You have mostly misinterpreted what I said. Perhaps I was not clear enough, but it sounds like you may also have a bias against street art.
  First off, who said anything about "destroying" property? Demolishing a building would be destruction -- and I'm sure there are plenty of government buildings which need to be demolished. So a blanket statement that Libertarians should not be "in favor of destruction, even if the property is 'owned' by the government" makes no sense to me. But more to the point, since when does the application of extra paint to a building constitute its destruction?

  Secondly, who said anything about disallowing property owners to remove unwanted graffiti? I am completely in favor of private property owners being able to paint over or otherwise remove whatever graffiti they wish from their property. And if someone is caught making undesired graffiti, he or she should be responsible for its removal if requested by the property owner.

  Government is a different question, however. That's where the aesthetic question comes into play. Requiring everyone to get advance approval for any improvements they wish to make to the public sphere ensures that many good and creative endeavors never come to fruition. It's a system designed to please a planner, a bureaucrat, and a conservative, not an artist or a lover of innovation and change. It's not necessarily true that government will pay to clean up the graffiti and pass the bill along to the taxpayers. The nature of government is that it is already getting all the money it can from taxpayers. Unless it can convince people that the graffiti *should* be cleaned up, it will have difficulty justifying seeking more money from taxpayers for the purpose. Of course it may divert existing employees and resources for this purpose, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. After all, those employees and resources might have otherwise been employed in tasks more harmful to liberty.

  But a better solution would be for those people who don't like the graffiti in the public spaces to spend their own time and money getting rid of it, just as the graffiti artists spend their own time and money to produce graffiti. Eventually, the graffiti artists and the graffiti haters would probably reach a sort of accommodation of each other's preferences, with certain areas being graffiti-free, and other areas being full of graffiti, and with more offensive or tasteless graffiti getting erased or painted over and more aesthetically pleasing art being respected and allowed to remain in place. As an anarchist, you should be able to appreciate this kind of spontaneous order.

  This phenomenon of preference for good art, combined with graffiti artists being allowed to work openly on government property without fear of arrest, especially if their work was aesthetically pleasing, should tend to increase the quality of the graffiti one sees in public. I agree that beautiful existing buildings and art should not have graffiti scrawled on them, and people should still be arrested for such acts, but you may observe that most graffiti artists don't tend to "tag" places like City Hall or beautiful existing public artwork anyway -- not just because their graffiti would be removed, but because artists tend to respect other art. Especially when they don't feel disrespected themselves.

  If you are walking down the street, and your progress is impeded by a crowd that has formed on the sidewalk to hear a street musician playing, it may take you some extra time to pick your way through the crowd and reach your destination. You may not even like the music, in fact you may find it offensive. You may be able to hear it from your apartment, in fact. The presence of certain types of street music on a regular basis in your neighborhood, or the people it attracts, may even drive down property values. From this, should we assume, when we see a musician playing on the street, that this is a bad thing, and that the person should be arrested? Of course not.

  Similarly, if a police officer sees a graffiti artist practicing his art on a private building, the officer should not immediately make an arrest, unless he positively knows that the property owner does not want the graffiti. Presumption of innocence and non-interference. If the police officer is not aware of the building owner's attitude toward graffiti, and does not see a sign or logo on the building indicating that the owner wants graffiti artists prosecuted, the officer should use his or her judgment. If he/she has nothing more pressing to attend to, he/she should attempt to contact the building owner and ask what action he wants taken, if any, perhaps describing the nature of the graffiti being painted.

  One might easily scoff that no property owner would want graffiti. However this is not at all clear. Remember that most (all?) municipal authorities, in the United States at least, tend to take a negative attitude toward graffiti. Property owners with graffiti on their buildings are sometimes fined or forced to remove it from their property at their own expense. When the graffiti or street art is of higher quality and remains in place for some time, property owners have also been known to have their rights violated, namely by being prevented from making changes to their buildings that would damage the art. They might also be liable in lawsuits or nuisance complaints from neighbors, for allowing or encouraging graffiti. Some municipalities may even use the presence of graffiti as an factor in declaring a building or area blighted, and having it condemned against the wishes of the owner(s).

  Thus there are many artificial government laws, policies, and practices in place which tend to cause property owners to frown on graffiti. Remove those laws, and you might see a lot more acceptance and appreciation of graffiti.

Yours in liberty,
        <<< starchild >>>

[Mike E and Starchild]>>I agree with Starchild that graffiti on govt property is ok.<<

The government will only hire someone to remove the graffiti and pass the bill along to the taxpayer.

