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Wire III.1-5


On the problem of war

We see the criminals & the politicians sitting at the same table, talking things over. The differences have been blurred. The dialogue is straightforward crony capitalism. It is not self-evident that government officials do better by helping criminals turn capitalists than by living the political life. Criminals are a danger to life & reputation both; & politicians inevitably lose their power by such dealings. But the relation between the people & the police in the two cases is so different that changes are almost irreversible.

When we are presented with corruption in such a plain manner, there is no use talking of morality. Concern with one’s own good & the fear that others threaten it are the more reasonable guides we have. Stringer is continuously changing the way his underlings do business. He models drug-dealing on capitalism; but he models gang deliberations on Congress. It is not clear that he wants legitimacy, or that he understands it. But he is trying to solve the problems of organizing a commercial empire.

In time, corruption reveals itself as a way of life. It is no longer negotiable. It teaches us about the souls of men, because it is not part of the organizational diagrams of the various political & administrative institutions… If the rules made men happy, or allowed them happiness, corruption would be manageable. Corruption by itself is not a refutation of the rules, but it is the most dangerous attack on the laws. It suggests men cannot hold together without some stealing the minds of the others. In short, that the only thing men have in common is neediness. Neediness is most obviously needing protection, for example from other people. This is the only problem with corruption: It destroys trust. It encourages treason & renders sacrifice impossible.

The family is one obvious cause of sacrifice. The meaning of common good in the family is the same again in the city as a whole. – But liberal democracy demotes the family in favor of individual enterprise, & therefore cannot use that spontaneous love & growth as a ground of politics & peace. Self-interest, however sophisticated, always holds closer to treason than sacrifice. Now, war is impossible without armies. Armies are impossible without hierarchy. & hierarchy is impossible without trust, without agreement on who rules. War always asks: What is the nature of the man?

One cop decides to organize the drug trade – legalize it in a small district. Total neighborhood crime levels drop immediately. The police now protect drug-dealers… This man decides to treat the problem of crime like business management: It’s all about the good, what people buy. – Thus liberal democracy conceals ugly politics, especially war, behind economic thinking.