The Shadow Economy

The world's top three industries, in order of their size, are the military, illegal drugs, and oil. The first of these is partly unaccountable because of illicit arms sales; the second is entirely unaccountable; and the third does not account for the environmental and social damage that it does. Unaccountable activities of all types are gaining an ever greater share of the global economy. They constitute as much as 20 percent of economic activity in the United States, 40 percent in Russia, and 60 percent in Zimbabwe. Although these "informal" or "shadow" economies include many activities that are harmless or even healthy, Ed Ayres sees their cumulative effect as a threat to social and environmental stability. Ayres looks at the causes for the lengthening shadows, and outlines a set of measures that could check the trend towards greater unaccountability.