Anarchist economics


Berkeley is justly famed for its culinary glories. The so called "New American cuisine," also known as "California cuisine," began here, as Alice Waters and a host of chefs, bakers, vintners, and other foodies developed new methods for producing and serving fine food and drink, based on the freshest and highest quality ingredients, carefully prepared using a combination of traditional and innovative methods. The people who started Starbucks and brought good coffee to Nebraska and Alabama learned about coffee at Peet's Coffee in Berkeley, for example.

Many of these foodie folks, already marching to a different drummer, adopted the politics of the left. After all, Berkeley is Berkeley. But their food and drink is spectacularly good. There is no better place to eat in America.

Berkeley is home to a couple of anarchist or at least socialist bakeries. One of them, the Cheese Board, is very close to where I live, and sells wonderful breads as well as a huge selection of cheeses. The small commercial district within which it sits is known as the "gourmet ghetto," for all the famous restaurants and provisioners located there, including world—famous Chez Panisse Restaurant. Naturally, the Cheese Board also sells pizza, which has folks lined up to buy it every afternoon for take it home and finish baking. It is wonderful.

I find the folks working there, who are mostly in their forties, and who collectively own the place, fairly cheerful and helpful. They take great pride in the quality of their products, and will let customers taste thin slices of the various varieties of cheese (they have around 8 different kinds of Parmesan, for instance, and probably stock over 200 different cheeses) until you find the one you like best. They really seem to care about doing a good job.

I don't ever talk politics in their store, and do my best not to dwell on the silly political notices they put up. Closing down on May 1st for International Workers' Day is about the only way their politics have an impact on me.

The other anarchist baker, Nabalom is a bit more distant, but famous for pastries and some incredible whole grain breads. I haven't patronized it for some years, but always found it a bit less hospitable than The Cheese Board.

Apparently the anarchist entrepreneurs at Nabalom are finding that it is tough to run a business. According to the Oakland Tribune, it is losing money and will have to close soon. Members of the collective have invested their life savings to keep it going, but it simply lacks distribution to permit it to do enough business to keep going.

The story is full of ironies. I don't wish any of these folks ill. They believe a silly ideology, but believe passionately in their craft. By deluding themselves with fairy tales about how they wish the world worked, they are dooming themselves. It is sad. People tend to hang onto their illusions until they have no choice.

At least they won't be able to blame Wal—Mart. The local lefties have not allowed one to be built within a dozen miles of Berkeley.

Thomas Lifson  4 10 05