For every crime, there is at least one victim. No victim, no crime.
And no nonsense, please, about how victimless "crimes" cause some amorphous non-entity called society to do all the real suffering. Down that path lies the total control state.
Okay, I admit it. I'm going to launch into a lecture. I hate that. I try to avoid it. But sometimes ... well, that's the way it has to be.
I'll keep it short -- and I hope unboring. But it's the groundwork for the events that follow. In fact, it's the groundwork of Hardyville itself -- a little town where things aren't quite perfect but are frequently better than in the real world.
No victim, no crime. When you have an act of aggression and a victim, you need justice. If justice can't be delivered by the intended victim on the spot, then you need Procedures. On the other hand, when you have neither aggression nor victim, then laissez faire. It's a simple principle. It's bedrock under our feet.
Of course people in a society -- or a neighborhood, or a community -- suffer when criminals rampage. But "society" also suffers when individuals don't have refrigerators. Or shoes. Or when they abuse their health. That doesn't mean some government should take over Amana or Whirlpool, establish a Commissariat of Cobblery (and a five-year plan for ending the inevitably-worsening shoe shortage), or order people to eat right, stop smoking, and wear their galoshes when it rains.
At a slight angle from this, I want to point out two facts that would appear blatantly self-evident to everybody if you were creating a justice system from scratch and some bright young graduate student piped up, "Hey, I know! Let's have the government run it!"
Fact the first: In a government-run justice system like the one you have out there in the real world, any person who's actually been injured is about the last one to be "made whole," as the expression goes. People who've been robbed don't get their money back through prosecution of the criminal. People who've been maimed don't get compensation unless they bring a separate private case for it (and are very, very lucky). People who've been raped often just get raped again by attorneys and have nothing in the end but more pain. Sure, there are now itty-bitty token restitution programs attached like barnacles to the tax-funded "just us" system. But the government regards itself (a.k.a. "society" again) as the primary victim. Which is, frankly, dopey.
Fact the second: If you had offended Microsoft, how would you feel if you had to be dragged into a court whose building was owned by Microsoft, whose officers were paid by Microsoft, whose jury received their little per diem from Microsoft, whose rules were entirely determined by Microsoft, and where even your own attorney was considered an "officer of the (Microsoft) court"? Would you think you were getting a fair trial? Oh, c'mon. People would be rolling around the floor laughing at such a ridiculous idea. Yet that's what we face if we're on the receiving end of "The State vs. John Doe" or "California vs. Mary Jones."
It's no wonder (and shouldn't be a point of pride) that 95 percent of all cases (or more!) in some jurisdictions go in the government's favor. It's not a sign that cops always arrest the right people and prosecutors operate with nearly perfect skill. It's mostly just a setup.
But the setup is a profitable one for the lawyering industry, the law-spewing industry (aka every legislature in the land), the prosecuting-and-judging industry, and the relatively new (but thriving) prison-industrial complex out there in the real world.
There's only one good thing you can say about all this. The relatively small number of true, hard-core psycho or career criminals who get arrested and end up in prison are prevented from plying their trade on random innocents while they're locked up. They have to wait until they get back out.
But at the same time, millions of non-violent "offenders" have their lives ruined and their families shattered (a great method for producing future criminals) while the real purposes of justice -- make the victim whole, discourage people from harming each other, and even give the offender a chance to re-establish his honor within the community by doing the right thing -- are pretty much cast aside.
Anyway, that's the lecture, whole and entire. In Hardyville, no victim, no crime. Bedrock principle.
And in Hardyville, there is no government to be victim, prosecutor, and profiteer.
So in Hardyville, things work a lot better. But still, way far from perfect. I'm not going to pretend Hardyville is Libertopia. There is no perfect when you're dealing with human beings.
Thanks for bearing with me.
