Crime Benefits the Economy!

Including crime in national accounts expands the mirage of economic growth

The world’s unfettered free markets are hardly bastions of ethics. The dry-sounding ‘Changes stemming from improved comparability of Gross National Income measurement’, published by the UK’s Office for National Statistics on May 16th 2014, includes these startling, shocking sentences:

“…illegal activities (e.g. prostitution and production of drugs) fall within the production boundary of national accounts. The sources and methods used need to be reviewed in order to ensure that illegal activities are properly included in the national accounts. The UK already includes estimates in the national accounts for smuggling of alcohol and tobacco, so this reservation will be addressed by including prostitution and drugs within the national accounts framework.”

The announcement was one of a number from statistics offices in the European Union, as members moved to harmonise a way of inflating economic growth by estimating the amounts changing hands illegally! Criminal activities such as drug pushing are good for the numbers, because buyers who are addicted will pay the price asked, even if they have to turn to more crime to get the money. Governments evidently value crime as a pillar of economic output.

Is this the end of ethics in government? How can politicians expect people to behave ethically when criminal activities are valued for contributing to national income? The European Commission pushed member states down this road when in December 2013 it included the proposals in the ‘European System of National and Regional Accounts’. This shows the Commission’s priorities – economic growth above all other considerations. Maybe the European Union is not such a force for social good after all.

Complaints in the media were muted and, it seems, short-lived. For the mainstream media too, the imperative for economic growth is unquestioned. Nearly all activities, including childcare — parents paying other people to look after their children while they work to earn the money to pay the childminders – have already been monetised, prompting the powers-that-be, in a desperate gamble, to co-opt the underworld.

The UK’s boost to gross domestic product from the addition of illegal activities was thought to be £10 billion, about £155 per man, woman and child. The £10 billion figure is, of course, only a guess as no one really knows. The figure is probably inaccurate as well as reprehensible.

— extract from Solving the Grim Equation, published by Cambria Books this year, 2015

PDR

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