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The number of employees as well as the statement of total annual wages for the liquor industry itself was taken from the Report of the Bureau of the Census for 1909, which contains the latest available official information.
An exact account of the numbers employed in the manufactures and trades allied to the liquor industry and the wages paid them is not obtainable. Again, it has been necessary to take a conservative estimate, eliminating establishments which only in part supply the industry. It is undoubtedly true, however, that the total number of wage earners in manufactures and trades who would be displaced through a cessation of the liquor industry is far greater than indicated in the figures above; but for purposes of illustration they may serve.
For the retail trade, the number of employees and the wages paid them have been derived from a large number of original returns which furnish a reliable average that can be applied to the country as a whole. Of course, there is no correspondence between the number stated to be employed in the retail trade and any Census report in regard to persons engaged in dispensing alcoholic beverages. This is because so many establishments serve the purpose of distributing food as well as drink; and this again accounts for the otherwise rather surprisingly low average wages to be derived from this total. In other words, many of the employees are engaged in kitchen work and the like, for which naturally a comparatively low rate of wages is paid.
Although the total number of wage earners as stated is formidable, it by no means represents the total number of those who directly or indirectly obtain their income from the liquor traffic. In the first place, no account could be secured in regard to the persons occupied in the wholesale and bottling business. Relying on the occupation figures of the Census, they may conservatively be placed at 30,000. Then to employees should be added proprietors of all kinds whose numbers may be estimated at 250,482. This gives a total of persons deriving their income directly from the liquor traffic of 749,418.
To a complete statement of disbursements for wages through the liquor industry would also belong the numbers of those who derive their income directly from the same source.
More than an approximation of their numbers cannot be attempted; but considering the persons in the Allied Manufactures and Trades unaccounted for, the thousands of employees in grocery stores selling liquors, hotels, clubs, etc., and the 74,500 persons who may be regarded as engaged in raising the agricultural products used in the liquor industry, it is placing it low to add another 300,000 as representing those indirectly obtaining their sustenance from the liquor industry. Thus one may reckon on a total of considerably over a million who are dependent for wages upon the manufacture and sale of liquor. If their dependents are considered, a grand total of about four million persons is involved.
The bare figures given above yield totals that baffle ordinary comprehension. The story they tell of the economic significance of the manufacture and sale of liquor as well as of allied industries can hardly be reinforced by words. This story should at least give pause to those who talk so glibly about destroying this enormous business and who in so doing would even invoke the iniquity of confiscation. It is a commonplace with these persons to prate about the great advantage of diverting the agricultural products consumed in the liquor industry to other uses. Because this talk is so common and seems so plausible, a separate study has been made of the importance of the liquor industry to agriculture, which is appended.
How will the advocates of the total destruction of the liquor industry meet some of the other economic problems that would arise? There is the question of the displacement of an enormous capital. How much of it would utterly disappear is beyond any man's knowledge; but one has only to consider the millions now invested in buildings that would become useless, and machinery condemned to the scrap heap.
The disturbance of rental values alone involving several hundred million dollars annually could not fail to impose heavy burdens upon real estate owners, and the question would not only be of places housing grog shops but of costly hotel properties and other establishments throughout the land.
Then there would be the serious matter of finding new sources of revenue. The Federal Government would have to impose new taxes meet deficits which would be nearly three times greater than the amount now derived from the income tax. How could this burden be met?
Even greater perplexities might arise from the loss of income to States and local communities. There is the matter of local taxes on property now occupied and which to a large extent would disappear for purposes of taxation. Far greater difficulties would arise in replacing the loss from license fees. In some States, and particularly in the large municipalities, this would spell an economic calamity that no one would know how to meet. It should be remembered here that it is from the large cities and not from the rural districts, that both the Federal and State Governments derive by far the greater part of the income. The commonplace remark that several States have shown their ability to get along without any revenue from the liquor traffic is not true and therefore does not meet the situation. All States benefit alike from this revenue paid the Federal Government; and both directly and indirectly they derive income from the industry by supplying it with manufactures, products of various kinds besides sharing in other activities which it creates. All this is so evident as to be intelligible to any open mind. It follows that if the whole liquor traffic were destroyed the consequences would reach the States now under prohibition in common with the others.
The loss to transportation companies would be unevenly distributed. Just how large it would be cannot be definitely stated. But that some transportation companies would become seriously crippled is demonstrable. Besides, the loss could not be replaced.
The effect the sudden cessation of the liquor industry would have upon the wage earners who with dependents represent numbers running into millions, is not easy to picture. Although they are scattered over the breadth of the land, there would still be the great question of finding a livelihood for persons representing a population more than equalling that of the great city of Chicago. And it should be remembered that the question is not solely of persons who dispense alcoholic drinks but of hundreds of thousands engaged in occupations which not even the most pronounced enemies of liquor can characterize as other than desirable. The farmers who raise hops and barley, glass-makers, coopers, the makers of mechanical supplies, clerks, cooks, waiters, transportation hands, etc., etc., would be counted among the displaced workers.
Against all this is to be weighed -- the phantom of a country rid of the drink curse and the host of evils attributed to it. Since a phantom, it has no weight. Intemperance would remain because liquor would always be accessible. Home distillation would supply what illicit manufacture and sale failed to furnish. The latter are too potential of immediate profit to be stopped by any law,
especially one forced upon an unsympathetic majority. For it must be remembered that national prohibition under our form of government could never become a fact as the result of a popular vote of the country at large. That would mean an overwhelming majority against it. It can only come through the compulsion which may now be directed by sparsely inhabited rural States against the far more populous and wealthy urban States. In other words, a species of tyranny must be exercised by a minority relatively unimportant in numbers, wealth and influence-a tyranny which seems utterly incompatible with liberal institutions, and therefore its machinations, whatever harm they may work (and this may be incalculable), can never transform the population into a race of abstainers. Temperance is a necessary end for which to work, and there are other and infinitely more promising means of obtaining it.
Never before have brewers, maltsters, distillers and wine makers made so large a contribution to the agricultural prosperity of the country as during the fiscal year 1913. In the course of that yearthe latest for which reliable statistics are available-grain and other farm products to the value of $113,513,971 were used in the manufacture of liquors, and this amount does not represent the value of the products so used as reported in the markets of Chicago, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Philadelphia and other commercial centers, but the actual sum received by the growers, based upon the carefully compiled reports on farm prices issued from time to time by the United States Department of Agriculture.
The full significance of this amount, which represents, it may be stated, a return of 5 per cent. on an investment of $2,270,279,420, can best be appreciated if we compare it with the reports of the last United States Census on the total values of the crops of certain typical states, which show that it exceeded the total combined crop values in the census year of Vermont, Maryland and West Virginia; of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Florida; of Louisiana (with its great cotton and sugar interests), New Hampshire and Utah, or of Maine, Connecticut, Delaware, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming. The figures for these states, as given in the Reports of the Thirteenth United States Census (1910), volume V, page 545, are as follows:
Table 1—Total values of all farm crops in seventeen typical States, according to the United States Census of 1910:
$101,363,221 The $113,513,791 worth of farm products used in the production of distilled spirits and fermented liquors consisted of barley to the value of $55,236,641, corn $30,924,335, wheat $869,938, rice $7,288,786, hops $11,155,215, rye $4,604,476, molasses $2,056,