hey i have been reading what you guys have been saying and i generally crash my economy in every game i play, much to the amusement of my friends but i deal with it. i find that having 1of these: http://starruler.blind-mind.com/designs/view/81
, although not very effective late game, in each system you want protected tends to prevent pirates in the systems they are present in. this ships design is relatively simple but i would recomend modifying it before putting it out into battle.
i have nothing really to offer in terms of economy early game. but i tend to grab a small amount of systems and begin building larger and larger drydocks in my core worlds to produce larger and larger ships. that is just the way i play there are many other alternatives to this out there.
good luck and happy hunting