As part of my exciting rock’n’roll lifestyle, I will a couple of days a week walk from the office here to the Carrefour supermarket on Ladprao Road. The other day I was doing just that very thing but a little later than usual and I noticed that more roadside space had been opened up for street vending.
(I also noted how many people park their cars on Ladprao in the evening, thereby causing unnecessary hold-ups: punishment for first offence, impaling.)
The new spaces were used by a woman with a stall and a few tables and chairs selling various meals, including what looked like grilled pork neck. Some other entrepreneurs seem to have branched out into grilled Thai sausage and popcorn – not very money-spinning operations in themselves but offering a few extra baht per day which might make a difference in someone’s life – the people in the soi next to ours who so diligently cook chicken and prepared somtam pretty much everyday have been able to buy a car for their family, for example. That might not sound so earth-shattering but it represents I should think quite a big improvement in their lives. So, it is possible for work on the streets to offer a way out of poverty at least under some circumstances.
Of course, the increasing use of space for street vending has other effects, as well – more pressure is placed on public services (relating to hygiene in particular) and pollution (noise, smell, waste) is increased. Increased commercialization of public space is also not to everyone’s taste and, as more vendors have joined that stretch of road adjoining Union Mall, I find I have to walk in the street because the pavements are so crowded and, given the way that some people drive, that is not something I am entirely happy to do.
Still, as Schumpeter observed: capitalism is an endless process of creative destruction and these streets of Bangkok represent capitalism in action.