Whenever Conlon addressed a topic that I know something about (like the economics of the war on drugs — see p. 170 of the book’s paperback version), his analysis was always right on the money — which gave me confidence in his accuracy when discussing issues I know nothing about.
Among his many interesting insights is the following, which takes place on p. 239: Conlon has been getting information from a homeless heroin addict named Charlie, regularly paying Charlie small sums of his own money in exchange for tips. Charlie has a homeless friend named Tommy. One day on the street, Conlon runs into Tommy, who tells him a location where crack sales occur. Conlon writes:
I handed Tommy some money, he held up his hands and said, “C’mon, Eddie, you don’t have to, it’s okay.” I said, “It’s all right, you guys work, you take risks for us, you should get paid.” He took the money, but he shook his head.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I feel a little funny, since you guys pay out of your own pockets. Do you know how much we make out here, panhandling, during rush hour?’
“No, how much?”
“About a dollar a minute.”
I didn’t take my money back, but I saw his point. Charlie and Tommy made more money than us. I should have realized that earlier, as the math was not complicated — we took home less than a hundred dollars a day, while their habits were at least that. I tried not to dwell on the fact that, economically, a New York City police officer was a notch down from a bum.
Does this make anyone want to change their answer to last week’s beggar/hot dog vendor discussion?