L. Neil Smith's

Number 5, February, 1996.

Tag--You're Dead!

By L. Neil Smith

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

         Like everybody else -- except for liberal arts types too dumb to live -- I'm tired of seeing "gang-sign" spray-painted around the city I live in the same way a dog piddles on everything vertical around what he considers his "turf". Unlike everybody else, particularly the same liberal arts types, I'm prepared to offer a solution guaranteed to be effective, although it will call for some considerable revision of what we call -- with unknowing accuracy -- the criminal justice system.
         The first "fan mail" I ever received was in response to an article I'd written for Guns magazine. It came from an old westerner who offered some interesting observations about the process through which, to paraphrase Robert A. Heinlein, an armed society makes for a polite society.
         To begin with, he attested, he'd grown up in Montana at the turn of the century and -- presumably because everybody always had a gun somewhere near at hand -- he'd never heard one grownup call another a sonofabitch or anything even remotely like it. Contrast that with the casually vile manner in which individuals relate to each other every day in New York City, which effectively outlawed personal weaponry in 1917.
         Then there was an incident he described in which, for no reason in particular, a lowlife we'd refer to in these morally enfeebled times as "homeless" pulled up a tenderly-nurtured pear sapling in somebody's front yard, and that somebody shot the sonofabitch dead. One gathered that there wasn't even an inquest, since it was an obvious demise from natural causes: in well-armed Montana at the turn of the century, it was only natural for somebody to ventilate you if you ruined their property.
         The fastidiously faint-of-spine today (yes, we have our share of them in the Libertarian movement) might not like it, but that act of mindless vandalism lived on in this old man's memory for 70-odd years precisely because -- in well-armed Montana at the turn of the century -- it was the only act of vandalism he ever saw. And it was the only act of vandalism, not because people back then possessed a mysterious quality of character we don't possess today (a claim conservatives are stupidly fond of making), but because it was the custom of the day to let character express itself -- if appropriate, in a hailstorm of hot lead.
         Over the last several decades it's become fashionable to display a melodramatic squeamishness regarding the defense of private property by deadly force (while no such noble sentiment ever seems to apply in the armed defense of government holdings). This is because socialists who misname themselves "liberals", pursuing a political agenda that (public rhetoric to the contrary) has nothing to do with moral decency or respect for life -- both of which they always privately dismiss as bourgeois fussiness -- have convinced everybody else that "property is theft". And they ought to know, since much of what they acquire is stolen.
         Fact is, though, that for those of us who don't get what we own the old-fashioned way -- by stealing it -- property is life. Local television anchor-people with six figure salaries may have difficulty understanding this, but most folks exchange major segments of their mortal expectancy -- and indenture themselves to lending institutions -- simply to come by the basic amenities of civilized existence, say, a house or a car. They also have to contemplate it for a long time and shop around even longer for a washing machine, a dryer, a TV, or a stereo.
         Then, they don't merely face the savage predations of thugs in suits and ties -- tax collectors, for example. (In this connection it's worth noting that places like the South Bronx weren't "bombed out" by gangsters or taggers, but by rent control, enforced by elected or appointed vandals.) They're expected to submit to the demands of freelance tax collectors, rather than "take the law into their own hands". The government demands obscenely that you watch what you've earned be stolen or obliterated. In most jurisdictions, rather than defending yourself or whatever you own, you have a legal obligation to die.
         Not everyone submits willingly, not even liberals. A Denver radio station, for example, has begun offering cash rewards to people who turn taggers over to the cops. But the utter disillusionment of the first citizen to do so -- and endure hours and hours of legal tedium, only to watch the miscreant go free with a slap on the wrist -- was illuminating.
         Well, to hell with that. We ought to shoot them dead, instead. Certainly not because of any specific act of vandalism they may be caught committing at the moment, mind you. That only provides us with a pointer. They should be killed -- in the spirit of H. Beam Piper's great novel, Little Fuzzy -- because they're the type that commits vandalism. Because they're the type that steals or wrecks the part of your lifespan you had to give up in order to get whatever you call your own.
         For what it's worth, casualties will be remarkably low; it won't take more than one dead tagger or two before they learn not to spray people's property. And if it takes more than that, so what? Those who are too stupid to learn an elementary lesson like this shouldn't be contributing to the gene pool, anyway. One reason that nobody (except for media consumption) laments mutual gang killings is that, as long as they keep it among themselves, they're performing a public service.
         As I say, it'll require alterations to the so-called legal system, over the hysterically sniveling objections of politicians (aided and abetted by the round-heeled press) who, as thieves themselves, tend to identify (call it "professional courtesy") more closely with predatory street garbage than with those compelled at bayonet-point to pay their salaries.
         But it'll be worth it. We'll wind up with a culture that's not only graffiti-free, but where people can safely take a walk on a warm summer night, and where a pear-tree can be nurtured without fear of molestation.

L. Neil Smith's celebrated first novel, The Probability Broach, will be republished, in unexpurgated form, by TOR Books in October, 1996.

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