When people hear the term “black” market their thoughts usually jump to human trafficking, violent drug gangs, and other violent endeavors. In reality those aren’t even examples of markets because markets are based on the voluntary exchange of goods and services between individuals. The real “black” market is nothing more than the exchange of goods and services the state has declared illegal. Oftentimes this involves drugs like cannabis and cocaine but other times it involves goods or services that are extremely expensive in “legitimate” markets due to regulations. Healthcare is one of those markets where regulations have made almost everything prohibitively expensive. Fortunately there’s the “black” market ready to provide healthcare goods for far less:
Several months ago, Jackie found that her maintenance inhaler was running low. We had just obtained health insurance through Kentucky’s health care exchange and, while it wasn’t the most expensive plan, it certainly wasn’t cheap. Our monthly bill was high, but we thought the coverage was worth it.
I should mention that Jackie specifically picked a plan with low prescription co-pays.
Imagine our surprise when the total for her inhaler, with insurance applied, turned out to be around $300.
Money was very tight at that time; we just couldn’t afford the inhaler without falling behind on other necessities like utilities and groceries.
It was Jackie’s idea to check on the dark net.
It hadn’t occurred to me to look for an inhaler on the dark net until Jackie suggested it. She doesn’t really know much about the markets beyond things I’ve told her, but she asked me one night if you could buy inhalers on them. I got online, opened the Tor browser that is the gateway to the darknet, and pretty soon I found exactly the same maintenance inhaler—same brand, completely identical—that we needed to replace. The price was $30 with shipping.
The exact same inhaler for one tenth the price was made possible by the “black” market. And thanks to the greatly reduced price Jackie didn’t have to suffer from foregoing other necessities due to lack of finances. This isn’t an isolated case either. Similar illegal trade exists for other medical necessities such as diabetes test strips.
“Black” markets are necessary in any society that suffers from a government that places regulations on free trade. Regulations always raise the costs of goods and services because they push out small providers place a barrier to entry for new providers. Fortunately there are many people out there willing to ignore the law and provide goods and services to those who want them. Instead of seeing them as dirty criminals we should acknowledge that they’re no different than individuals who provide goods and services in the “legitimate” market. If it wasn’t for them many people would have to make do without basic necessities.