Some Economic Aspects of the Liquor Problem

LORD KELVIN once observed “ that no real advance could be made in any branch of physical science until practical methods for a numerical reckoning of phenomena were established.”1 The same remark applies with equal pertinence to social science. We can make no advance until we can measure our phenomena in such a way as to be able to institute fair comparisons between different times, different places, different classes of individuals.

It was for the realization of some such thought that the Committee of Fifty for the Investigation of the Liquor Problem was originally organized, and it is in this spirit that it has been prosecuting its work for the past six years. The use of alcoholic drinks has produced physical, social, economic, moral, and political evils of such magnitude that all recognize their existence, and a large body of devoted persons give much time to fighting these evils in various ways. And yet, in spite of the mass of literature upon the subject, it cannot be said that we have any considerable body of information which commands the confidence of impartial minds. It was in the hope of contributing toward the world’s fund of accurate knowledge upon this subject, though not in the expectation of giving final results in any one department, that the Committee of Fifty undertook its work. One of its subcommittees published in 1897 a report upon the legislative aspects of the case, a summary of which, by President Eliot, was printed in The Atlantic Monthly for February, 1897. The Physiological Sub-Committee has been carrying on experiments and investigations in a number of the biological laboratories of the country, the results of which may be given to the public before long. Other committees are at work upon other phases of the subject, and the Economic Subcommittee has just completed an investigation into some of the economic aspects of the problem, which will soon be published by Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin & Co.

That there is a demand for the kind of information which this sub-committee hopes to give is shown by the numerous attempts which have been made in the past to supply it. As far back as 1839, de Gerando published the much-quoted statement that 75 per cent of the cases of pauperism in the United States were due to drink. He referred for proof to the New York Observer, vol. vi., and to the Christian Almanack for 1824 ; but a careful search in both of these authorities has failed to yield the least justification, or even suggestion, of this fraction. More recently, Mr. Boies, in his excellent work entitled Prisoners and Paupers, has not only given confident estimates of the amount of criminality, pauperism, and insanity caused by alcohol, but has endeavored to charge up against alcohol the losses for which it is responsible. He has even added a touch of the dramatic to his argument by clothing it in the form of a court record, in which Alcohol is summoned before the " Court of Public Welfare of the People of the United States,” to show cause why he should not be fined $289,984,000 on account of the damage inflicted upon the people. This figure is arrived at by multiplying three fourths of the number of prisoners and one half of the number of paupers and insane in the United States, as returned in the census of 1890, Ity $2000 ; this sum being taken to represent the capitalized value of each individual who becomes a public burden. In this trial a good deal of testimony is introduced by the prosecution, and many persons are quoted as giving estimates of the amount of crime, pauperism, and insanity due to drink ; but the prisoner presents no testimony on his own behalf, and is “ dumb before the court.”

If Mr. Boies had really appreciated the magnitude of the liquor interest, he would at once have recognized the artistic mistake of introducing so opulent a prisoner into his allegory unaccompanied by eminent and learned counsel. Even a lawyer’s apprentice might have made some such reply as the following. There is no evidence that three fourths of the crime of the country are due to alcohol alone. Alcohol appears as the first of several causes in but 31 per cent. We should therefore reduce the number of criminals whose value figures in the bill to 26,539 at the most. Of the almshouse population, not 50 per cent, but at most 37 per cent, have come to their poverty through the use of liquor, either directly or indirectly. This fact cuts down the number of paupers appearing in the bill to 27,026. If we take for the insane the Massachusetts figures, in the absence of any general investigation, we have at the most but 39 per cent, including the “ not ascertained ’ cases which by any possibility could be charged to liquor. This reduces the insane in the bill to 38,039, and the aggregate of the three classes ruined through liquor to 91,604. On Mr. Boies’s own estimate of $2000 apiece, the bill ought not to exceed $183,208,000. But Alcohol already pays toward the support of the government $183,000,000 a year, so that it pays in a single year almost exactly the capitalized value of its victims. Or if, to put the comparison in a simpler form, we take Mr. Boies’s estimate of the annual loss of productivity of these persons as $200 per capita, and compare that with the annual contribution of the prisoner toward the expenses of the state, we see that while the annual loss would be $18,320,800, the annual contribution of Alcohol toward the expenses of the government is actually ten times that amount.

