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POVERTY THE MAIN CAUSE OF INTEMPERANCE.
HAVE been a member of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union for twenty-five years. The line of argument many temperance workers make today as to the cause of poverty, I used to make myself. They say that if the workingman would keep away from the saloon and quit drinking, he and his family would have the necessaries of life, if not its comforts. They cite specific cases and then draw their general conclusions from a few isolated facts.
"There's Mr. Smith's family," says a W. C. T. U. member, "in destitute circumstances. Mr. Smith is drunk the greater part of the time, so that he cannot keep a job when he gets one." "And there's Mr. Brown, my next door neighbor," exclaims another white ribboner; "his wife and children objects of charity because he spends his time and money in the saloon." I heard one of our prominent State temperance workers say but a short time ago, speaking of the army of children working in the cotton mills of the South, that if their fathers would keep sober and go to work, child labor would cease.
Now what are the real facts in the case? Is temperance the immediate cause of poverty, or, on the other hand, does poverty largely act as a cause in producing intemperance? And today, under the present industrial system, are not a large proportion of the workers poor, even though total abstainers?
Two things are absolutely essential for a workingman to have the necessaries of life. First, work to do, and second, large enough wages to meet the needs of himself and family. If he is employed only a part of the time and his wages are low, poverty must as a matter of fact follow whether he drinks or not.
In the year 1903, Carroll D. Wright gave the percentage of those unemployed during some portion of the year as 49.8 per cent. (See Eighteenth Annual Labor Report, page 42). The census of 1900 placed it in round numbers at 6,468,964 or 22.8 per cent. of the total. Commissioner Wright enumerates some of the causes of idleness as follows:
.56.96 per cent.
.23.65 per cent.
2.67 per cent.
1.66 per cent.
.26 per cent.
From this report simply a fraction of 1 per cent. of the idleness among workingmen is caused by intemperance, comparatively a small proportion arises from strikes, but the shutting down of mills, factories, mines and other industries causes over one-half of the idleness, while the large per cent. of sickness as a cause is largely attributable to a disregard, to a criminal extent, of the employers of labor for the health of their employees.
Less than 3 per cent. of the appalling total of idleness which exists in this country can be charged to the working class.
Now let us glance briefly at the wages paid and see if they are commensurate with the needs of the working class.
Under the present system of capitalism it is to the interest of the employing class to have a large army of unemployed pitted against the employed. This competition for a chance to work minimizes wages, by making labor a commodity in the market, its price governed by the law of supply and demand. At least onefourth of the working class employed get no more than $10 per week for their labor. Periods of unemployment, which occur to most of them, cut this amount down in the course of the year. In the majority of cases 20 to 25 per cent. of these wages must go for rent, leaving from $6 to $7 a week for the living expeness of a family of three or four or more. Does it look as if these poorly paid workers, if they were only thrifty and frugal and left drink alone, would keep the wolf from the door?
If the saloons were all closed and the people were all total abstainers, the pall of poverty would still hang over the home of the workingman, because of his enforced idleness at times and the poor wages paid for his labor.
It is a fact that all careful students of social conditions today recognize that intemperance, as it exists among the poor, is more truly the result of poverty than the cause. Prof. Richard G. Ely says: "We should never forget the temptations to intemperance which lie in the character of the toil of many laborers. Many hours are regarded by competent authorities as a cause which predisposes to the use of intoxicants.. The strain of work by the side of rapidly moving machinery on the nervous system is another predisposing cause of intemperance which has attracted serious attention."
Francis E. Willard said: "Under the searchlight of knowledge in these later days it is folly for us longer to ignore the mighty
power of poverty to induce evil habits of every kind. It was only our ignorance of the condition of the industrial classes that magnified a single propaganda and minimized every other, so that the temperance people, in earlier days, believed that if men and women were temperate all other material good would follow in the strain of that great grace.
"The only way to have a sober people is to strike at the root of the evil which causes inebriety. Poverty, many hours of labor, the nerve-strain under which men toil, the anxiety from the insecurity of their jobs; remove all these, and in a short time the demand for a stimulant would cease and drunkenness would be unknown."
I call upon the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and other temperance organizations to get down to the bed rock cause of the drink habit! It is folly to work with effects; yea, it is criminal, in the light of the knowledge we have.
-MARY E. GARBUTT in the Garment Worker.
DRINK AS A CAUSE OF CRIME.
T the meeting of the International Statistical Institute, held in September, 1913, Dr. Hoegel, of Vienna, a wellknown criminologist and attorney-general, discussed at length the value of trying to measure the causes of crime statistically. He maintains emphatically that most efforts in this direction fail because of the exceeding complexity and difficulty of the subject. He is particularly severe upon current attempts to establish a causative relation between drink and crime. Having referred. to statistics dealing with external instigations to criminal acts (of which drink may be one), he mentions the impossibility of differentiating them from inner tendencies or instigations to do wrong. The only conclusion one can reach is that certain external instigations serve to promote the commitment of crime; but this wisdom is nothing new and therefore not worth the trouble of finding out. Statistics can never lay bare the extent and significance of single circumstances; they can only mislead. Then he proceeds:
"An especially instructive circumstance of this kind is intoxication. It may have direct relation to personal qualities so far as these as in case of habitual inebriety-promote abuse or the excesses customary while in a state of intoxication. Furthermore, a condition of intoxication may coincide with other outward instigations to criminality; this is indeed regularly the case. Only in exceptional instances does drunkenness appear as the sole cause of criminality on the part of an otherwise blameless person. When, however, intoxication is considered in common with other inner or external instigations, the question which one of the different causes was the predominant one and whether intoxication had any significance whatsoever in the stated case, will always present unsolvable difficulties.
"However commendable the efforts of temperance advocates may be from the point of view of public hygiene and morals, their zeal leads them to exaggerate the statistics collected adapted for the purpose of establishing intemperance as a cause of criminality. These statistics lack a trustworthy basis, for experience shows that a person accused of an offence naturally seeks to make his intoxication an excuse or exaggerates it. In the case of the persons
in question, the fact that intoxicants were used prior to the offence is not in itself of any consequence. In view of the general use of liquor, it is almost self-evident that persons guilty of the disorders taking place on Sundays have previously used alcohol in some form or other-something that unnumbered other persons do without causing any disorder. By applying the same statistical argument to a country in which tea is exclusively drunk, but where disorderly conduct occurs, one may reach the conclusion that the disorders happened because most of the perpetrators had previously drunk tea. . . . In order to get at the real facts, one should be able to ascertain how many persons of the same class had remained abstinent, the number that had used alcohol and how many of the latter had become drunk. On this basis the number of persons committing offences would have to be ascertained and compared. Obviously, such a count would be impossible. Equally doubtful are the inferences drawn from the number of crimes committed on Sundays. As is well known, the day is not exclusively devoted to recreation, or, more correctly, people have different ideas in regard to what constitutes recreation. It lies at hand that certain offences should occur more frequently on a day of rest than on a work day. This would be the case even if alcohol did not exist. It is a similar question in regard to the direct causation of criminality through the absence of alcohol in consequence of a deterioration of a moral or economic character. By examining individual cases it will be found in many if not in most of them that inebriety springs out of or accompanies other causes, having their origin partly in family life and partly in economic conditions. It would be a mistake if, as is frequently done, the offences committed under a condition of general misery are attributed to drink; the actual cause usually lies deeper.
"Using Austrian statistics as a basis I have elsewhere sought to show that there is no correspondence between the amount of alcohol consumed and the extent of criminality taking the form of assaults, in the different parts of the country, but that it depends upon the disposition of the peoples inhabiting the districts in question."