Most Native communities I’ve been to have an informal economic sector. In Alaska there is a steady trade in traditional foods such as smoked salmon, dried halibut, hooligan oil & seaweed as well as in regalia. In my mother’s tribe the informal economy consists of firewood, baked goods, hot meals and crafts. Though we may not realize it, these sort of economic activities in total make up a major part of the world economy and serve as a safety net of self reliance for our people. As the formal economy deepens into recession it is the grey market that will continue to grow, prosper and actually deliver prosperity. Here’s an interesting article at Wired Magazine discussing the role of the informal economy in the world.
Why Black Market Entrepreneurs Matter to the World Economy
Robert Neuwirth:There’s a French word for someone who’s self-reliant or ingenious: débrouillard. This got sort of mutated in the postcolonial areas of Africa and the Caribbean to refer to the street economy, which is called l’économie de la débrouillardise—the self-reliance economy, or the DIY economy, if you will. I decided to use this term myself—shortening it to System D—because it’s a less pejorative way of referring to what has traditionally been called the informal economy or black market or even underground economy. I’m basically using the term to refer to all the economic activity that flies under the radar of government. So, unregistered, unregulated, untaxed, but not outright criminal—I don’t include gun-running, drugs, human trafficking, or things like that.
Wired: Certainly the people who make their living from illegal street stalls don’t see themselves as criminals.
Neuwirth: Not at all. They see themselves as supporting their family, hiring people, and putting their relatives through school—all without any help from the government or aid networks.