Politics & Polls #111: How Technology Changed Illicit Trade

Oct 18 2018
By Sophie Helmers and B. Rose Kelly
Source Woodrow Wilson School

Technological innovations have fundamentally altered the landscape of illicit trade. From war lords to state actors, top-down forces have harnessed technology to expand illicit trade in everything from pesticides to rhino horns.

In this episode, Julian Zelizer and Sam Wang discuss the current state of the global illicit economy with expert Louise Shelley of George Mason University. Shelley explains the roles of market forces, criminal actors and non-criminal actors in the illicit trade market.  

Shelley is the Omer and Nancy Hirst Endowed Chair for Civil Intellectuals, a professor in the Schar School of Government at George Mason University and the founder and director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center. She also is the author of a new book, “Dark Commerce: How a New Illicit Economy is Threatening Our Future.”


Zelizer is the Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, Class of 1941 Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He is also a CNN Political Analyst and columnist for the Atlantic. He is the author of several books including, most recently, "The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society," which was just awarded the DB Hardeman Prize for the Best Book on Congress. He has edited and authored 19 books on American political history and published over 700 hundred op-eds, including his popular weekly column on CNN.com.

Wang is professor of neuroscience and molecular biology at Princeton University. He is known for his books "Welcome to Your Brain" and "Welcome to Your Child's Brain" and for his founding role at the Princeton Election Consortium, a blog providing U.S. election analyses. In 2004, Wang was one of the first to aggregate U.S. presidential polls using probabilistic methods. In 2012, his statistical analysis correctly predicted the presidential vote outcome in 49 of 50 states. He has also developed new statistical standards for partisan gerrymandering. A neuroscientist, Wang's academic research focuses on the neuroscience of learning, the cerebellum, and autism.