Stealth of Nations: The Global Rise of the Informal Economy
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An eye-opening account of the informal economy around the globe, Stealth of Nations traces the history and reach of unregulated markets, and explains the unwritten rules that govern them.
Journalist Robert Neuwirth joins globe-trotting Nigerians who sell Chinese cell phones and laid-off San Franciscans who use Twitter to market street food and learns that the people who work in informal economies are entrepreneurs who provide essential services and crucial employment. Dubbing this little-recognized business arena with a new name—”System D”—Neuwirth points out that it accounts for a growing amount of trade, and that, united in a single nation, it would be the world’s second-largest economy, trailing only the United States in financial might. Stealth of Nations offers an inside look at the thriving world of unfettered trade and finds far more than a chaotic emporium of dubious pirated goods.
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into his mouth and rinsed his hands in a bowl of cold water. Then we bargained. I had promised myself that I would not give him anything. But I quickly broke that promise. Before he would introduce me to the market leaders, he said he needed credit for his phone, and I bought him a thousand-naira recharge card (total value about $7.). This was, you might say, a bribe, albeit a small one. But no one in Alaba—or, indeed, in all of Nigeria—would understand it that way. Mr. Anyika—known as “Father”
pirated goods pay some taxes, Feiyang said, because they do a certain amount of legal business in addition to their pirate activities. But, he said, like everyone else, they report only a small fraction of their income to the government. “Normally, the tax they pay is fake, because nobody will check how many goods you sell. Everyone knows they are making money, but they will not bother to check the revenue.” As he stared out over China Plaza—this luxurious mall is a symbol of the success of the
nil. There, he could choose his shoes and arrange with an agent to sneak them into Nigeria. Chris generally bought twenty-eight pairs of shoes at a time, at a cost of about sixteen hundred naira ($12.50) per pair. He paid a lump sum of two thousand naira to the guys who knew how to get the shoes across the border, one thousand naira to his local market association as a kind of rent, and twenty naira a night to the watchman who guarded his wares through the evenings. Once he washed them, he could
AntiCounterfeiting Coalition. Submission of the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition to the United States Trade Representative, Special 301 Recommendations, February 17, 2009. Jacobs, Jane. The Economy of Cities. New York: Random House, 1969. Kapstein, Ethan B. Measuring Unilever’s Economic Footprint: The Case of South Africa. Durban, South Africa: Famous Publishing, 2008. Keynes, John Maynard. General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money,