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Stealth of Nations: The Global Rise of the Informal Economyby Robert Neuwirth
Synopses & Reviews
• 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.
Having penetrated this closed world and persuaded its inhabitants to open up to him, Robert Neuwirth makes clear that this informal method of transaction dates back as far as humans have existed and traded, that it provides essential services and crucial employment that fill the gaps in formal systems, and that this unregulated market works smoothly and effectively, with its own codes and unwritten rules.
Combining a vivid travelogue with a firm grasp on global economic strategy—along with a healthy dose of irreverence and skepticism toward conventional perceptions—Neuwirth gives us an eye-opening account of a world that is always operating around us, hidden in plain sight.
From the Hardcover edition.
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.
About the Author
Robert Neuwirth is the author of Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, a New Urban World. He has received a research and writing grant from the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, appears nationally and internationally as a speaker and on radio, and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Dwell, Fortune, The Nation, and Wired, among many other publications. He lives in Brooklyn.
From the Hardcover edition.
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