NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Thriving Underground Growers

July 1, 2003

The 51st state of the U.S.A. is thriving underground -- an invisible empire of black market businesses that rakes in at least a 10th of our 11 trillion-dollar economy. This is no big secret. Anyone beyond puberty knows that illegal drugs, illegal labor, illegal "adult entertainment" and other forbidden items are readily available, says Eric Schlosser in his new book, "Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market."

Schlosser focuses on three areas: marijuana, migrant workers and pornography.

  • Estimates on marijuana, for example, range from $5 billion to $20 billion or more; no production records are kept, of course.
  • Corn is officially the leader among U.S. crops, at $l9 billion.

Schlosser derides the unfettered "free market" economic philosophy as practiced today in the use of migrant workers; the result, he says, is "share-cropping" -- a single notch above slavery in the 2003 economic food chain.

Also, the underground movie business today has grown to exceed all of Hollywood's domestic box office receipts, on an annual basis, says Schlosser.

Source: Robert Nash, "Here's what the GNP doesn't tell you," Dallas Morning News, June 29, 2003; based upon Eric Schlosser, "Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market," Houghton Mifflin, May 2003.


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