* * *
So there we were. We had five genuine bad guys on our hands. Top of the Hardyville Most Unwanted list: Gang leader John Davis Melvin (formerly referred to in these pages as Herr Kommandante of the DEA's multi-jurisdictional taskforce) -- boss of an illegal party of armed, paramilitary invaders. Then there were his four henchmen who had obeyed orders to shoot at fleeing men (correct that; fleeing persons). Call them War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death or whatever else you feel like calling them.
Marty Harbibi was dead. Jasper Feldspar Clarke gravely wounded and in the hospital. Victims, without a doubt. Justice, without a doubt, had to follow.
The five malefactors enjoyed sub-deluxe accommodations in the Hardyville jail, watched over by our good old familiar non-tax-paid sheriff and his two deputies, Tomas Castenon and Emin Borgo. Their not-so-terribly-vile durance was covered by a fund established for just such purposes by the coalition of Hardy County arbitration agencies.
And yes, those federales really were treated decently. Neither the Code of Hardyville nor the personal code of Hardyvillians allows anything like Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay. Not even for the most difficult prisoners.
And I tell you, those guys were real pests.
Problems, problems, problems they caused us. Having arrived in the county in the middle of the night, Bent on Nefarious Purposes, none of the five had signed an arbitration-services agreement, as is common for residents in these parts. Even after somebody explained to them that justice proceeded here via mediation and agreement between trespasser and victim (or surviving family members thereof), they smugly refused to select an arbitration service.
Justice did not move forward.
Guess they expected that their government would swoop in any minute, extradite them, and move their case to federal court -- where we all know exactly what sort of justice the government's own agents get for killing members of the hoi polloi.
Little did they know that Hardyville was never going to allow that.
And so they waited. Of course the sheriff allowed them to call in attorneys. But can you picture how a real-world legaloid would encounter Hardyville? We have no attorneys here. We have skilled mediators, hired by the parties to any dispute, or employed (freelance!) by the arbitration services. They help ease disputants toward a solution. We have forensics experts we can call on. People like that. But with nothing but the Code of Hardyville, the Golden Rule, and whatever general laws private associations and individuals came up with for the smoother running of daily life, what would a D.C. attorney do here?
They were, I believe, trying to research exactly what kind of jurisdiction Hardyville is supposed to be -- whether that be state or county or federal occupation zone. Once they discovered that they could declare our laws void and thrust us into some familiar -- and badly broken! -- system.
And that worried us. You can imagine how that worried us.
But in such things as case law and the nature of Hardyville's justice system (a justice system which, from their blinkered perspective, appeared to be missing entirely), the fancy Washington attorneys made no headway. They simply did not, and given their deeply held biases, could not, understand us.
Still, the eager law boys and girls had the limitless resources of an aroused federal government at their disposal. And they were looking at us in ways we (brother, this is understating the case) did not like. That meant we had to turn to Delaval's representative. Post haste. Rapidly. And lickety-split.
Now. How to get Delaval to agree to continue to keep government off us while not losing our low-key rural souls to Delaval?
* * *
Alejandro Serrano, Jorge Delaval's personal envoy, embraced Hardyville with remarkable aplomb, considering he was far more used to the spas and metropoli of Europe. He never once looked down on us from the height of his urbane, silver-haired eminence. With the old-school manners of one raised to believe that the nobility are privileged to serve the people, he acted toward us as though we were his equals. A good sign.
He and Nat appeared not only to have a productive rapport with each other when they met with the other major Hardyville property holders to hash out the details of an agreement. They also had a jolly good time together after midnight at Bark's Tavern or the Hell-in-a-Handbasket Saloon. It took the bartenders a while to find the delicate liqueurs Serrano preferred. Or the vintage Bordeaux. But pretty soon, he and Nat were just like a couple of the guys.
We heard lots of reports on what the landowners were negotiating. Even though they were perfectly open about what they were up to, the property owners and Serrano became the subject of much rumor and gossip (especially since Dora and Carty weren't supplying enough of that particular commodity at the moment).
We heard hopeful news emerging, some of it even true. We were relieved when we got the announcement that all parties had agreed on a clause that anyone actively attempting to implement any tax of any shape, kind, size, or degree of toxicity, could be shot on sight by any self-responsible resident of Hardy County.
