« PreviousContinue »
The United States therefore holds the sixth place with Sweden as a consumer of spirits, and not the first. Eight countries use a greater amount of spirits per head than Russia and therefore it is not true that "it leads the world in its use of distilled spirits." Evidently the author regards production as universally equivalent to consumption, which is an unpardonable error.
Clearly the purpose of the author's gross exaggeration of the consumption of intoxicants in the United States is to magnify our problem. A fairer comparison than he makes is to state the per capita consumption for different countries of all intoxicants translated into a measure of absolute alcohol. According to Grosjahn and Kaupp's work, he would find that France, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria, in the order named, show a larger per capita use of alcohol than the United States, which ranks tenth. We have enough intemperance to combat without exaggerating the case; it only tends to make people indifferent when they discover that they have been misled.
At the end of the article reference is once more made to the subject of the consumption of liquors. The writer instances "the increase in the consumption of distilled liquors" in 1912, but finds consolation in "the fact that the Government statistics show that the increase in consumption is in the license territory only, especially in the large cities, and that there is in the white districts always a reduction." (By white districts are meant no-license areas).
A more astounding fabrication of evidence is hardly conceivable. No statistics published by the United States Govern
ment undertake to show where liquor is consumed and much less in what quantities in any specified locality. In the nature of things it is impossible to find out the facts. No distiller, brewer or wholesale dealer or retail distributor makes report of the places in which he places his wares or how much he sells. No law obliges him to disclose the facts. Therefore no governmental agency has even tried to state them. The United States Revenue Office knows where and in what quantities liquors are manufactured under license. But to regard this as an evidence of the extent of local consumption would be as intelligent as to say that because New England is a large producer of shoes the per capita use of shoes is greatest in that section, or as intelligent as to suspect Kentucky, whose output of distilled liquors is one of the largest, of consuming the greater part of the product with its 75 per cent. of the population under no-license.
In the very period in which the author makes the preposterous assertion just mentioned, he further refers to "Government Statistics" as showing "that the brewers who, it is thought, own 80 per cent. of all the saloons, have multiplied the drinking places abnormally." Now Government statistics deal so far with saloons as to show in the reports of the Collector of Internal Revenue how many persons pay a special tax for the privilege of selling. The census reports on cities also show the income from licenses, etc., in cities of over 30,000 population. But the Government statistics do not show directly or by inference that the brewers have aught to do with the saloons, much less that the number of drinking places has been "multiplied abnormally." Here are the internal revenue figures showing the number of persons paying special taxes as retail liquor dealers in Continental United States, in recent years, exclusive of those in prohibition States, the only official data available:
The five-year period beginning with 1908 will probably be accepted as representative, as it marks the beginning of an era of prohibition in several States. Instead of any evidence of the
legalized drinking places having been "multiplied abnormally,' there has been throughout the country a very notable reduction in their number except in prohibition States, where, on an average, about 9,000 maintained their illegal traffic. But that is another story. Instead of attributing the reduction of legalized places to their proper causes, such as the adoption of a statutory limitation in several States, a weeding out of dealers through the imposition of higher fees, better enforcement of the laws, etc., the author chooses to tell what he should know is misleading. If the progress made by restrictive measures does not please him, we should at least expect him to be terrified by the extent to which prohibition is violated. But this gloomy side of the picture he takes care not to expose.
The author turns next to the subject of the area said to be under no-license and the proportion of the general population living in it. The subject so fascinates him that he continues it in a later paragraph which contains this amazing assertion: "There are over 204 cities in the United States of 10,000 population or over, where the legalized sale of liquor is forbidden." He must have made some slip in his addition. According to the year-book of the AntiSaloon League for 1913, upon which he relies throughout for the "facts," there are 142 cities of 10,000 population or more, according to the census of 1910, under no-license; and of these no less than 55 are found in prohibition States. To the uninformed it may look large that even 142 cities of 10,000 inhabitants or more (87 outside of prohibition States) have voted out the liquor traffic; but when it is recalled that there are 606 such cities in the United States, and that those nominally under no-license contain only an insignificant proportion of the total urban population, we can hardly endorse the inference which the author would have the unwary reader make, namely, that prohibition is making remarkable gains among city dwellers.
