Robert Nieuwirth: The Free Market Vs the Flea Market


Robert Neuwirth (13)Who’s afraid of the informal economy? journalist and author Robert Neuwirth asks the PopTech audience. He is known for his book Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, a New Urban World. His latest — Stealth of Nations — is focused on street traders around the world.

He notes that 80% of the working people are not in the informal economy, but something he refers to as System D, aka the Self Reliant economy, which he pirated from the African speaking Africa and Caribbean world.

Half the people in the world are working in System D, which means that the total value of System D around the globe is around $10 trillion. “If this was combined in a single political entity, let’s call it Bizzare-istan,” he says with a smile, “it would be the second largest economy in the world.”

It means that squatter communities are growing faster in legal areas, that the informal economy is exploding and that The Rational is becoming Irrational.

The informal economy has always been around globally, as he throws out example after example with photos in China, Taiwan, and Africa, where individuals are selling pirated designer sunglasses, cologne, DVDs, and mobile phones. He also notes that this kind of quasi-criminology happens in the formal economy every year as well, talking about Siemens who paid $1.9 billion a day, where it was done above board and legit.

Robert Neuwirth (21)

In the Free Market Versus the Flea Market, the lazy man’s money is worth more. “We have to consider fairness,” says Robert. “What we think are facts, are actually set in stone by those who are in the most power and have the most interests.”

If so many workers around the world are street trading and they’re alive, employed, thriving and growing, we have to work together, and with and within it. Says Robert, “we shouldn’t criminalize street trading – we should embrace it in someway so that we can bring people doing it out of poverty and into a better way of life.” Hear hear Robert.

Also refer to a video on the TED blog to hear more of his insights.


Renee Blodgett
Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.
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