These figures are given, not for the sake of criticising a meritorious book, but to show the great difficulty of establishing any kind of a balance sheet, with our present knowledge. In spite of the many figures already published, we have not yet gained enough accurate information to enable us to establish even a tentative balance sheet. For while we have found it necessary to reduce Mr. Boies’s percentages,and thus his total bill against liquor, by a large amount, certain other items, which are quite beyond the power of any one to calculate, should be added to it in order to make it complete. We should first of all add the burden thrown upon private charities by liquor, and for this sum we have not even approximate figures. We should also add the loss of productivity of those who may not become public charges at all, but who are serious burdens upon their own families. We shall perhaps never be able to get more than a vague estimate of this sum. We must therefore give up the seductive but delusive idea of showing the total cost of alcohol to the country.

Yet some progress has been made, and though our knowledge is still fragmentary, several additions of much value have been recently made to it. Besides the Twelfth Annual Report of the Massachusetts Bureau of Labor Statistics, published in 1881, and the figures of the eleventh census, which have a bearing upon this subject, a very full and valuable report was issued in 1896, by the Massachusetts Bureau of Labor Statistics, on The Relations of the Liquor Traffic to Pauperism, Crime, and Insanity in that state. In 1897 the Federal Department of Labor published the results of an investigation made by it into a number of economic questions connected with liquor. Lastly, we shall soon have the report of the Economic SubCommittee of the Committee of Fifty. The chairman of this committee was originally President Francis A. Walker, who served it with characteristic interest and enthusiasm until his death in 1897. The committee at present consists of the Hon. Carroll D. Wright, commissioner of labor, as chairman ; Dr. Z. R. Brockway, director of the Elmira Reformatory ; Dr. John Graham Brooks, of Cambridge ; Dr. E. R. L. Gould, of New York ; Professor J. F. Jones, of Marietta; and the writer of this paper, who has acted as its secretary from the beginning. The active work of the committee has been conducted, since 1896, by Mr. John Koren, who was one of the two authors of The Liquor Problem in its Legislative Aspects. In the pages that follow, an attempt will be made to show what light is thrown by these three reports upon the liquor question.

In general, it may be said that the investigation of the Department of Labor contributes items for the credit side of Alcohol’s account, while the reports of the Committee of Fifty and of the Massachusetts Bureau give items for the debit side. The Department of Labor has carefully investigated the amount of produce which goes into the production of various kinds of alcoholic liquor, the value of the product, the capital invested, the number of persons employed, and the amount contributed as taxes toward the expenses of government. Most of these statistics apply to the year of the investigation, 1896 ; others apply to the census year, 1890. They are not strictly comparable, therefore, but together they present an imposing picture of the amount of human activity spent upon the production and sale of liquor, and of the aggregate wealth represented by that product.

The different grains alone entering into the production of various liquors in 1896 amounted to 58,000,000 bushels. In comparison with the total consumption of the country, the production of alcoholic drinks used up .93 per cent of the corn, 11 per cent of the rye, and 40 per cent of the barley. The total capital invested was estimated at over $957,000,000, of which 59 per cent was found in the retail trade exclusively, and 15 per cent in the retail combined with some other business. The value of the product for 1896 was not given, but the census figures show that in 1890 the total was estimated at over $289,000,000, of which $182,000,000 represent the value of malt liquors, $104,000,000 that of distilled liquors, and $2,800,000 that of vinous liquors.

Such a large product — and it was doubtless larger in 1896 than in 1890 — must have employed the activity of a good many persons. An exact census of the whole country was not made by the Department of Labor, but an estimate based upon a careful canvass of a limited area is published in the report, and this shows that there were 191,519 proprietors of establishments interested in the various forms of the liquor traffic, employing 241,755 persons. In some cases but a part of the time of the employees was given to the liquor traffic in itself. It was estimated that if their entire time had been given, 172,931 persons, mostly of the male sex, would have been employed. Taking this figure and adding it to the number of proprietors, we learn as a result that the liquor traffic sufficed to give support to over 364,000 bread-winners ; and if we assume that each of these maintains on the average a family of four persons, we have a sum total of 1,800,000 persons supported by the manufacture and sale of intoxicants, entirely apart from the farmers who produce the raw material, the transportation agencies which carry it, and the owners of real estate who draw rents from it. If this population were spread out over New England, it would suffice to people the states of New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Connecticut as densely as they were peopled in 1890, and would send eight Senators to the United States Senate.

The value of this interest is fully appreciated by the government, and the total revenue collected from it by the federal government, states, counties, and cities in 1896 was over $183,000,000. This traffic, therefore, not only supports a large number of people and furnishes a market for 58,000,000 bushels of agricultural products, but also contributes toward the expenses of government a sum larger than the entire cost of managing the federal government before the civil war, and as much as its ordinary expenditures, excluding interest on the public debt, in most of the twenty years following.