The actual significance of local prohibition so far as many cities are concerned, will be considered later. First, let us examine the general statements about the alleged growth of no-license territory and no-license population. Are they truthful, and if so, how should they be interpreted? Underlying all of them is the quaint assumption that the acceptance of local or State prohibition
spells freedom from liquor selling. Was it ever thus? Because a residential suburb, surrounded on three sides by a license city, votes not to legalize the sale of liquor, one can hardly regard that territory as "dry" in the sense that its population has not abundant and daily access to what the saloon offers. Now it may be theoretically correct to count the population of such a suburb (and these abound) in the no-license column, but practically it is misleading.
Or to take another instance, On the first day of the present year there were 35 "dry" counties in the State of Michigan. Of these all but three adjoined on one or more sides counties under license. Query: What part of the population of the "dry" counties continue as before to seek trading centers in the "wet" counties and remain in fact as close to the saloon as if their own county were "wet?" Throughout the States having adopted local prohibition instances of this kind are exceedingly numerous. Even in prohibition States a considerable portion of the population unavoidably finds itself in the same situation. In Indiana, Illinois, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, California, Wisconsin, etc., there are very many strictly rural townships and towns which have never known a saloon and where the matter of voting out that institution is a pure formality. It is hardly a triumph for local prohibition that such places are "dry" and it is of dubious value to count their inhabitants as swelling the total population living under no-license since they always did so.
Obviously it is impossible to ascertain how many persons are really affected by a no-license policy, assuming it to be rigidly enforced; therefore a bare enumeration of the people living technically within "dry" areas is a misleading statement of the case. Another factor which the author leaves unnoticed in his estimate of the growth of population in "dry" territory, is its extent prior to the adoption of any prohibitive measures. History records that long before the advent of statutory prohibition or local option, many communities in different parts of the country did not countenance liquor selling. The author leaves them out of the reckoning in his eagerness to show the manifold growth of population within "dry" territory. Apparently, he takes for granted that under the old order saloons were found on every crossroad and every hamlet, which he should know to be untrue.
The problem so far as the cities are concerned is quite another.
Is it really worth while to boast of a city having been placed under no-license when this has not been done in virtue of a mandate of its own inhabitants, but by coercion through the majority of an extra-territorial population operating under a county local option law? And the boast seems even more empty when it is known that in such cities the law is habitually and grossly violated. But the author ignores the fact that the habitual no-license vote in many municipalities represents very little prohibition sentiment, but simply betokens proximity to some city under license which supplies all wants and thus relieves the situation. Massachusetts furnishes a capital illustration of this. Of the no-license cities in that commonwealth no less than 9 immediately adjoin Boston (license), or are geographically so close to it that their demand for intoxicants can be easily and conveniently met. The combined population of these 9 cities is slightly over 400,000, or not far from twice as many as the population of the 6 cities under license, which do not bear the same relation to Boston. There are, in addition, no less than four towns of over 10,000 population holding the same geographic position to Boston as the 9 cities referred to. Of the 87 cities (outside prohibition States) of 10,000 or over forbidding the sale of liquor, no less than 21 are found in Massachusetts, and so far as more than one-half of them are concerned we have shown the no-license vote to be of no special moment as indicating temperance proclivities. Thus there remain only 66 municipalities of 10,000 population (outside prohibition States) that vote themselves "dry" in the other license States. Here, too, not a few find safety
valves in nearby places under license.
WHY PEOPLE CHOOSE TO BE "DRY"
But the labored effort to establish a relation between the prevalence of local prohibition and the extent of the native born population is far from convincing. True, in many States with a large "dry" area the foreign born population is small. On the other hand, how will the author explain the fact that Massachusetts, urbanized as it is, and with an enormous percentage of foreign born (30.2 per cent.) has 32 per cent. of its inhabitants living in no-license territory, while Missouri, largely rural, and with but 7 per cent. foreign born, has only 37 per cent. living in no-license territory. Here are some other facts to ponder over: Maryland and Delaware both have about 7 per cent. foreign born, and