Public Choice

, Volume 139, Issue 3–4, pp 443–459

The calculus of piratical consent: the myth of the myth of social contract


DOI: 10.1007/s11127-009-9403-5

Cite this article as:
Leeson, P.T. Public Choice (2009) 139: 443. doi:10.1007/s11127-009-9403-5


Is a genuine social contract mythical? I argue that pirates created genuine social contracts that established a system of constitutional democracy based on the same decision-making calculus and with the same effects that Buchanan and Tullock’s contractarian theory of government describes in The Calculus of Consent. Pirates’ constitutional democracy is the “holy grail” of social contract theory. It demonstrates that the contractarian basis of constitutional democracy is more than a mere analytic device or hypothetical explanation of how such a government could emerge. In pirates’ case, Buchanan and Tullock’s social contract theory describes how constitutional democracy actually did emerge.


Pirates Social contract Calculus of consent Constitutional democracy 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.George Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

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