Global economy is not run by sheer ingenuity of some intrepid souls whose motto is not excellence but profits. Their dynamic leadership as some segments of capitalistic society make out, does not take finance of nations still higher. Gordon Gekko of Wall Street is a pathetic lost soul who represents a part of global consciousness to enrich themselves. Isn’t it a good thing? The answer depends on the state of our existence. We have chosen to be materialistic at the risk of losing our keen eye and ears for finer things in life. We have become crass and arrogant in the many number of weaker people we have pushed to the gutter in order to prop up consumer market. It is like the curate’s egg which is good in parts and rotten in the other.
The economic value of crime and its profits are not confined to global finance. It also makes a difference on the ground. Take jobs and living standards. From the 1980s onwards, real wages in OECD countries have declined for those in unskilled and semi-skilled occupations, that is, a good majority of the labour market. If wage stagnation was the order of the day in the West, you can imagine that developing states were hardly lands of milk and honey for ordinary workers.
Take Mexico following the signing of the NAFTA agreement in 1994; this ushered in privatisation by the back, front and side doors. By 1996, if you were not one of Mexico’s 8m unemployed, you worked legitimately in the maquiladoras sweatshop assembly plants or in the informal economy. Poverty became endemic. Fast-forward to 2012 and a banner appears above a highway in Monterey, placed there by one of the countries “big four” cartels:
Operating Group ‘Los Zetas’ wants you … We offer a good salary, food, and we care for your family. Do not suffer bad treatment … We will not feed you Maruchan (noodle) soups. Do not hesitate to call 8671687423.
To Mexico’s legion of economically disenfranchised, Los Zetos are really making an offer they cannot refuse. And the available figures prove as such: the drug industry employs around half a million people – the fifth largest employer in Mexico. Those employed in the drug trade are required to possess a unique skillset – the ability to variously murder, torture, kidnap, mutilate and rape. But this is not the whole story.
The illicit narco economy creates a virtuous commercial circle of sorts. The narcoeconomy not only employs directly but sustains a network of existing or new support industries and business ventures: banking and finance, IT, logistics, farming and transportation, pharmaceuticals, industries which have transformed backwater towns.
Britain maybe some way from being a fully-fledged narcoeconomy but we should not underestimate the economic contribution of illicit markets and their criminal agents. Take the City of London, international citadel of high finance and favoured port of call for international criminals and organisations looking to wash their dirty or corrupt cash.
According to David Clarke, City of London’s police fraud investigator, London is attractive haven for crime money as checks and balances on those setting up businesses or investing are flexible. Possibly this is why London remains an island of prosperity whilst the rest of the UK economy is in a state of austerity stagnation.
Further down the laundering food chain, there are betting shops and high volume fixed odds betting terminals widely used by drug dealers and gangs to wash their profits. In fact, these digital betting terminals now account for half the profits of bookmakers’ profits. However, the chancellor plans to plunder a good deal of this revenue by raising the duty on betting terminals. William Hill, the UK’s largest high street bookmaker, responded by announcing the closure of 109 betting shops at a projected cost of 420 jobs.
To consider the possible macro-economic benefits of illicit markets is not in any way to justify or celebrate crime. Far from it. The intention has been to consider the growing interdependence between crime and the legitimate economy. In fact, a growing body of research evidence suggests that criminal organisations and illicit markets increasingly form part of the mainstream economy. The boundary between the wider legitimate economy and the illicit economy is increasingly blurred.
A recent scandal when horsemeat was discovered in many “beef” burgers sold in UK supermarkets is case in point. A government commissioned review “clearly showed criminal activity in the global food chain”; a process aided and abetted by the aggressive pursuit by supermarkets of margins in a cutthroat commercial environment. The problem, it seems, is not so much organised crime but a crime-organised economy.”
(quote from The Conversation- article: When crooks get rich the whole economy benefits- Mike Marinetto, Lecturer in Business Ethics at Cardiff university/20 May,2014)