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minority is of incomparably greater importance with respect to the possibility of making the law effective than in the great majority of political and social questions. Here the eventual attitude of the minority becomes a most significant factor. It is one thing to vote for prohibition and quite another to aid faithfully and continuously in its enforcement.
Prohibition is admittedly an extreme measure, besides it is one that nowhere has been tried in actual practice, and a reaction from it would not take place without great danger. A demand, therefore, which can be voiced with resistless strength is that the experiment should not be undertaken before everything within reason and possibility has been done in other ways to prevent the evils that may arise from drink and to lessen their consequences when such evils have become active. And this is required not only in order to convince the opposition of the necessity of enacting prohibition, but above all in order that when prohibition is enacted, it may become possible through the insight thus gained to devote all good powers to the enforcement of a law which after all has been demonstrated to be necessary.
To be sure, most abstinence advocates hold that, generally speaking, everything of consequence has already been done to regulate the legal sale of alcohol, and that in any case such a sale is incompatible with the abstinence of a whole people. But this point of view seems to rest more upon the assumption that prohibition is capable of finally solving the drink problem than upon an objective examination of the possibility of obtaining a satisfactory condition of abstinence while the legal sale of alcohol is being retained. For so long as intoxicants are sold in unlimited quantities to any one, so long as the most powerful interests are allowed to stimulate the traffic without interference, so long as society with astounding indifference permits the most vital interests of its inner life to be trampled upon by notorious abusers of alcohol-so long must the arguments for an extreme measure like prohibition lack strength to convince.
What is to be said about the experience gained from the socalled prohibition States in America shall be prefaced by some remarks about the possibility of drawing conclusions in regard to the injury wrought by alcohol from the total consumption of alcohol. It is not uncommon to find figures of a consumption per year and per capita, calculated in 100 per cent. of alcohol, presented in such a
manner that the reader must consider them as actually expressing the injury caused in different ways by such consumption. This method of presentation is characteristic not only of the special abstinence literature, but also of that opposed to it. Much is made, for instance, of the statement that the total consumption of alcohol in Sweden is only a fourth of that in France, only half as large as that of Denmark, etc. Or one reads of gains to temperance in a certain country because the statistics of consumption show such and such a decrease during a stated number of years. Figures of consumption are also adduced as expressing the intensity of the supposed alcoholization of the different nations. The graphic-statistical presentation of the progressive consumption of alcohol in the largest industrial countries is not infrequently accompanied by a text about like this:
"As alcohol like all other poisons is effective in proportion to the amount taken, the people under consideration have become more and more poisoned by alcohol during the period stated. If this condition continues they approach their certain destruction," etc.
But this method of arriving at conclusions is not admissible. It is by no means the magnitude of the total consumption which solely or even in an essential degree determines the extent and nature of the injury to a country from alcohol. In order to make valid deductions from the magnitude of any consumption it is necessary before all things to know the probable number of those who have a part in this consumption, the nature of the beverage used, the character of the drink customs among different people, the occupation, environment, and general conditions of the consumers; perhaps even the matter of race and climate has a determining influence. Thus it is certain that if the present Swedish consumption of alcohol were divided among all the inhabitants of the kingdom upon all the days of the year, it would not cause any perceptible social or individual injury. It is possible that owing to economic betterment the total consumption of alcohol may grow, while at the same time through co-operating circumstances the drink customs become modified and abuse diminishes. Only when proper weight is given to all these considerations is it possible to understand how a country like Italy, with a total consumption of alcohol more than three times greater than that of Sweden, is relatively exempt from the evils which occasion a natural temperance question.
Unfortunately, the teachings to be gained from the American prohibition States do not in the least guide one in passing judgment on the Swedish prohibition question. For in all these States prohibition does not rule. To be sure, sale is forbidden, but not importation. This gives rise to a condition which, among other things, largely limits the possible gain from an illegal traffic as would-be purchasers can easily obtain from the nearest license territory the goods they desire and at current prices. Furthermore, because it is possible for all to obtain spirits in a legal manner, the illegal traffic cannot wax very strong by trying to foster indignation against sumptuary legislation, nor can it be tolerated or openly supported by high-minded citizens.
The effects of the American prohibition of liquor selling are very differently estimated by the different parties to the bitter political controversy raging anent this question. The above mentioned Committee of Fifty, which was thoroughly impartial and warmly interested in temperance legislation, summarized the effect of the different prohibition systems in a manner indicating how careful one should be in drawing conclusions from the statistics and other data sent out from the United States for purposes of propaganda. (Reference is also made to Rowntree and Sherwell's standard work, The Temperance Problem and Social Reform, with its chapters on State prohibition and local option; and to the American studies of prohibition by G. H. von Koch, whose attitude is that of friendliness to prohibition).
