One can scarcely turn on any cable news channel without hearing vociferous demands for the world’s governments to “do something” about the Somali pirates.
Those who have suggested that the market may have a far cheaper solution have been dismissed out of hand. Market oriented people have pointed out that the ships which are being attacked by these pirates have a great deal at risk. So why would these commercial vessels not simply hire private security forces to protect their interests and lives? The answer is simple. No one wants to pay for something which one can get one’s neighbor to pay for.If the owners and operators of these vessels believe that they can get a government (thus taxpayers) to foot the bill for protecting their private interests, they have little incentive to solve the problem themselves.
A recent episode involving an Italian cruise ship showed that the vessels can and will be protected even without spending untold millions of taxpayer dollars. According to this BBC report, pirates attempted to take over an Italian cruise ship and fired approximately 200 rounds into the ship. The pirates numbered only half a dozen men and were in a small boat. Fortunately, the ship had hired a security service.
The cruise ship’s security service began firing their weapons in the air and spraying water on the pirates. The report indicates that a few passengers even started hurling deck chairs at the attackers. After 5 minutes of conflict, the pirates abandoned their attempt and fled.
To recap, the pirates were beaten back by a few deck chairs, well aimed hoses, and shots fired in the air, all in 5 minutes! Not a single life was lost, not a hostage was taken, no ransom was paid and not a taxpayer dollar was spent!
In light of the ease with which some passengers and security guards defended the ship, why are the talking heads still clamoring for more government protection? Clearly the vessels are able to do the job better and at a lower cost.