It is unfortunate that we are not able to compare the value of the liquor product with the amount paid in taxation in the same year. Even allowing for a considerable increase in the liquor product for 1896, it would appear that the tax forms a large element in its value. The liquor trade is thus seen to be a machine for contributing taxes to the various governments, — and a highly efficient machine, if we look simply at the immediate results. In 1896 it furnished more than was furnished by the customs duties or any other single item of federal revenue. It has therefore come to play an important part both in the creation of individual wealth and in the support of the government.

How far is this economic force delusive ? How far is the wealth created calculated to destroy rather than to increase the well-being of mankind ? In order to answer this question, we must turn to the report of the Committee of Fifty, and study that part of it which relates to poverty and crime. The investigation of these topics was not easy. Both pauperism and crime present peculiar difficulties of their own, which beset the path and even baffle the ingenuity of the statistician.

In studying pauperism, we are met at once by the familiar experience that it is not always easy to answer with a simple “ yes ” or “ no ” the question, “ Is the poverty of an individual due to the use of liquor ? ” In many cases several causes coöperate. The use of stimulants may have intensified the natural laziness of the individual, or it may have brought on sickness, or it may have led to a premature senility. And it may be difficult to state whether the poverty should be attributed to liquor in all of these cases, or to laziness, sickness, and old age respectively. It may be possible in the future to devise some satisfactory method of combining different causes. Indeed, such methods have been suggested. But in the absence of any recognized statistical device for representing all phases of a complex subject, it seemed wiser simply to ask the question as it is ordinarily asked, it being understood that liquor was to be given as a cause of poverty only when it appeared so prominently in the life history of the individual concerned that any reasonable person would have no hesitation in attributing the poverty to liquor as the predominant factor in the case.

The investigation of crime presents even greater difficulties. In studying this subject, it seemed unwise, indeed impossible, to put the question in so simple a form. Crime implies an intentional act; poverty is only an economic condition. To account for an intentional act, we must know the motives which led to it; and the motives of men are almost always the result of many influences. In the case of criminals, therefore, we did not merely ask the question whether liquor was or was not the cause of the crime, but we also asked whether it figured as a first, second, or third cause, and how it compared in importance with lack of industrial training and unfavorable environment. The resulting tabulation was, consequently, more intricate in the case of crime than in the case of poverty, and hence it is not so easy to determine exactly what share liquor has played in causing crime. We believe, however, that the matter is represented as simply as the circumstances of the case permit. It goes without saying that, in such an investigation, it would be illogical to include under the term “crime ” offenses which consist in the use of liquor itself or in a violation of liquor laws. The investigation of the committee was confined to state’s prisons and reformatories, and shows the effect of liquor in causing the more serious crimes against persons and property, commonly known as felonies. We did not endeavor to investigate liquor habits. People often confuse the liquor habits of the inmates of institutions with the cause of their poverty or depravity. This is an obvious mistake. A person may be a drunkard, and yet have committed a crime upon which his habits had no influence ; or a man may be only a moderate or occasional drinker as a matter of habit, and yet have committed some impulsive crime when exceptionally under the influence of alcohol.

In the study of pauperism and crime alike, we could not canvass the entire country owing to the great expense. We could only take samples here and there. Thus, the influence of liquor upon poverty and destitution was tested by a careful inquiry into the cases treated by 33 charity organization societies, 60 almshouses, and 11 societies and schools for the care of destitute children. Over 52,000 such cases were studied. The figures for crime are based upon the study of over 13,000 convicts, confined in 17 prisons and reformatories, distributed throughout 12 states. But while we cannot present totals for the whole country, it is believed that the cases studied are representative, and that averages based upon them may be applied to the United States without serious error. Great care was taken in the selection of those through whom the information was first gathered. The investigations were not undertaken by a single enumerator, or a group of enumerators, sent out to question the paupers and prisoners, nor in turn did we rely upon the formal records of institutions. In every case, some one intimately associated with the persons concerned — often the chaplain or warden of a prison, or the superintendent of an almshouse, or the secretary of a charity organization society — undertook, by a careful study of the individual circumstances, to answer our questions. As only those institutions and societies were asked to cooperate in which it was possible to secure the aid of some one who was at once interested, intelligent, and impartial, it is believed that the highest confidence can be placed in their returns.