It is undeniable that the consumption of spirits, wines and malt liquors in the United States is continuously rising. The gain in territory which prohibition has made during the last five years cannot for a certainty be said to have affected the total consumption. (Later returns of internal revenue than those available to the authors more than substantiate this view).
(The remaining chapters XIII. and XIV. deal chiefly with the question of principles and practice in regulative liquor legislation, the care of alcoholic persons, etc. Among other things is advocated a State commission to organize and lead the national work for temperance. No less than 174 pages are given to casestudies of alcoholics, and they constitute a most significant contribution to our knowledge of this difficult and little understood subject).
THE SUPPOSED DEATH-RATES OF ABSTAINERS AND NONABSTAINERS AND THEIR LACK OF SCIENTIFIC VALUE.
By EDWARD BUNNELL PHELPS.
FTER a study of all available data on the subject, about two years ago I compiled and published under the title of "The Mortality of Alcohol" a tentative statistical approximation of the adult mortality of the United States in which alcohol possibly might figure as a causative or contributory factor. My findings were based upon the independent percentage estimates for each of 106 causes of deaths kindly made for me by the Medical Directors of three well-known American insurance companies. The book by no means purported to have solved the complex problem with which it dealt but was offered merely as a possible startingpoint for detailed scientific discussion of the actual relations of alcohol and adult mortality in this country. It was so accepted by the leading medical journals, and was generally received by the reviewers as a pioneer effort in its field. Since the publication of this preliminary study-or first aid to the injured facts in the caseI have endeavored to keep track of the contemporaneous literature of the subject, and to collect all serious contributions to the discussion of the relations of alcohol and human mortality.
The more I have collected, and read, and thought on the subject, the more I have been impressed with the widespread circulation of misleading figures and conclusions as to the alleged death-rates of users and non-users of alcohol which in my judgment seem to be unwarranted. The reading of the text of a discussion of the subject before the Association of Life Insurance Medical Directors of America, in the recently-published transactions of that important body for the years 1906-1911, has shown that at least some competent observers concur with my views of the unreliability of many of the figures and conclusions on these lines. And it has therefore seemed worth while, in the interest of a sober discussion of this phase of modern vital statistics, to endeavor to present herewith and calmly weigh the figures and supposed facts which of late years have been repeatedly cited as bearing on the alleged difference between the death-rates of abstainers and non-abstainers.
That there is a difierence between the death-rates of the two
sections of the community loosely grouped as "drinkers" and "nondrinkers" is extremely probable-in fact, practically certain. A similar statement might safely be made of fat men and lean men, tall men and short men, ministers and lawyers, physicians and bookkeepers, stone-masons and cabinet-makers, and almost innumerable other distinctive groups of men. As to the truth of this sweeping generalization, there is not the slightest doubt; confirmations strong as proofs of holy writ are to be found in the great mass of tabulated classifications of life insurance experience for the last fifty years and more, and the carefully-kept vital statistics of England, Germany and some other countries for long stretches of years.
But—and in the case in point this short word is one of momentous importance-how can there possibly be a scientific determination of the difference between the death-rates of any two groups of men until there has been an agreement as to the precise boundaries of the groups? In other words, how can the difference between the death-rates of users and non-users of alcohol be even approximately calculated until there has been a separation of the sheep and the goats, so to speak-that is, the non-drinkers and the drinkers—in the community under observation? Until there has been a meeting of minds on definitions of these groups it is no more possible to fix the death-rates of the two groups and the difference between them than it is to engage in rational argument without a prior agreement on certain premises. This prerequisite for scientific computation of the relative death-rates of the two groups above named apparently has not occurred to the vast majority of the people who have rushed into the discussion of the subject in books, and periodicals, and pulpits, and in the avalanche of Prohibition literature which has swept over this country of recent years.
NOT THE SOUNDEST OF BASES, BUT A QUICKSAND Aside from the ultra enthusiastic anti-alcoholics, whose emotional embrace of the subject precludes any serious consideration for mere facts and figures, the bulk of the participants in the discussion have plainly been inclined to regard as the soundest of bases for their argument and conclusions the alleged life insurance experience with so-called total abstainers and non-abstainers. On the strength of twenty years' somewhat intimate acquaintance with the statistics of the insurance business, I can only regard this supposed base as a mere quicksand in so far as trustworthy evidence