Pirates, commons and finance

A friend alerted me about this news about Somali pirates establishing a stock exchange and I thought it is worth posting it in a day in which President Obama — in his Nobel prise acceptance speech — referred to the pirates along the coast of Somalia as if they were among the world scum bags justifying the US use of force to promote world peace

“I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later. That is why all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace.

America’s commitment to global security will never waiver. But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. This is true in Afghanistan. This is true in failed states like Somalia, where terrorism and piracy is joined by famine and human suffering. And sadly, it will continue to be true in unstable regions for years to come. (Obama)

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Somali pirates show instead to be quite sophisticated, they establish a stock exchange so communities and expatriots can pool resources to sponsor their policing of their waters/piracy against foreign exploitation. As my friend argues,

“this is a community using a financial logic to articulate a common agenda (sponsoring their unofficial “security” against foreign exploitation) and using an exchange market to reclaim value from the transnational pirate cartels of capital. On the other, this is primitive accumulation and high finance rolled into one. I suspect the ROI here is very high, partly because the “costs” of this extremely dangerous labour are so minimal - investors do not have to compensate workers for the dangers of piracy, especially where there is such competition for the positions! Of course, I don’t expect Berkshire-Hathaway to make a big investment in this piracy market quite yet, but there is something deeply allegorical here.”

It is not only traditional finance they use. It looks like the stock exchange they set up is a means to pull all types of resources, and not only monetary and financial. Incidentally resource pulling is the first moment of a constitution of commons. As the articles says

“The shares are open to all and everybody can take part, whether personally at sea or on land by providing cash, weapons or useful materials … we’ve made piracy a community activity.”

so, you do not need liquidity to be part of the business . . . it would be interesting to see what conversions and weights exist — I read a great novel in Italian last summer by Valerio Evangelisti about story of old pirates at sea, which illustrated the negotiation/struggle within the community to measure ones contribution in kind … Melvin’s Moby Dick had some similar illustration of measuring of labour in the cooperative and hierarchical structure of the whale ship.

In any case, not bad return for a donated rocket propelled granade:

“I am waiting for my share after I contributed a rocket-propelled grenade for the operation,” she said, adding that she got the weapon from her ex-husband in alimony.
“I am really happy and lucky. I have made $75,000 in only 38 days since I joined the ‘company’.”

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