That was a good start. Serrano seemed to find it a particularly amusing clause.
We were happy and more than a little relieved when we watched the negotiators (because everyone wandered in and out of the meetings and occasionally even offered an opinion) hammer out the clause that said the Delaval organization would issue an immediate "cease and desist" message to federal attorneys and researchers looking into the exact nature and location of Hardyville. The rumor about Nat and Serrano's midnight-at-the-bar negotiations said the Delavals would use, as their "stick," a threat to make a demonstration of how very, very precisely they could drop the U.S. dollar against the Yuan on any given day.
So while our captives were certainly entitled, as per the Bill of Rights, to have "counsel," their fancy-pantsy political law-twistificators would soon be scrambling, as far as their wrong-headed legal educations could take them, to understand Hardyville's native, and very sensible, justice system. We would not be dragged into any "jurisdiction" of theirs.
The Delaval people would stand between us and the intrusions of federal and state governments. But what sort of "us" lay in our future?
Agreements are only paper. The U.S. government once made infamous agreements with the people they found living near these parts. But a single gold strike could blow those agreements right in the natives' faces. That was our position. We were the bow-armed red man, facing the infamous might of the post-War-of-Washingtonian-Power-Grabbing government. We just had to count on our bows being a little more high tech, and the Delaval "non-government" being more benign than the feds.
Serrano ... well, most of us would have loved to keep Serrano as Delaval's personal project manager in Hardyville. But he was merely a globe-hopping envoy. He made the basic agreements, but others would come in to "develop" Hardyville as a haven.
That very word ... "develop." ... Ugh. Well, you know.
Eventually, though, it had to be. While our five prisoners were still sneering down their noses at the rubes' jail and the rubes' crude justice system, confident that they'd be sprung momentarily and that the rubes would swiftly be made to pay for their uppitiness, Alejandro Verdugo Serrano concluded Delaval's agreement with Hardyville. He delivered it by private-satellite uplink and teleconferencing with his boss. Soon thereafter, he prepared to fly away with signatures from both sides. And -- blessedly -- he began the process that called off the feds.
Dozens of us trooped out to the airport with him one blue day in May, and gathered 'round to see him off. He gave us all a jaunty, but somehow dignified, wave, bowed low over a feminine hand or two, and departed.
Two weeks later, after Serrano and Delaval had quietly made their choice of project manager, shared their private aims for us, and discussed their secret strategies, nearly the same number caravanned to the airport again to meet the man the Delaval organization had chosen to live among us.
Where Serrano had merited a dedicated Delaval helicopter, his successor flew commercial -- via the one tiny puddle-jumper that touches down in Hardyville every couple of days (when the ice isn't too slick or there aren't too many steers on the runway).
As he unfolded his lankiness from the hatch-like door of the Cessna, we could see he was of a different breed than Serrano. Younger, with bare touches of silver at the temple, he was satin-haired, pale skinned -- and the very picture (as nearly every swooning female in the crowd probably pegged him) of the roguish Latin Lover.
We thought some relationships in Hardyville were doomed -- soon to be left behind, along with many angry men and (eventually) weeping, love-shocked women, in the wake of this middle-aged Valentino.
Of Hardyville's larger doom, we remained unsure. We were too busy taking in the D'Anconian magnificence of him. Especially we of the female persuasion.
We were collectively struck in the heart when a beautiful young woman not much above half his age stepped out of the plane behind him. Females for yards around were speechless with disappointment. Except, apparently, one.
Charlotte Carolina, at the rear of the crowdlet, suddenly shoved herself into the backs of her neighbors. She lunged, clearly without conscious intent, toward the figure now stepping from the plane and carefully ducking to avoid the propeller.
"You pig!" she cried. "How dare you turn up here?!"
Thank you to proofreaders Darrell Anderson and EB -- saving writers from themselves one typo at a time.
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