If we now ask what this inquiry yielded, the first answer to be made is that it teaches us the danger of mere estimates or guesswork, and also the futility of making broad generalizations about such matters. We found that the figures differed considerably in different parts of the country, according to the industrial character of the population and its nationality. We also found a marked difference between the inmates of almshouses and the applicants of the charity organization societies. It appeared, moreover, that it is of the first importance to know, what has rarely been asked in previous inquiries, whether liquor was a direct or an indirect cause of the poverty in question. In the case of the clients of the charity organization societies, we found that 18 per cent owed their poverty to the personal use of liquor, and that 9 per cent could trace it to the intemperance of others, especially of husbands, parents, or guardians. As in some instances both these causes contributed, the aggregate number of cases which were due, directly and indirectly, to the liquor habit was somewhat less than the percentage obtained by adding these two percentages together, and amounted to 25 per cent. In the case of the almshouses, the liquor habit played a much larger part. In over 32 per cent of the paupers studied their condition was found to be due to the personal use of liquor, while in over 8 per cent it was due to the intemperate habits of others. In all, 37 per cent of the cases could be traced to liquor in one way or the other. These figures are considerably smaller than the vague estimates made by such people as de Gerando, but they are also considerably higher than the figures obtained from the printed reports of societies, or than the figures based upon the liquor habits of paupers. Fortunately, our confidence in their general accuracy is confirmed by the results of the investigation made by the Massachusetts Bureau of Labor, and published in its Twenty-Sixth Annual Report. This showed that in Massachusetts alone about 39 per cent of the paupers in almshouses had been brought to their condition by the personal use of liquor ; and that 10 per cent, some of whom may have been included in the 39 per cent, had come there through the intemperate habits of parents, guardians, or others. As the figures for individual charity organization societies in Massachusetts show a larger percentage of poverty due to liquor than the average obtained for the United States, it is to be expected that the almshouses of Massachusetts will likewise show a percentage above the general average. These figures, therefore, by the mere fact that they are somewhat higher than our general average, confirm our belief in the reliability of our investigation. The highest percentage of destitution due to liquor is naturally found in the case of the societies for the rescue of children ; the fault here being, not on the part of the children themselves, but on the part of their natural guardians. Not less than 45 per cent of the cases investigated were found to involve liquor as a cause of the destitution of children.

If we consider the different classes of the poor which go to make up these general percentages, we find a great diversity. The males uniformly show a much larger percentage of poverty due directly to liquor than the females ; but the latter, as might be expected, show many more cases due to the intemperate habits of others. The women and children are the greatest sufferers from the intemperate habits of those who should be their bread-winners and protectors.

A study of nationalities likewise shows a great diversity, but it is a diversity in which the different nationalities almost invariably keep the same rank. Thus, whether we study the paupers in almshouses or the applicants for aid from the charity organization societies, the Irish yield the largest percentage of cases due to liquor ; the Italians, Russians, Austrians, and Poles, the smallest. Between these two extremes the native-born Americans fall midway, being, as a rule, more addicted to liquor than the Germans and Scandinavians, but less so than the English, Canadians, and Scotch. The colored race, however, as compared with the white, shows a good record. Uniformly, the Negroes return fewer cases of poverty and pauperism due to liquor than the whites. The tables of the report distinguish still other classes, grouped according to the political condition and the nativity of parents. Each group has its own characteristics, the naturalized citizens making, as a rule, an unfavorable showing as compared with the citizens born on the one hand, and the aliens on the other. These figures and the figures regarding parent nativity, giving as they do percentages for various combinations, offer much food for thought, but cannot be quoted at length within the limits of this paper.

The study of criminals is beset with peculiar difficulties, from the very nature of the case. Of the 13,402 whose life histories were studied for our report, it appeared that their crime stood in some direct or indirect connection with liquor in 50 per cent; but in only 31 per cent of the cases was liquor set down as the first cause ; in the others it was simply contributory, but was not the principal outward circumstance inducing the crime. These figures indicate that many of the current guesses regarding the effect of liquor upon crime are exaggerated as far as they apply to offenses which do not in themselves involve liquor as a necessary element. The complexity of the subject, however, precludes the possibility of making any exact computation of that part of the cost of supporting criminals which is occasioned by the use of liquor ; 50 per cent, or even 31 per cent, of the total would probably be excessive.

While the greater part of the report of the Economic Sub-Committee is devoted to the statistical study of pauperism and crime, other topics are also taken up. Among them, special investigations are made of the influence of liquor upon the Indians and upon the Negroes of the South, and the result of this latter investigation confirms at all points the statistical figures already quoted. These studies, made on the spot by persons especially familiar with Negro life, and especially competent to form an opinion, indicate that the liquor habit is not the worst vice of the Negroes, and that, on the whole, it is much less prevalent among them than among the whites.