I don't think Libertarians should be in favor of destruction, even if the property is "owned" by the government.

I disagree that Starchild's three questions are "important" (with the possible exception of #2), and his claim that graffiti should not be assumed to be bad. If a property owner wanted graffiti, they certainly could get some on the free market. It is not required for vandals to make this decision for them.

As for "socially redeeming value;" what, are we going to have a city commission that judges what graffiti owners can and can't remove from their property? Will owners not be able to prosecute vandals if the graffiti's "redeeming value" is judged high enough?

Graffiti's artistic merit is hardly the issue here. The issue is property rights. An artist who wishes to express himself should find voluntary means to do so. To say that he has a (positive) "right" to destory property because of his heightened artistic sensibilities leads directly into the general socialist argument. The socialist always has a good reason for infringing someone's (negative) rights.

Condoning those who would destroy property in the name of art is the sort of statement that gets Libertarians dismissed by the public, and rightfully so.


Sent: Sunday, March 19, 2006 7:51 PM
Subject: Re: [lpsf-activists] New file uploaded to lpsf-activists

I agree with Starchild that graffiti on govt property is ok.

In fact, it brightens up dull gray Govt buildings--the artists should be compensated for their efforts.

Best, Michael

From: Starchild
Sent: Sunday, March 19, 2006 3:21 PM
Subject: Re: [lpsf-activists] New file uploaded to lpsf-activists


Good suggestions below. I think my partial revision addressed some of your concerns. I think the effort to divide specific crimes into high, medium and low priorities is a worthwhile one. I do have a couple -- well, at least one, maybe two -- differences with your > categorizations.

First, I object to putting non-consensual sex work in the "high" category for the simple reason that it gives the authorities too easy a loophole to target sex work in general. They can always go after prostitution and claim that they thought pimps or traffickers were involved, and even cut deals with the prostitutes if they'll agree to say they were being forced to work. Not only does that fly in the face of justice for the managers and agents, but it contributes to false public perceptions that people do not voluntarily work as prostitutes.

Last year a massage parlor in the Sunset was raided, and the media had quotes from law enforcement about sex trafficking and such, but it was not clear to those of us in SWOP whether there was any actual evidence of this. A massage parlor full of uneducated immigrant women who speak little English is not proof of sex trafficking or non-consensual dealings, but the authorities and I think unfortunately much of the public tends to assume that it is. If a poor immigrant woman from China voluntarily agrees to come here and work in a massage parlor in exchange for help in relocating to the U.S., that should not be illegal.

If the authorities think they have a case that someone was forced to do sex work, let them bring a kidnapping charge. I believe that the standard of proof for kidnapping is higher. This would avoid stigmatizing sex work, or giving the police a loophole through which to continue targeting and harassing legitimate prostitutes.

The other activity I wanted to comment about is graffiti. I believe there are three important questions to ask with regard to graffiti:

(1) Is it on private property or government property?
(2) Does the property owner object?
(3) Does it have aesthetic merit or socially redeeming value?

First of all, it should not be automatically assumed that graffiti is bad or unwanted. Certainly no one should be prosecuted for graffiti without the assent of the property owner whose property was affected, and the owner ought to be given the chance to demand that the graffiti artist repaint the affected surface or pay for the cost of doing so as an alternative to being prosecuted and forced to work for the government.

My understanding is that the community work to which convicted graffiti artists are typically sentenced involves the removal of other graffiti. This makes about as much sense as forcing convicted prostitutes to engage in social work aimed at preventing other people from having sex. Not that people in the latter category should be prosecuted at all, obviously, but if they are, it would make more sense to employ them in having sex with indigent disabled veterans who are wards of the state as part of the therapy and health care of those persons. If a convicted graffiti artist has artistic talent, it would make more sense to sentence him or her to paint public murals in approved locations.

In the case of government property, if someone were to paint a beautiful mural on an abandoned government building, or paint something of social or artistic value on a public sidewalk, this should not be regarded the same way as a gang scrawl sprayed on the exterior of an attractive edifice like City Hall. We the people are the ultimate owners of government property. From the sheer amount of graffiti that appears on government property, it appears that many of the owners of that property do not object to a certain amount of graffiti.

Graffiti in its finer forms is a recognized art form. It also has enduring historical value over the long term. When I visited the ruins of Pompei in Italy last year, the graffiti on the walls of Roman villas thousands of years old was the object of intense tourist interest and its importance was recognized by the site administrators and archaeologists.

