Thousands of Africans head to China each year to buy cell phones, auto parts, and other products that they will import to their home countries through a clandestine global back channel.
Hundreds of Paraguayan merchants smuggle computers, electronics, and clothing across the border to Brazil. Scores of laid-off San Franciscans, working without any licenses, use Twitter to sell home-cooked foods. Dozens of major multinationals sell products through unregistered kiosks and street vendors around the world. When we think of the informal economy, we tend to think of crime: prostitution, gun running, drug trafficking. Stealth of Nations opens up this underground realm, showing how the worldwide informal economy deals mostly in legal products and is, in fact, a ten-trillion-dollar industry, making it the second-largest economy in the world, after that of the United States.
"System D" is Neuwirth's term to describe what others have called the "informal economy", "the gray market", or the "underground economy." Any good or service that is bought or traded outside of formal taxation, licensure, certification or regulation. Neuwirth's concern is not the economics of organized crime, drug smuggling and distribution, prostitution or weapons - but rather economic activity that is out-in-the-open, non-criminal in nature, but seldom counted in economic statistics.
Neuwirth tells the story of the rise of System D through both the characters he meets in the informal economy (from Africa to China to South America to the U.S.) and through the data and theories available to explain this economic sector. The informal sector may account for as much as $10 trillion dollars of the world economy, and because it is concentrated in the high population emerging countries, may employ as much as half of the the world's workforce. The informal economy is both a magnet for the enormous worldwide urbanization now underway, and a counterweight to the concentration of wealth that accompanies market based economies.
Neuwirth has great admiration for system D workers who rely their creativity and hard-work to create a living for themselves, in the process providing goods and services that would normally be out of reach to most of the poor and working citizens. Stealth of Nations is a terrific book to read if you are curious about how the world economy actually works (as opposed to how we are told it works), and if you wonder how the world's billions actually go about the task of making a living.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up Stealth of Nations in three words, what would they be?
I didn't know! I had no idea the global economy was so complex below the legal level and above the illicit branch of the black market.
How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?
Not really? There were some parts that went over my head but I don't really know how they could be changed without knowing a lot more about economics and culture.
Would you listen to another book narrated by Kevin Foley?
Yes I would. He's preformance was great and I would not hesitate to listen to another one of his reads.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
No. This was one of those books where I have to read/listen it in slices and put it away to digest the contents.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful