Thursday, December 2, 2010

The United States Government as Neighborhood Bully

To the neighborhood bully, there is only one solution to any problem, start punching people.

It should come as no surprise that more often than not the U.S. government, which maintains a shaky monopoly on violence, prefers that option in most situations.

I bring this up because earlier this week I attended a meeting where Captain Jeffrey Kline spoke. Captain Kline is the Program Director, Maritime Defense and Security Research Programs, Naval Postgraduate School. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Naval War College where he teaches, "Joint Analysis for the Warfare Commander".

The topic of his speech was piracy. What I found fascinating about his speech is that he told us that insurance companies were against armed cargo vessels. He explained that cargo travelling over the seas amounted to more than $7 trillion on an annual basis and that the cost of cargo captured by pirates amounted to only $200 million.

The Captain then looked up at us an said, I would insure those odds any day.

The insurance companies have done the math and it turns out the cost of having arms on board  (as a result of accidents and the like) are higher than the cost of cargo, so insurance companies discourage cargo ships from carrying them. They are in favor of other measures, which may or may not work, but if those measures don't work, they would rather lose the ship, than deal with the cost of an arms accident.

Alternative measures include, new type of sound and heat equipment aimed at attacking pirates. Evasive maneuvers, where the ship zig zags and hopes to create a huge wake. Stringing up of razor wire around the ship's stern. And the use of a citadel, which is an area of the ship specifically designed for crew where they can lock themselves in and where the pirates can't get at them.

The Captain then told us that he received a report just that morning of a ship, which the day before had successfully evaded pirates. The ship's captain ordered the razor wire be put in place, and then he ordered his crew into the citadel. The captain then conducted evasive maneuvers. One pirate got close enough to attempt to board the ship but retreated because of the razor wire.

So there you have an insurance companies view of how the piracy situation should be handled, and a real world situation of a best case outcome.

So was does the United States government think of all this? Congress has just passed legislation that all U.S. flagged ships, while travelling in the piracy laden waters off the coast of Somalia, must carry arms. It's not an option, it is a requirement, damn the findings and determination of insurance companies.

The bully has found a "solution".


  1. The NGO/Mercenary full employment act.

  2. Are there any U.S. flagged ships LEFT?

  3. What about sharks with laser beams on their heads?

  4. @Bob Murphy

    I always knew you should have been in insurance risk reduction.

  5. Call me crazy, but if I were crewing a ship, I'd rather trust my life to Colt and Hornady than to some bean-counter's assessment of my salvage value - and if the government can pass any legitimate law at all, it is surely to mandate that people do what they should have been doing all along, and take some responsibility for the maintenance of civilized society and their own self-defense.