Counterfeiting Statistics: Still Atrocious

Do you remember the atrocious and disappointing OECD report on counterfeiting? Rather than come up with a realistic estimate for the value of counterfeits traded worldwide, it came out with a hugely exaggerated "ceiling" of $200 billion. All the same, it was the first remotely rigorous report attempting to pin a number on this phenomenon.

Which is why it’s so terribly depressing to see the NYT ignore the OECD report completely, and revert to the old "7% of world trade" number which was never based on anything and which has been comprehensively debunked many times, including by me. Indeed, the NYT places a $200 billion value just on US imports, never mind total global trade.

Dean Baker doesn’t even need to take issue with the number to thoroughly fisk the editorial. But it’s clear that the truth is simply never going to emerge on this subject. As I wrote back in 2005:

A lie has circled the world hundreds of times before the truth has even found its boots, let alone thought about putting them on. The contest between the truth and the lie is so incredibly unequal that the truth will never win: it’s now far to late for that.

Today, the situation is worse. Back in 2005, the exaggerations concentrated on counterfeiting. Today, counterfeiting is invariably lumped together with piracy, which can be calculated to be as big as you like, really, in this digital age. All I can do is to urge my readers to never believe any statistics you ever read on such matters.

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