Black Market

Written By
Paul Tracy
Updated November 4, 2020

What is the Black Market?

A black market is the illegal purchase and sale of goods and services.

How Does the Black Market Work?

Drug dealing is one of the most prominent black markets in the United States. In this black market, people buy and sell drugs knowing that such activity is usually illegal and that possessing the products themselves is usually illegal. Regardless, the demand for drugs is high enough to trump the law, though people usually attempt to conceal their participation.

Many black markets exist beyond drugs, however, and though the products or services may be legal, the manner in which they are bought and sold may be illegal. For example, it is legal to have a cleaning lady, but it is illegal to hire a cleaning lady who is not in the United States legally.

Because regulatory constraints may increase the price of some goods and services, in some cases regulation can actually prompt the development of black markets. This was particularly the case in the early 1900s, when the United States outlawed alcohol, which created a massive black market for the production, transportation and sale of liquor.

Why Does the Black Market Matter?

The presence of black markets all over the world is evidence that the laws of supply and demand are virtually impossible to defy. When regulation or taxation becomes too high, when supply and demand are way out of balance, or when competition has been too restricted, people will always look for a way to get goods or services cheaper, faster or more easily.
 

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