Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Everybody Needs a Business Model

Somali Sea Gangs Create Pirate Stock Exchange” tells how pirates and their associates have set up a cooperative where people can invest capital, or help the effort in other ways such as by providing materiel. I am serious when I say this is a fine example of what down-and-out people can accomplish when they pool their resources and take risks. One pirate named Mohammed is quoted as saying, “We’ve made piracy a community activity.” Bully for you, Mohammed.

Not that I am condoning crime and violence, of course. If you are a shipowner or a crew member, piracy is a fearsome scourge. It also raises the cost of shipping and thereby makes everything more expensive for everybody.

But let’s look at the situation from the other side. Let’s say you are a dirt-poor Somali wondering where your next meal is coming from. You have no job and no prospects thereof, and virtually nothing but the rags on your back. Maybe you even have someone to support. If you find opportunity in the piracy profession or in a supporting role, do you pass it up because it’s illegal? I’ll be honest by saying that if I were a Somali stuck in such circumstances, I’d most likely hook up with the pirates. (Let me also be honest by saying that I have a wide yellow stripe down by back, so I’d opt for a role that didn’t put me in mortal danger.)

And now we have creative people with a practical business model. Here’s a lesson for a lot of people already out of work and out of hope (and for a lot more on the way). Of course, I don’t mean people down on their luck should take up piracy or some other illegal activity. But the way people are pulling together in this case in a “community activity” is inspiring. So applying this business model to some other (legal) activities may well be the prescription a lot of people around the world need to get the ball rolling.

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