I am always struck, whenever I take the Eurostar train to Paris, as I did this morning, at how much graffiti there is on the walls near the railway tracks and on the sides of the often ugly buildings that sit next to the tracks near Gare du Nord. Some of the graffiti is in fact rather well done, even rather amusing. Here is a collection of the sort of stuff you can come across in the French capital.
Of course, graffiti is an assault on property – the assault is part of the thrill for those who do it – so beyond issues of whether the daubs are ugly or not, it is something that a liberal respectful of property and boundaries will be interested in. Even if I see a clever piece of graffiti, it makes me angry that someone’s property, on which attention might have been lavished, has been defaced. In the case of privately owned property, the offence is clear and obvious: spraying graffiti on the side of your house, say, is the same, in terms of the assault on what is yours, as spraying paint on your face. With public buildings paid for by taxpayers, my view is that taxpayers are entitled to expect that, assuming they have to be forced to pay for buildings at all, that the buildings are respected and kept in good condition, and not disfigured. I suppose some folk of an anarchist type might feel that defacing public buildings is a way of protesting against such things, although I have never seen a piece of graffiti with any slogans on it that might have appealed to an individualist anarchist like Lysander Spooner or Benjamin Tucker, say. If I see an item of graffiti saying that “taxation is theft” or that “the state is not your friend”, I’ll be sure to try and photograph it.
On a related point, I have to say that the Eurostar terminal at King’s Cross St Pancras in London knocks the spots off its Paris counterpart. What a magnificent building. For once, old London town has its French rival beat when it comes to sheer architectural magnificence.