« PreviousContinue »
and justifiable. Before it can be answered, two other questions must be considered and replied to: Is it possible by means of prohibition to guard against the evils caused by alcohol or to diminish them materially? Can this aim be more surely reached and with less risk in some other way? We must understand the kind of injury wrought, in order to learn what kind of measures should be taken, and how great it is, in order to determine the extent of the sacrifices we are ready to make.
(In some of the following chapters the different aspects of the socially evil consequences of alcohol are sketched. Their nature and extent form the background against which the authors would have the social means of defence viewed. More or less extended summaries of these chapters are given below, according to their importance and general interest).
The Abuse of Alcohol as a Source of Coarseness and a Poisoning of the Family Life. Drink Habits Among Unmarried Men the Cause of Less Frequent Marriage and Increased Prostitution.
The number of arrests for drunkenness, particularly in the city of Stockholm, is considered at length. As the statistics upon which it is based are necessarily inexact and incomplete, no conclusion is drawn regarding the actual extent of the abuse of alcohol and its manifestations, although it appears alarming enough. It is noted, that in the case of many young men intoxication is an expression of deplorable drink customs rather than of moral depravity. The coarsening influence of drink upon the home and married life is pointed out as one of the most important elements on the debit side of the question. This influence is notable also in cases where an extreme abuse of alcohol does not occur. Concerning the effect of drunkenness in diminishing the marriage rate, while prostitution is increased, no facts are adduced, but a general line of reasoning is followed.
The Economic Consequences to the Laboring Classes of their Drink Habits. Alcohol and Poverty.
The total expenditure for alcoholic drinks, of which only estimates can be made, is held to be excessive. On the other hand, the sums thus involved would not necessarily be saved or spent for
useful or necessary things were alcohol unobtainable. It is quite probable that a large part would be expended for coffee, soft drinks, and other luxuries for which even now the Swedish nation may possibly waste a larger sum than that given out for intoxicants, when a proper reduction is made for the part of the cost of the latter that goes into taxes.
Yet the economic injury wrought the laboring classes particularly through drink should not be minimized; it is most serious. However, as to its actual extent and its manifestation within different occupations and in different places, the necessary facts are not at hand.
It is characteristic of the economic injury resulting from drink that it usually hits others harder than the drinker himself. The abuse of alcohol affects the economic interests of the laboring classes indirectly by causing a loss of intellectual and moral capacity in the fight for improved conditions of living, and by preventing the development of rational demands of a spiritual as well as of a material nature. The direct results of the abuse of alcohol so far as the laboring classes are concerned, consists, partly, in causing illness with consequent loss of earning power and perhaps premature death, and, partly, in making them work-shy. By the latter is not meant that permanent condition observed in vagrants who at the same time may be markedly alcoholic. The investigations made by Bonnhoeffer, Williams, Mönchemöller and others indicate that this form of work-shyness is less a result of alcoholism than of inherited and, through mental disease, acquired psychic defects. The workshyness in question is of a temporary character, but nevertheless of economic importance. No thoroughgoing investigation has been made of the influence upon the ability to work and thereby upon the earning power, of larger daily doses of alcohol in the case of laborers in different occupations. The common conception (in Sweden) is that this deleterious influence is not specially notable, It is indeed not rare to find persons whose daily consumption of alcohol and their reaction to it unquestionably place them in the category of alcoholics, and who still are regarded as especially proficient in their calling. Notwithstanding observations of this kind, a methodical and searching investigation of the influence of the usual alcohol doses upon the quantity and quality of work done, both in lower and higher grades of employment, would perhaps place the whole matter in another light than the one in which it is
commonly viewed and might lead to a very profitable agitation for temperance.
The statistical investigations hitherto made of the relation between alcohol and poverty have been numerous but yield little permanent value and are not comparable. The official statistics of the poor in the city of Stockholm for 1907 and 1908 show drunkenness to have been the cause of need in 0.4 per cent. of the total number aided. Certain earlier inquiries based upon a limited material reached very much higher percentage for some localities in Sweden.
The inquiries in this field made by the Committee of Fifty, whose work is given special credence on account not only of the extensive material gathered but of the care and expert knowledge with which the work was carried on are referred to at some length. The obstacles to competent inquiry, and among them the technical difficulties connected with the subject, are such that little progress has been made. Here as well as in regard to many other aspects of the alcohol question, the great danger is of collecting a dead statistical material. Yet if one cannot account statistically in a wholly satisfactory manner for alcohol as a cause of poverty, certain facts are obvious, and experience tells the story sufficiently.
