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Table of contents

The Wire I.5-9


On the laws

The cops are trying to find the man behind the drug operation. Avon has been outsmarting them for some time. He wants anonymity. His example shows the tension between the private life & law enforcement. This is a weakness of liberal regimes: Formal rules limit the police & hence empower the smart & the daring among criminals. We must forsake decency for a second & admit there is something admirable about Avon: He makes himself invisible to the laws, so he must know what they see & what they don’t. His success is connected to his thinking about how to break the law with impunity. The cops only begin to chase him when they recruit his enemies. Luckily, our protagonists understand the laws require a lot of illegality so that they work.

McNulty follows Avon’s consigliere, Stringer, & is shocked to see him taking an economics class. Not Marxist delusions, the capitalist teaching. It seems the spirit of our laws is with the outlaws, too. Drugs are just another good on the market: Supply & demand describe the necessity for drugs. Questions of law seem derivative… Then we see cops taking sergeant exams, which is how they hope to go up in the world.

The drug business is changing. Avon’s henchmen go from a drug orgy with working girls to getting shot in the streets. They were not as tough as they thought they were; they could hardly be said to have been thinking… It is hard not to see that they deserve their fate. Some of the criminals we see seem to understand their predicament & the need to hold on to some kind of laws in order to retain humanity. But the successful are apt to lose awareness of their mortality…

Education fundamentally concerns the laws. Two cops discuss which working girl to try to turn state’s evidence. They conclude that one girl, in a photo, looks like a citizen. Greggs suggests it’s in the eyes. Presumably, that woman does not look corrupt. You can tell if you can tell the difference. You tell the difference by seeing what that changes in one’s look.

Back to the cops. Their authority makes them unreliable. They do not depend on competence. Our protagonists quickly learn they might get fired for doing their jobs. They do not understand corruption is a necessity in this world, because people cannot come to agree that they all have what they deserve. Perhaps our men deserve their fate, like all who fight evil without understanding why it even exists. Policemen, judges, & politicians have to accommodate corruption, because they understand they have something in common with criminals: A burning desire for the good.