What Is The Black Market?
The black market is an underground economy that is not government-regulated. It is a virtual or physical platform for the illegal sale of goods and services. In Africa and the Caribbean, some call it System D. The D stands for debrouillard, which describes a resourceful and ingenious individual in French. It earned its name due to the criminal nature of its commodities and services. It is one of the most significant contributors to addiction globally.
More Common Than We Think
In the United States, when people picture the black market, they may visualize dark alleyways with drug dealers selling Heroin in sketchy corners. People think it is a place full of dangerous criminal entrepreneurs. Yet many “regular” people participate in black market dealings daily.
For example, if a cook sells homemade burgers to a friend without a food license, they contribute to the black market. However, most black market dealings are not so good-natured. The traditional image of a man selling drugs is one of the most common occurrences in the sector. Any paid work or transaction that does not pay employment taxes is part of the shadow economy. If it is prohibited, it is part of the black market. Please note that the illegality of black market transactions makes them a dangerous threat contributing to the world’s public health crisis.
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Why Do Black Markets Exist?
Black markets exist when people take part in “under the table” activities to avoid government price controls or taxes. The individuals are motivated by their desires to avoid penalties and restrictions. The sector also persists when people unintentionally break laws, like when they barter.
Historically, the underground economy peaks during:
- Government corruption
- High inflation rate
- Low currency reserves
- Frequent regulatory barriers
- Low wage rates
- Social oppression
- High levels of taxation
- Economic downturns
The more that a country’s population becomes unemployed or oppressed, the larger their black market grows. As the black market grows, so does a country’s rate of addiction.
How Big Is The Underground Economy?
It is almost impossible to measure how big the underground economy is, since it has no official registry. However, according to different sources, it is about 12% of the US gross domestic product (GDP). In 2020, the US GDP was worth $21.48 trillion. That would make the US black market worth around $2.55 trillion; still, that number is only an estimate. The actual cost of the underground market is nearly impossible to track. No one truly knows its value.
Sold On The Black Market
Some black markets may exist accidentally, but others are intentionally hidden. Worldwide, there are severe and lesser-known black markets operating behind the shadows. Many are in places no one would have ever imagined, like the internet (dark web). Within the shadow sector, consumers can buy or sell goods not found anywhere else.
A few of the dangerous items and services sold in the black market include:
- Endangered species
- Fake eBay accounts
- Ticket scalping
- Slave labor
- Robo Instagram followers
Consumers can find anything in the hidden economy. It is known for having a plethora of uncommon contraband. Unfortunately, one of the most common contrabands sold on the black market is illegal drugs. A large number of Narcotic sales contribute to higher rates of addiction worldwide.
Addiction And The Black Market
Addiction is a severe problem in the United States. Over 21 million Americans are battling at least one addiction. Of those 21 million, only 10% reported receiving any treatment. How did the other 18.9 million people cope? According to various researchers and journalists, many individuals manage their disorders with the black market’s help. Since the underground economy provides access to their “fix” without restrictions, many buy or exchange services to access the affinity of their addiction. Whether it’d be taboo porn, Opioids, or Amphetamines, the illegal sector has it.
Over the years, law enforcement has cracked down on the black market. Through their efforts, criminal activities are slowing. But the fight is far from over. The raging Opioid epidemic in the US has given rise to a new sector in the illegal economy. Due to the restrictions around Opioid addiction medication, the black market is growing faster and stronger every day.
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Ashish Bhatt, MD, MRO
Doctor of Addiction Medicine
Learn about Dr. Ashish Bhatt
Dr. Bhatt has been Addiction Center's Medical Content Director for more than three years, providing his expertise to ensure quality and accuracy.
Doctor of Addiction Medicine
Expert in adult and child psychiatry
Over 20 years of professional experience