Rad Geek People's Daily

official state media for a secessionist republic of one

Metropolitan Marketplaces (or: The City of New York vs. New York City)

Here’s a bit from Marketplaces Find A Way, a fairly delightful article by M. Nolan Gray in the July 2023 (Adam Smith 300) issue of Reason. The photo discussed in the block quote is up at the top of the article on the web, and laid out on the page in the print edition; so I’ve embedded that here directly by the part of the text that’s talking about it.

Back in the physical world, this indelible urge to truck, barter, and exchange forms the basis of cities. As the urban planner Alain Bertaud has argued, people principally gather to exchange goods, labor, and ideas. This is why cities follow a near-universal pattern of densities peaking around a central business district and declining outward. It’s also why dedicated marketplaces are a near-universal urban design feature, from New York City’s Times Square to Mexico City’s Zócalo to Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.

It’s ironic, then, that contemporary Anglo-American urban planning is almost completely defined by a phobia of markets.

The streets and sidewalks of American cities were once sites of spontaneous, unplanned marketplaces. As captured by the iconic 1900 photo of New York City’s Mulberry Street in Little Italy, peddlers with pushcarts once set up shop along busy streets selling everything from peanuts to watches—an accessible kind of entrepreneurship that naturally appealed to immigrants. Any public space could turn into a marketplace, if the conditions were right.

[Here's the photo of a crowded urban streetscape in 1900.]

This kind of informal market activity was stamped out by corralling sellers into discrete districts, mandating expensive licenses, or banning vendors altogether. Similar fights are underway in cities in regions across the developing world, where a quixotic quest for visual order and a reorientation of the urban public realm around the car has led to similar anti-vendor efforts in Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Likewise, markets once blended naturally into almost every neighborhood, even residential areas. As a trip to New York City’s Tenement Museum reveals, the strict distinction between home and work is an entirely modern invention; historically, front parlors doubled as offices, workshops, restaurants. The same is true of neighborhoods: Even the most humdrum residential neighborhood was once served by corner groceries, barbershops, and bars.

Zoning’s role in perpetuating the housing affordability crisis is well known. But equally pernicious has been the way zoning has excised markets from daily life. This is by design: Early 20th century Anglo-American elites saw the mere presence of market activity as corrupting. Such prejudices turned into zoning codes that strictly segregated land uses, producing a monoculture landscape of strip malls and subdivisions.

In pre-zoning neighborhoods in cities like Washington, D.C., one can still find the remnants of a lost world of neighborhood commerce, if you know where to look.

Markets find a way….

— M. Nolan Gray, Butchers, Brewers, and Bakers Still Thrive in Urban Marketplaces
Reason (July 2023)

Shared Article from Reason.com

Butchers, brewers, and bakers still thrive in urban marketplaces

Adam Smith recognized that man has a natural "propensity to truck, barter, and exchange."

M. Nolan Gray @ reason.com

For some past pull-quotes and extended writing on similar themes around here on the blog, also check out:

Shared Article from Rad Geek People's Daily

“Is shopping a recipe for the city?” (Wade Graham, DREAM CIT…

From a generally very interesting chapter on Idea 6, Malls, in Wade Graham’s Dream Cities: Seven Urban Ideas That Shape the World (a book on archite…


Shared Article from Rad Geek People's Daily

Market-Women and the Revolutionary Market-Place (Gold Coast/Ghan…

From C.L.R. James, Nkrumah and the Ghana Revolution (1977/1982): Chapter 3. The People in 1947. . . . There was yet another social feature of Gold C…


Shared Article from Rad Geek People's Daily

We know other marketplaces.

If you enjoyed Pigs as a Paradigm, here is some more from the same place, which may be something by way of a moral. This is in Aristide’s article Gl…


Shared Article from Rad Geek People's Daily

Markets used to be celebrations. . . .

