Summary of Stealth of Nations

The Global Rise of the Informal Economy

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Stealth of Nations book summary
How the world’s poor bend the rules and operate in the worldwide informal economy to survive.


8 Overall

6 Importance

9 Innovation

9 Style


To describe the world of copyright piracy, smuggling and tax evasion, journalist Robert Neuwirth traveled to the street markets of São Paulo, the slums of Lagos and the export companies of China. In this engaging, nuanced look at the worldwide informal economy, Neuwirth argues persuasively that the world’s poor must bend the rules to survive, and he adds perspective about the relevance of off-the-books economies as a pressure valve when markets crash. While he writes with fascination about underground corruption and piracy, Neuwirth doesn’t offer moral precautions or solutions, though readers might want them. Perhaps he knows that would be futile. getAbstract recommends his insights to readers seeking greater understanding of the informal economy, life in developing countries, or the interplay of ad hoc and entrenched economies.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why the informal economy is important and
  • Why underground commerce remains the only choice for billions of people.


Unlicensed, Unregulated, Untaxed
The street market in the center of São Paulo appears frenzied and confused. Peddlers hawk toys, clothes, sunglasses, fake New York Yankees caps and phony Calvin Klein cologne. Like many off-the-books markets, São Paulo’s bazaar is deceptively well organized...
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About the Author

Journalist Robert Neuwirth is the author of Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, a New Urban World. His work has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post and Fortune magazine.

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