System of unlicensed, unregulated $10 trillion System D (Débrouillards) entrepreneurial global economy more robust than planned nations, says Robert Neuwirth.
System D is a slang phrase …. The French … say a man is a débrouillard is to tell people how resourceful and ingenious he is. […. The] inventive, self-starting, entrepreneurial merchants who are doing business on their own, without registering or being regulated by the bureaucracy and, for the most part, without paying taxes, are part of “l’economie de la débrouillardise.” Or, sweetened for street use, “Systeme D.” [….]
What happens in all the unregistered markets and roadside kiosks of the world is not simply haphazard. It is a product of intelligence, resilience, self-organization, and group solidarity, and it follows a number of well-worn though unwritten rules. It is, in that sense, a system. [….]
In many countries — particularly in the developing world — System D is growing faster than any other part of the economy, and it is an increasing force in world trade. [….]. A 2009 study by Deutsche Bank, the huge German commercial lender, suggested that people in the European countries with the largest portions of their economies that were unlicensed and unregulated — in other words, citizens of the countries with the most robust System D — fared better in the economic meltdown of 2008 than folks living in centrally planned and tightly regulated nations. Studies of countries throughout Latin America have shown that desperate people turned to System D to survive during the most recent financial crisis.
This spontaneous system, ruled by the spirit of organized improvisation, will be crucial for the development of cities in the 21st century. The 20th-century norm — the factory worker who nests at the same firm for his or her entire productive life — has become an endangered species. In China, the world’s current industrial behemoth, workers in the massive factories have low salaries and little job security. Even in Japan, where major corporations have long guaranteed lifetime employment to full-time workers, a consensus is emerging that this system is no longer sustainable in an increasingly mobile and entrepreneurial world.
So what kind of jobs will predominate? Part-time work, a variety of self-employment schemes, consulting, moonlighting, income patching. By 2020, the OECD projects, two-thirds of the workers of the world will be employed in System D. […]
The growth of System D presents a series of challenges to the norms of economics, business, and governance — for it has traditionally existed outside the framework of trade agreements, labor laws, copyright protections, product safety regulations, antipollution legislation, and a host of other political, social, and environmental policies. Yet there’s plenty that’s positive, too. In Africa, many cities — Lagos, Nigeria, is a good example — have been propelled into the modern era through System D, because legal businesses don’t find enough profit in bringing cutting- edge products to the third world. China has, in part, become the world’s manufacturing and trading center because it has been willing to engage System D trade. Paraguay, small, landlocked, and long dominated by larger and more prosperous neighbors, has engineered a decent balance of trade through judicious smuggling. The digital divide may be a concern, but System D is spreading technology around the world at prices even poor people can afford. Squatter communities may be growing, but the informal economy is bringing commerce and opportunity to these neighborhoods that are off the governmental grid. It distributes products more equitably and cheaply than any big company can. And, even as governments around the world are looking to privatize agencies and get out of the business of providing for people, System D is running public services — trash pickup, recycling, transportation, and even utilities.
Just how big is System D? Friedrich Schneider, chair of the economics department at Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria, has spent decades calculating the dollar value of what he calls the shadow economies of the world. [….]
Schneider … screens out all money made through “illegal actions that fit the characteristics of classical crimes like burglary, robbery, drug dealing, etc.” [….]
If you apply his percentages (Schneider’s most recent report, published in 2006, uses economic data from 2003) to the World Bank’s GDP estimates, […] The total value of System D as a global phenomenon is close to $10 trillion. Which makes for another astonishing revelation. If System D were an independent nation, united in a single political structure — call it the United Street Sellers Republic (USSR) or, perhaps, Bazaaristan — it would be an economic superpower, the second-largest economy in the world (the United States, with a GDP of $14 trillion, is numero uno). The gap is narrowing, though, and if the United States doesn’t snap out of its current funk, the USSR/Bazaaristan could conceivably catch it sometime this century.
In other words, System D looks a lot like the future of the global economy. All over the world — from San Francisco to São Paulo, from New York City to Lagos — people engaged in street selling and other forms of unlicensed trade told me that they could never have established their businesses in the legal economy. “I’m totally off the grid,” one unlicensed jewelry designer told me. “It was never an option to do it any other way. It never even crossed my mind. It was financially absolutely impossible.” The growth of System D opens the market to those who have traditionally been shut out.
Full article as “The Shadow Superpower” |Robert Neuwirth | Oct. 28, 2011 | Foreign Policy at http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/10/28/black_market_global_economy?page=full.
Surfaced from “The $10 Trillion Black Market” | Josh Rothman | Nov. 2, 2011 | Boston Globe at http://articles.boston.com/2011-11-02/bostonglobe/30351006_1_black-market-underground-economy-economic-activity via http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/facts-and-arguments/social-studies/milwaukee-zoo-to-let-ipad-using-orangutans-monkey-around-on-wi-fi/article2287719/