Thursday, April 9, 2009

Underground economy--surfacing?


I would be the last one to not pay taxes, but what with some of our appointed officials being pretty casual about it, I got to thinking about the underground economy.

I use cash to get my trees trimmed by passing gardeners. I know people out here in Phoenix who pay for electricity by the minute by putting tokens, purchased from the electric company, in a meter in their homes. Most of the people my kid knows don't have bank accounts. People have yard sales or sell on Craigs every hour of the day. People come up to you in the shopping center parking lot sometimes and offer to sell you a dozen enchiladas or some tasty item. Day laborers gather each morning waiting for a guy in a truck to come by.

In third world countries, the underground economy is larger than the official one--and it may be the same here, I am not sure. I do know marijuana is the largest cash crop in the US. Our underground may have started there, but I suspect everyone in it sort of just invented it for themselves.

In India, for example, people sell in the markets to supplement their famous $3 a day wages. World-wide, more than half of the world's non-agricultural workers are in the "informal" economy.

It's their safety net. Supply and demand.

Remember the apples people sold in the last "Giant Downturn"? Underground economy.

I understand in the Islamic world there is an elaborate worldwide financial system based on trust. I forget the name of it. But you can borrow from a guy here and somehow they keep track and that lender gets a credit someplace else.

Some Chinese immigrants here also have their own private financial system.

We are already headed that direction. Does the IRS still try to collect on the value of barter transactions? They used to.

I can foresee a world in which we hand those goofy little gold bars on TV to each other.

When we say "off the grid" here, we don't mean the electrical grid.

1 comment:

Star Lawrence said...

Speaking of barter:

www.barterquest.com
www.barterbee.com
Craiglist.org -- there is a barter section

And yes, you are supposed to report what you get as income. But if you didn't pay anything, how much is it worth?