Social “de-development”

Our society has made progress – significant progress in the last few decades. From health, culture to politics, we have indeed made gigantic leaps.

So much so what we have learnt is only to continue with this development.

Imagine Hong Kong back in the 50s-60s.  Hong Kong people were generally poor.  And to make a living, they have to do whatever that is available.  If no one is hiring them, tough luck, they’d just need to find work for themselves (the traditional entrepreneurs).

So they hit the street to sell things (女人街), sell food(大排檔), sell music and songs, jokes and tales (榕樹頭), asking people to share apartments(板間房)or even taking advantage of the inadequate public transport system and offer car services (白牌).

Of course, the quality was mixed and as the society continued to develop, government had to establish policies and licenses to regulate these businesses.  It was generally welcomed by the society because it helped raising the overall standard (less food posing, less safety hazards, etc).

But our society development has stopped (well, apart from mobile technology), from economics to culture.  This is not surprising because human development always go through cycles.

Therefore people hit the Internet this time to sell things (e-commerce), sell food (food truck), sell music and songs (youtube), sell jokes and tales (live performance), share spaces (co-working or AirBnB), and unlicensed car services (Uber) – and call themselves entrepreneurs again – only feeling sexier this time around (at least for now).

Problem is, what happens to the existing regulations that were once relevant and useful. Should we go for de-regulation, or more accurately, how should we prepare ourselves for the reverse development, or what I call a ‘de-development’?

We seem to be extremely ill-prepared for this.

We need to go back to what used to work for us when the economy was less developed but we have the legacy of the protections that we have enjoyed for so long. No one want to give up either – but something is going to give.

Perhaps this is the root cause of the many tension and arguments.

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