Sun, 17 February 2019
Today's guest on Economics Detective Radio is Anja Shortland of King's College London, discussing her new book Kidnap: Inside the Ransom Business, where she brings an economist's perspective to the shady world of the kidnapping for ransom business and to the professionals who specialize in getting hostages home safely. The book's description reads as follows:
Kidnap for ransom is a lucrative but tricky business. Millions of people live, travel, and work in areas with significant kidnap risks, yet kidnaps of foreign workers, local VIPs, and tourists are surprisingly rare and the vast majority of abductions are peacefully resolved - often for remarkably low ransoms. In fact, the market for hostages is so well ordered that the crime is insurable. This is a puzzle: ransoming a hostage is the world's most precarious trade. What would be the "right" price for your loved one - and can you avoid putting others at risk by paying it? What prevents criminals from maltreating hostages? How do you (safely) pay a ransom? And why would kidnappers release a potential future witness after receiving their money?
Fri, 22 December 2017
My guest for this episode is Ennio Piano of George Mason University. Our topic is Ennio's work on the economics of biker gangs.
Ennio has two papers on this subject. The first, published in Public Choice, is entitled Free riders: the economics and organization of outlaw motorcycle gangs and it describes the franchise-style model of the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang, and how that model contributed to that gang's rise to prominence. By making the local chapters of the Hell's Angels residual claimants, while the head chapter in Oakland is responsible for the gang's name and reputation, the gang exploits local knowledge while also coordinating activities internationally.
The second paper, Outlaw and economics: Biker gangs and club goods describes how the norms and rituals of biker gangs fit with the theory of club goods. Costly, unreliable motorcycles and even Nazi tattoos can be explained through this theory: they are credible commitments to remain loyal to the club. This behaviour is similar in purpose to rituals practice by many religious sects.
We discuss the history of biker gangs and the gang wars of the 1990s. Finally, Ennio describes the relationship between biker gangs and other criminal organizations such as the Mafia and Mexican drug cartels.