So all in all, if we are to put anti-graffiti efforts into one category or another, I think they should be regarded as a low priority. While some of it rises to the level of medium priority, much of it does not.

Yours in liberty,
<<< starchild >>>

Okay, finally some comments/questions of my own, below... Several
other people seemed to have strong feelings but haven't said
anything all week!

> Priority Protection of the Citizens of San Francisco Act
> Revision #4
> [...]
> The San Francisco Police Department in assigning 32 police
> officers to "sweep the homeless"; in assigning 22 police
> officers to middle school and high school safety patrols, to
> high-profile "news at 11:00" raids on massage parlors, Holiday
> drunk-driving checkpoints to shameful hi-jinks video tapes has
> shown a reckless, wanton and abysmal disregard for the necessary
> actions which are needed to protect the Citizens who through
> their taxes pays the San Francisco Police Department's budget.

I'm wondering whether this initiative could be worded so as to
less alienate the police -- that is, to express the problem and
solution with less judgmental language than "reckless, wanton and

> SECTION 3. Declarations.
> [...]
> The San Francisco District Attorney's office through its
> insistence of evidence beyond ANY shadow of a doubt allows
> alleged major-crime felons to freely commit crimes without
> being charged because these felons know they can do so without
> any likelihood of being arrested and prosecuted by the San
> Francisco District Attorney.

I believe that *conviction* must be "beyond ANY shadow of a
doubt". This paragraph is just talking about arrest, right?

> SECTION 4. Purpose and Intent.
> [...]
> Require the San Francisco Police Department to direct its
> activities in such a manner as to concentrate it police
> personnel and its capabilities on locating and arresting
> at-large alleged perpetrators suspected of murder, rapes and
> armed robbery.

Why only *armed* robbery?

> Section 5. Priority Protection of the Citizens of San Francisco
> Act.
> [...]
> By definition non-priority or non-essential police work will
> include but not be limited to: homeless sweeps, drunk-driving
> checkpoints, massage parlor raids, prostitution busts, "john"
> solicitation stings, neighborhood traffic enforcement or
> control, personal possession marijuana busts, graffiti taggers,
> parade escorts, non-injury traffic accidents, dignitary escorts,
> large scale event management, clerical desk work which could be
> handled by a civilian clerk, main facility door guards,
> assisting the DEA or California State Bureau of Narcotics in
> marijuana busts or any police activity where a highly trained
> police officer could be replaced by a civilian.

This does seem a little over-broad, unless I'm misunderstanding
the intent. You mention "non-injury traffic accidents" and
"neighborhood traffic enforcement or control"; so where do injury
accidents fall? How about reckless driving? Is there a medium
priority level for everything between what's mentioned here and
murder etc.?

Perhaps we could make it clearer that we are demanding (1) no
enforcement of a narrow set of low-priority victimless "crimes";
and (2) redeployment of those resources to high-priority violent
crimes; but that (3) we're not demanding any particular change in
the handling of medium-priority property crimes.

I might classify some crimes off the top of my head thusly:

High: murder, manslaughter, rape, assault, armed robbery,
kidnapping, nonconsensual sex work, injury traffic accidents,
missing persons

Medium: theft, unarmed robbery, vandalism and other property
damage (including graffiti and littering), non-injury traffic
accidents, reckless driving, threatening use of a weapon

Low: drug use, drug possession, drug sale, consensual sex work,
homeless sweeps...

I'm not sure about parade and dignitary escorts and event
management; might be medium.

As for graffiti, since it is vandalism, I believe the LP should
stand firmly against it! We should be clear on what we believe to
be crimes, what we believe to be serious crimes, and what we
believe to not be crimes at all. Consensual acts such as drug use
and some (most?) prostitution are not crimes, but graffiti is a
crime, just not as serious as violent crime. But at the same time
there is a project underway in the Mission District where a
non-government contractor (whom I know personally) is
single-handedly cleaning up the neighborhood. He's seeking
authorization to hand out tickets for graffitti and to keep the
proceeds to fund the project. Food for thought...




+ Visit your group "lpsf-activists" on the web.

+ To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:

+ Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of Service.



I agree that the government should not force a property owner to remove art they chose to have on their building. And, I am sure that there is some government property, somewhere, that is deserving of destruction (not, in my view, including the surfaces of buildings).

I think we will have to agree to disagree on most other points.