the general term is privateering. [see Origins of the East India Company]

This post is part of a series. I'll update it with more information as I get it. Privateers are pirates. The main difference is that most pirate ships were completely outlaws from the Point of View of Official aristocracy. They had to share the loot fairly with the crew. Privateers get a letter from government that says that their looting is perfectly legal. So the only pirates privateers have to share loot with -- are fellow privateers. Lakoff didn't invent a new word. He revived the meaning of one that had been eclipsed by other euphemisms.

An examination of the connection between land pirates and aristocracy; and between sea pirates (Sea Dogs) and modern Corporations quickly confirms the diagnosis. We are fighting piracy. Okay, it may be all "legal like" -- but the rules are the same as any other mafia. "It's just business." AND We made them an offer they couldn't refuse.

Bad Business AND BAD Government = Privateering

Some references and further readings on Lakoff:

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