Alcohol and Crime.
It is not an easy task to deduce from the multitude of figures gathered from different countries a reply to the one question which after all is that one should like to have answered, namely: If the alcohol had not existed, how many and which of the crimes committed within a stated period may one reasonably suppose would then not have taken place?
The Swedish and Danish statistics cited seem to establish a relation between crime and drink in most cases. But especially those of Swedish origin are to be accepted with the utmost caution. The data were collected by prison chaplains and are chiefly based upon the statements of the criminals themselves and have only a limited value as many prisoners naturally are not disinclined to blame an accidental condition of intoxication for their misdoings. On the other hand, they might be reluctant to describe themselves
as "given to drunkenness." This perhaps explains why those among the Swedish prisoners said to have committed their crimes while intoxicated are four times as numerous as those characterized as given to drunkenness prior to the commission of the crime.
Moreover, very far-reaching conclusions in-regard to intoxication as a principal cause of crime should not be drawn from the bare fact, even when it is carefully ascertained, that the crime was committed in an intoxicated condition. Numerous offences committed while the perpetrators were drunk would most certainly have been committed by them while in a sober condition and when no spirits were to be obtained. For many offenders are to be regarded as latent criminals, who like other persons of their ilk very frequently are careless in the use of alcohol. To determine in the individual case whether a crime by an intoxicated person would have been committed had he not been intoxicated is, of course, specially difficult, but by no means impossible. A less extensive inquiry, including a limited number of criminals selected without prejudice and in regard to whom one could examine relatives and friends and gain intimate knowledge, would certainly yield more valuable information into the part played by alcohol as a cause of crime than the largest material mentioned, which from its nature is superficial.
The influence of chronic alcoholism on criminality cannot be determined, as has been done in the Danish statistics, simply by stating that such and such a number of crimes have been committed by persons "given to drunkenness." Before any valid inference can be made, it is self-evidently necessary to know how large a part of the whole population of the same age-groups, sex and social order, may properly be described as drinkers, alcoholics, etc.
Without seeking to minimize the relation between drink and crime, there is ample reason for assuming a conservative attitude toward all exaggerated notions about alcohol as the root and origin of all crime. Expressions voicing such opinion about alcohol are plentiful. Thus Wiren says in his book on "Alcohol and Crime:" "Experience shows that no crime is found which cannot be referred to alcohol as its primary cause." Such an assertion is, according to the doctrine of modern criminology, contrary to all fact.
Alcohol and Heredity.
The question of the race-destroying effect of alcohol occupies a noteworthy place in the modern temperance literature. The confidently assumed influence of alcohol upon the mental and physical make-up of the offspring, which is exemplified in almost every pamphlet about the liquor problem, has possibly contributed in a greater degree than anything else to convince the more critically inclined persons of the danger of alcohol to society and to direct their attention to the necessity of completely prohibiting the existence of alcoholic beverages.
Writers like Bunge, Forel, Gruber, Legrain, Saleeby, Laitineu, Wallis, Gadelius, Lidstrom and Thyren, have asserted in different ways, both in speech and writing, the race-destroying influence of alcohol. Because of it, they feel impelled to cry out a warning to civilized people, especially those of Germanic race. It is timely, therefore to make an exhibit from the modern temperance literature of the methods which are regarded as valid in order to prove the destructive effect of alcohol upon the germ-plasm and of the general results which it is supposed have been reached in this field.
Dugdale's The Jukes is frequently cited in evidence. Most of its members were alcoholic. The method of selecting one or more persons of this kind and then studying their descendants, attributing the diseases and defects found to the alcoholism of their parents is extremely often employed.
Thus, Demme's inquiry in regard to two family groups living under similar outward conditions is frequently cited. One group consisted of 10 intemperate, the other of 10 very temperate families. Of the children of the first group, 57 died in infancy, 7 were idots, 5 dwarfs, 5 epileptics and 5 suffered from various other physical defects. Only 10 were normal. The temperate families, on the other hand, had 61 children, of which only 5 died in infancy, 50 were normal and but 6 sick or defective. This inquiry is stamped by Helenius as “perfectly satisfactory in respect to method."
A similar family tree is referred to by Lidström. As an "enlightening example” of the extent to which “alcoholism in a previous generation reduces the power of resistance to tuberculosis bacilli” and how "susceptibility to tuberculosis is inherited through several generations," this writer cites the following: "A certain naturally