Human Flower Project
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Flower Vendors: Keeping It Informal
It’s happened in San Antonio and San Francisco, and now in Istanbul; authorities are trying to get flower vendors to buy in and make their work official.
A boy makes flower garlands to sell on the street in Hyderabad, India
Photo: Sandy Ao
Within the heart of every self-proclaimed progressive, a dictator is lurking:
“You must not be poor. You WILL be clean and happy!”
For progressives, nothing’s crazier or more intolerable than people who won’t be “bettered.“ But the record shows that, despite 150 years of social science and persuasion, there are plenty of folks who don’t want to sign up for the program.
In the realm of commerce, this recalcitrance is called “the informal economy.” For obvious reasons, it includes the black market, but most of its participants are selling things that are perfectly legal – like flowers. They’re just operating outside the reach of officialdom and regulation.
Anybody who’s ever been paid in cash (or, alternatively, had to fill out pages of forms and file the pounds of paper that the “formal economy” demands) knows there are advantages to marginality. But there are disadvantages, too. Ask any undocumented worker who’s been cheated out of a day’s pay.