Anarchy In The San Francisco Panhandle
Spontaneous order is all around us, all we have to do is stop and notice it. Even in places as statist as the People’s Republic of San Francisco.
While walking slowly through the Panhandle after a good long basketball workout, I stopped to sit down on a bench to soak in the scenery as the sun woke up and its arms reached through the trees that line the park. Even more beautiful, however, was the peaceful order right in front of my eyes.
The Panhandle is a small park, a strip that separates two busy streets that intersect San Francisco. Shaped like a thick frisbee, there is a cement trail that circles the patches of grass. Dotted by gorgeous trees, the Panhandle is its own little world.
At virtually all hours of the day, these mini-roads are travelled by moms with strollers, old couples guided by canes, runners, wanderers, and bicyclists. The path isn’t very wide, yet everyone travels at vastly different speeds. The bright, skin-tight colors of a bicyclist’s outfit zooms by, often times in opposite directions as everyone else. Runners with earbud chords bouncing cruise by chatty young mothers.
There are minimal painted lanes, no stoplights, no uniformed men blowing whistles; there is both order and freedom. Everyone has an interest in their own safety, the safety of others, and for letting the different types of traffic flow. This is where order comes from, and except for when the city finally gets some rest and the paths are quiet, this spontaneous cooperation breathes and thrives.
Yes, it is technically government property, but one is hard-pressed to find any resemblance of the state whether one is relaxing in the grass or racing around in circles. Besides, the park is mostly maintained by volunteers, and much of the funding is donated by people passionate about maintaining the physical and natural beauty of the city.
The BART stations, the Financial District’s streets that nearly over flood with people, the quickly growing app-based entrepreneurs; despite its reputation, a form of market anarchy guides the city (indeed, any city), albeit with its own progressive, uber-environmentalist quirks.
Yet every time I talk to a liberal, whether at a coffee shop or a hipster dive bar, they can not even fathom the possibility of order without the local hangman’s noose threatening us. Despite their self-proclaimed tolerant “open mind,” their senses have been numbed to what is right in front of their eyes.
But bottom-up anarchy is everywhere. It governs the Panhandle, and governs anything resembling peace, cooperation, trade and civilization. Like grass that sneaks through the cracks of cement, it can not be buried or hidden. And when unleashed, it creates a million little miracles every day.