What is it about pirates?

The Daily Telegraph quotes our mild-mannered PM, speaking at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in the City, saying he wants Britain to show an “entrepreneurial buccaneering spirit”. Why are comparisons to pirates seen as favourable*? Indeed, if he had commented on the City’s “piratical spirit” they would have evicted him from the square mile. Even if you think that 17th century pirates set a remarkable example of untrammelled human spirit of liberty, or something, suppose you asked, what sectors of our society suffer from too much respect for propriety, social norms, and the law? Is there anyone (Mr Cameron excepted) who would spontaneously reply, “You must be talking about the finance industry”?
Do you want to know who showed an entrepreneurial buccaneering spirit that Blackbeard would have been proud of? The young people who plundered London shops in 2011 and set several of them ablaze. I don’t recall any expressions of admiration from Mr Cameron then.

* There are multiple traditions of the use of the word “piracy”. As I discussed here, Internet piracy, pirate radio, and European political pirate parties, all draw on an old tradition of  “pirate” as an opposition to overreaching restraints on free exchange of ideas. But “buccaneering” is clearly meant to refer to the real guys with ships and guns.

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