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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Laws of Unintended Consequences

This is Steven Petrick posting.

By this time I suspect you are all aware of Somali pirates. What you may not be aware of is that their operations are affecting your own personal pocketbook. You do not see it, it is, in effect, a hidden tax. The increase in fuel usage by all the merchant vessels plying the danger regions. The increased costs of the crew for hazard pay. The costs of all those warships on distant stations and the logistics to support them. The increased insurance rates, not to mention the ransoms. The disruptions in deliveries with the further disruptions of ships being diverted to make up shortfalls due to non deliveries. All of these things are paid for, ultimately, from the pockets of consumers. This overlooks the simple human costs as some of these failures to deliver are costing the lives of people dependent on those cargoes arriving in a timely fashion.

Some insist the Somali pirates should not be interfered with as the are "modern day Robin Hoods", robbing from the wealthy western nations and putting the money into the Somali economy. This ignores the fact that a lot of the money never makes it to Somalia, but winds up in the hands of wealthy middle eastern middlemen who negotiate the ransoms. It also overlooks the livelihood of fishermen whose boats are stolen, sometimes with them being impressed into work as pirates, and sometimes they are killed.

The Somali pirate situation (and it is spreading to other regions due to the failure to act) is a classic example of the law of unintended consequences. When the first freighter was taken, my response was that it had to be taken back by force immediately. The act of seizing a freighter had to be demonstrated as a "bad idea (tm)", not something that would deliver a reward to those so bold.

The decision by those who were supposed to know better was to treat the seizure of that first freighter as an aberration. Pay the ransom this one time and it will never happen again.

And look where we are now.