We Need Some Anarchy in Our Cities

Istanbul has not had a great press lately. True, it has a flourishing architectural community but they are designing in a city that is growing so fast that it feels out of control. The violence that ensued after the demonstrations in Tahrir Square not only gave the impression of a brutal government, but also showed a disregard for public space and public enjoyment of a city. In the light of all this, how important are a few sellers of pretzel-like snacks? Well, actually, pretty important. The banning of the simit sellers will take away a part of the character of the streets for residents and visitors. Read the article about it and it is apparently an effort to stop some overcharging – but, the author believes, really a deep-seated plot to bring in government cronies. We may believe that the market on a large scale should not determine who succeeds and who fails, but at this small level it is exactly what is needed. The law should deal with issues like intimidation and, of course, prevent food poisoning. And after that, people should be left to get on with it. Oh, it might be anarchy. But maybe it is a touch of anarchy that defines the great cities – London, Glasgow, New York etc. – and makes them both harder to live in and more fulfilling than those perfect but dull cities that top so many polls on liveability.

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