Sunday, July 28, 2013

Why Not State-Issued Letters of Marque?

Let's face it: when it comes to international diplomacy, we have to play nice.  That's why President Obama named John Kerry as Secretary of State rather than some fire-eater.  And it makes sense: we have hundreds of years of diplomatic history to go on: diplomacy involves a lot of pretend; but once Ambrose Bierce defined diplomacy as the "patriotic act of lying for your country."

Maybe we need to look back in history.  After all, Queen Elizabeth I used Sir Francis Drake and other pirates to fight the Spanish rather than doing it directly.  And, for hundreds of years, countries with insufficient navies issued letters of marque to private individuals to seize vessels, with or without the ceremonial walking of the plank for defeated adversaries.

An historical note: When Andrew Jackson referred to the pirates of Barataria as "hellish banditti," he was wrong.  Jean and Pierre Lafitte had letters of marque from the Republic of Carthagena to legalize their high seas dirty work.  And they made a tidy living on the side from smuggling as well.

So, here's my idea.  Congress needs to do its part, as well as a bunch of state legislatures.  (Kind of like herding cats, you know?)  Let's repeal the part of the Constitution that limits issuing letters of marque to the Federal government since they don't seem to be using it, and allow individual states to do so.

Of course, some states may adopt this as a revenue-enhancer much like a few already do with lotteries and legalized gambling.  After all, if such examplars of rectitude as Nevada, New Jersey, and Mississippi do it, it must be alright to have that kind of regressive form of taxation!

Think of this.  Let's say California or Massachuetts or Texas wants to have a style of spending beyond that which the citizenry can or will support.  So the state issues some letters of marque to some unemployed pirates or ninjas, and turn them loose on some country unfriendly to the U.S.A.  (Who knows, the Federals may communicate their wishes that this would take place through indirect channels.) 

Yes!  Imagine the PRNK suddenly beset by ninjas or privateers who are made legit by the state of California!  And all our freebooters have to do is give the state a cut of the take!   And the U.S. government is in the clear!  After all, it's not the Army or the Navy or Air Force being used, its some ragtag bunch that those naughty Californians licensed.

Arrr!  Maybe this is an idea to consider!  This might also serve as a great way for the gun nuts and the survivalists to drain off their surplus energies and worry the rest of us less by bothering real bad guys more.


Grand Crapaud said...

A great idea. The pirates can also go after cruise ships as well. Now that would give the tourists some Caribbean adventure!

Grand Crapaud said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike said...

Sounds like the early form of eminent domain without the fake estimated government appraisal.

Bilbo said...

In principle, I think this is a wonderful idea. The only drawback I can see is that we'd get a bunch of wannabe official pirates waving letters of marque in one hand and cans of beer in the other getting themselves arrested by an unfriendly foreign government and then having to be ransomed/rescued by Uncle Sam (our government being too kind-hearted to let them rot in a foreign jail one their next-of-kin deliver endless heartbreaking pleas on Channel 7 news. It would only work if we were prepared to be pitiless. And in any case, the bad guys would blame Uncle Sam and take revenge on average Americans, anyhow.

Insane Penguin said...

Actually, some of those state-legalized pirates might prey on boats from other states too.