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Before accurate and socially significant facts can be established concerning the death rate from alcoholism, it would seem necessary to study the histories of the individuals concerned for the purpose of establishing the proportion of those who were mentally defective.
PROSPERITY AND PROHIBITION. In order to bolster up arguments for State-wide prohibition, a liberal use is being made at the present time of what, for want of a better name, may be termed prosperity statistics. It is pretended, for instance, that the "business results” of the policy of prohibition can be accurately measured with the "business results” of the policy of license in other States. To this end the statistics of savings banks, building and loan associations are being drawn upon and facts are marshalled about debt, wealth, taxation and the like.
Aside from the fundamental misconception that the figures available yield competent evidence and permit accurate comparisons, one is at once confronted by the ugly fact that prohibition does not prohibit and never has prohibited. On preceding pages it has been abundantly shown that States under prohibition suffer to the same degree as license States from the social ills its advocates attribute chiefly to the liquor traffic; in other words, that prohibition States, in common with those under license, must bear the same burdens of intemperance so far as it results in poverty, crime, insanity, feeble-mindedness, mortality. This being so, it must be conceded either that these burdens are unrelated to intemperance, or, that if comparatively greater prosperity exists in Maine than elsewhere, it must spring from other causes than the suppression of intemperance, since the latter has not taken place. To state the proposition differently, if prosperity statistics make Maine appear in a relatively better economic condition than license States, it must be in spite of the prohibition law, not because of it.
To reason out theoretically an economic basis of prohibition is one thing, but to draw conclusions about material benefits from any present day prohibition law is to work from a non-extant basis, since prohibition is inoperative. Moreover, the usual prosperity statistics ignore the commonest economic principles and refuse consideration of the numerous economic factors that are not capable of being expressed in numbers and percentages because the raw material from which they should be made are not at hand.
It happens frequently that facts about savings banks furnish the chief ammunition of the prosperity statisticians. The savings bank is an important institution in Maine. But many States are practically without them, and the savings of the people are deposited, if at all, with national banks or trust companies, or in some States largely with building and loan associations. Even if Maine could show a greater proportion of savings bank depositors and larger per capita deposits than other States, the fact would of itself mean nothing. Elsewhere the hoardings might be safeguarded in other institutions or remain to a large extent hidden from scrutiny. It is well known that several of our foreign peoples do not trust their savings to local institutions, but keep them at home or send their money abroad for investment. Comparisons that ignore these factors are more than open to question on the score of veracity.
As it happens, savings bank statistics for Maine when contrasted with comparable States do not help to emphasize the economic benefit from prohibition. This is clearly brought out in the next table. It shows conclusively that Maine not only has a lower ratio of savings bank depositors than New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York, but has the smallest per capita deposit of any of these States. Of course it must be conceded that the number of recorded depositors is not an infallible index of their proportion to the population, for the same depositor may resort to several banks and would be counted more than once. To say that savings bank deposits are the ultimate test of the degree of prosperity in Maine would be as foolish as to present the impossible claim that these same deposits show Maine to be more prosperous than her neighboring States.
STATISTICS OF SAVINGS BANK DEPOSITS IN VARIOUS STATES. REPORT
OF THE COMPTROLLER OF UNITED STATES TREASURY FOR 1907.
Depositors to Population.
221,883 $84,394,909 $121.52
154,325 57,444,294 167.16
122,319 66,391,174 154.92
517,301 246,264,985 271.09 2,740,808 1,394,296,034 191.82
1 to 3.1 1 to 2.2 1 to 2.2 1 to 1.4 1. to 3.5 1 to 1.7 1 to 2.6
In further proof of the absurdity of using savings banks deposits as final evidence, some facts relative to saving bank deposits in Massachusetts may be adduced. The smallest per capita deposits for the year 1907 are shown for the no-license cities Somerville, Everett and Melrose, and they are smaller than in any city under license in Massachusetts. Instead of illustrating lack of prosperity under local prohibition, the fact is that these cities, being contiguous to Boston, use her savings banks as depositories. Or, take another example: Springfield, a license city, had almost twice the per capita deposit of Cambridge which for many years has been under no-license. This fact by itself explains nothing. Least of all does it prove.prosperity to be less under no-license.
Statistics of membership in building and loan associations and of their assets may mean much or little according to the state of development these institutions have reached. Pennsylvania, for instance, had, according to the latest returns, 1,321 building and loan associations with assets of $137,640,602, while Maine had only 35 with assets of $3,434,726. The disparity in resources of this kind as an isolated fact means nothing. Connecticut, for example, has not as many building and loan associations as Maine and their assets are smaller. To base statements about the relative prosperity of the three States on such figures would verge on the ridiculous.
STATISTICS OF BUILDING AND LOAN ASSOCIATIONS IN VARIOUS STATES.
The total banking resources of a State are a reasonable index of its wealth, but not invariably. Take New Jersey, as an example. In the Eastern part, New York is the banking centre for a large proportion of its wealthiest population, while Philadelphia holds the same relation to the Southern part of the State. Therefore, a comparison of New Jersey with Pennsylvania and New York, which ignores this peculiar condition, would be thoroughly misleading
As a matter of fact, if one could concede in the first place, that prohibition is effective, and, secondly, that per capita banking resources are an accurate gauge of prosperity, then the official figures are decidedly unfavorable to Maine, Kansas and North Dakota. The subjoined table bears this out. Of course, comparisons are more or less out of order unless made with contiguous States; there must be some similarity in geographical locations, character of population, industrial pursuits, etc., to make them valid.
It will be seen that Maine shows the lowest per capita banking resources of any State in the New England group. Kansas shows the lowest per capita banking resources of any of the middle West and Western States as classified, except Indiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma. North Dakota makes a better showing than Kansas, but inferior to that of all the surrounding license States.
COMPARATIVE STATEMENT OF BANKING RESOURCES AS PUBLISHED IN THE REPORT OF THE COMPTROLLER OF THE CURRENCY,
AVERAGE RESOURCES PER CAPITA, JUNE 1, 1907.
Total New England States...
37,552,232 287,375,669 93,979,991
648.87 223.34 311.84 191.60 220.21 278.05
Total Eastern States..