Like I mentioned yesterday, I’m trying to get some of my accumulated notes, scraps and fragments compiled into the blog. Here’s a beginning of som…


Shared Article from Rad Geek People's Daily

Mutual Markets vs. Corporate Capitalism: A Formulation

So, going through the final rounds of work on Markets Not Capitalism with Gary and the rest of the Collective has really been reminding me that I’ve…


Shared Article from Rad Geek People's Daily

Bits & Pieces on Free Market Anti-Capitalism: Is this all just a…

On Markets, Marketplaces, Capitalism, and the Strip Mall vs. the Bazaar


“Of coffee, of ancient generals, of the faces / of statues each of which has the eternal expression of one of my feelings…”

This was from a while back on the Poetry Foundation’s Audio Poem of the Day podcast. I made a note at the time but didn’t post it. To-day I’m looking over the note, and I know so much the desolation of the airport delay. But as far as the place and the weather goes, now it all feels like a dispatch from some alien land, in an ancient age far beyond the ken of the fathers of the fathers of men.

April Snow

Today in El Paso all the planes are asleep on the runway. The world
is in a delay. All the political consultants drinking whiskey keep
their heads down, lifting them only to look at the beautiful scarred
waitress who wears typewriter keys as a necklace. They jingle
when she brings them drinks. Outside the giant plate glass windows
the planes are completely covered in snow, it piles up on the wings.
I feel like a mountain of cell phone chargers. Each of the various
faiths of our various fathers keeps us only partly protected. I don’t
want to talk on the phone to an angel. At night before I go to sleep
I am already dreaming. Of coffee, of ancient generals, of the faces
of statues each of which has the eternal expression of one of my feelings.
I examine my feelings without feeling anything. I ride my blue bike
on the edge of the desert. I am president of this glass of water.

— Matthew Zapruder, April Snow
From Come on All You Ghosts (2010)
and Poetry Foundation’s Audio Poem of the Day podcast (1 April 2023)

The Death and Life of Great American City Newspapers

According to some reports, the Opelika-Auburn News may be halting home delivery of their daily print edition. But don’t for a moment let anyone tell you that they have given up on doing hard-hitting journalism with a global reach.

From the online edition:

Shared Article from Opelika-Auburn News

‘Too much’: Burger King’s new offering in Thailand has no …

Burger King is causing a stir in Thailand with its new offering: a burger with no meat and a jaw-dropping amount of cheese.

Kocha Olarn and Michelle Toh, CNN @ oanow.com


Just announced to-day — at long last.

Shared Article from nytimes.com

F.D.A. Approves First U.S. Over-the-Counter Birth Control Pill

The move could significantly expand access to contraception. The pill is expected to be available in early 2024.

By Pam Belluck @ nytimes.com

As I wrote last Fall:

Once againof course birth control should be available over-the-counter.

There is no reason but pure control-freak politics to require prescriptions from medical gatekeepers to pharmaceutical gatekeepers. — Oh, but what about side effects? The side-effects are minimal for most women, well-known after six decades of research, and not worse than the health effects of unplanned pregnancies. In any case the information is easy to understand and communicate, and ordinary women are perfectly capable in ordinary circumstances to come to their own decisions and make their own choices about the risks they want to take when it comes to their own bodies and their own health. — Oh, but how will the insurance pay for it? If insurance won’t pay out without an Rx, then there’s no law that says a doctor can’t write an Rx for an over-the-counter medicine. In any case over-the-counter availability will also make oral contraceptives a lot cheaper and practically more accessible, even if it does become somehow harder to get insurance specifically to pay for them. This problem has already been solved in many cases with contraceptive products that are already available over the counter (like Plan B emergency contraceptives), and it shouldn’t be hard to figure out how to extend it to this case.

If there’s no victim, there’s no crime. If it’s your body, it should be your choice. Free the Pill, and all political prisoners.

— GT 2022-09-20: OC OTC, 2022 Edition

“If Proudhon’s predictions regarding peace remain unfulfilled, perhaps it is because we have scorned anarchic means….”

Shared Article from Reason.com

An anarchist's guide to war

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's most controversial book has finally been fully translated into English.

Shawn Wilbur @ reason.com

The publication of a complete English translation of War and Peace allows us to move beyond the rumors that have accumulated around it and decide on our own what sort of book it is. Very little about that task is simple….

— Shawn Wilbur, An Anarchist’s Guide to War
Review of War and Peace: On the Principle and Constitution of the Right of Peoples by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, edited by Alex Prichard and translated by Paul Sharkey
Reason, May 2023

AK Press has released a complete English translation of Proudhon’s monumental late work War and Peace (1861), translated by Paul Sharkey and Alex Prichard. Shawn Wilbur reviews the book and the new translation for Reason.

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