Not your average Blackbeard

Pirates are thieves of the basest degree. They bide their time as others use labor and talent to generate something of value. Then they steal it and sell it for profit.

In the era of maritime trade, pirates plundered raw materials. From gold to silk to cotton, they were things others mined or grew; things they’d invested their money and time to extract from the ground.

Those early-day entrepreneurs knew the risks of putting cargo in vessels that dared the unpredictable seas. Yet when bullion and artifacts and sailing ships and sailors all sank in a treacherous storm, nobody profited. Everyone lost.

Contemporary nuance

Today, the stock in trade is often music or photographs, novels or films — the work of single individuals and of hundreds of people, all skilled at their craft. And all of them depend on their artistry and craftsmanship to earn a decent living. When their output is plundered, there is sure to be a profiteer behind it.

Pirates will take anything of value and convert it to cash or, worse, they’ll use it for their own entertainment and then share it for free. The people who own what a pirate purloins get no part of the cash and no cash for the work that is given away… usually because the pirate earns money from ads that appear on a website. It’s pernicious.

Exponentially invasive

Yet this isn’t a phenomenon restricted to hijacking big rigs. It isn’t the realm of movies posted on bit torrent websites. It’s not even just a problem for a soda’s secret formula or a drug’s combination of ingredients or a software firm’s code.

The problem is bigger. It reaches in the pockets of construction firm owners who never get paid for the work their crews perform. It takes taxpayers’ money and spends it, without oversight, on things that don’t affect their daily lives. It strips away protections from average citizens so they’re left with no redress when they’re victimized by corporate malfeasance. It robs communities of healthy lives and leaves them on their own to be cared for.

This is the realm of Captain Shmuckless and his fearless, feckless, faithful shmuckaneers. It’s an era when the bounding main is now the boundless realm of countless plutocratic oligarchs and the multiplying shmucklings they breed.

A decade and a half ago, we’d say this was the way things were in Tripoli and Baghdad, Caracas and Bogota. Now it’s rampant in Ankara, Manila, and Cairo. And Washington, D.C.