One chapter of the report deals with the saloon as a factor in the social life of the city. A generation ago, Charles Loring Brace pointed out the peculiar position occupied by the saloon in large cities, and the manner in which it caters to the social needs of the man who works with his hands. “ The liquor shop is his picture gallery, club, reading room, and social salon at once.”2

Investigations made by well-qualified correspondents of the committee in several large cities (New York, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco) confirm this observation. The saloon naturally varies with the character and nationality of the population which surrounds it, and with the city in which it is located ; but that it supplies many wants besides the craving for intoxicants is seen in the fact that saloons flourish even among such races as the Jews, who are exceptionally temperate in the use of stimulants.

The report of the Committee of Fifty contents itself with presenting facts. From what has been said of its plan and purpose, it is evident that the time has not come for it to give any utterance with regard to practical ways and means ; nor does the writer feel that enough is known to justify him in expressing, personally and unofficially, an opinion respecting the relative efficacy of the different methods of combating intemperance.

The facts presented, however, do warrant the belief that a careful study of the purely economic aspects of the subject must be of value to practical workers. That such an investigation is expected to be useful is seen from the generous readiness with which persons engaged in the practical work of philanthropy and the care of criminals and paupers have assisted in collecting material for the report. And while this does not deal with specific ways and means, it does point out certain economic forces which should be taken account of in all practical measures. The magnitude of the liquor interest is in itself of importance, as showing the force which is sure to be opposed to any radical proposals which aim at complete prohibition. It would obviously be impossible, suddenly and in a short time, to wipe out a trade which supports 1,800,000 persons, and involves a capital of $957,000,000. It is not surprising that those whose livelihood is connected with this business should resist to the uttermost such attempts. Even the farmers, who sell 58,000,000 bushels of produce, have a considerable interest in the matter, as well as the landowners who rent buildings, and the railroads and steamboats which furnish transportation. There is no reason, however, to suppose that those who live by this traffic would not be quite as willing to take up some other enterprise, if it offered the same profits and the same opportunities for employment. Any measure, therefore, that is aimed at the liquor traffic will improve its chances of success if it can, at the same time, create a new field of employment for those who will inevitably be thrown out of work by the restriction of the consumption of alcohol.

Our committee has not entered into this investigation in detail, for lack of time ; but it is obvious that such means of amusement as the bicycle, the camera, and most out-of-door sports are important competitors of the saloon, and that the producers of these articles constitute a part of the economic force directly opposed to the liquor traffic. In a sense, the interests of the producers of light drinks are opposed to those of the producers of heavy drinks, and, as shown by the figures of the Department of Labor, they are greater. The total product of distilled liquors in 1890 was $104,000,000, while that of malt liquors was $182,000,000 ; and this interest is constantly growing, as may be seen from the figures giving the consumption of malt liquors and distilled liquors for a period of years. While the consumption of the latter is estimated to have fallen since 1840 from 2.52 gallons per capita to 1 gallon, that of the former has risen from 1.36 to 15.16 gallons. This tendency has been quite marked within the past few years. Thus,from 1891 to 1896 there was a considerable falling off in the consumption of distilled spirits, with practically no increase in the consumption of malt liquors.

The increase in the use of lager beer is regarded by many persons as a dangerous symptom ; and Mr. Boies, putting together the figures which show the increase in its consumption and the figures which show the increase in crime, and arguing post hoc ergo propter hoc, infers that one is the cause of the other. It is, however, quite proper to point out, in reply to this argument, that the greater part of beer (from 83 to 95 per cent) consists of water, and only a very small part of alcohol. The analyses made by Professor Chittenden of malt liquors consumed in the United States show the percentage of alcohol to vary from 8.9 per cent to .67 per cent; the smaller figure is probably nearer the truth, for the bulk of the cheap beer consumed in our country, than the larger one. Now, it is undoubtedly the alcohol, and not the water in the beer, that produces intoxication, and leads in some cases to pauperism and crime. Even assuming the alcohol in beer to average 4 per cent, it would still be true that the consumption of alcohol per capita has been steadily falling. Whatever one may think of the effect of beer in itself, therefore, and of the present amount of poverty and crime due to liquor, our progress seems at least to have been in the right direction.

But there are other economic forces which work unequivocally and intentionally in the direction of moderation. All employers of labor have a direct concern in the soberness of their employees ; and in certain enterprises, in which the disasters due to negligence may be great, such as railroad and steamboat transportation and many manufactures, this interest has already led them to exercise a strong pressure in favor of sobriety among those who work for them. The investigation made by the Department of Labor into this matter is most suggestive. Circulars were addressed by it to large employers of labor throughout the country. Many circulars, as usually happens, were unanswered ; but over 7000 establishments, employing 1,700,000 persons, took the trouble to reply. In transportation lines alone 713 employers replied, representing 458,000 employees. Of those who answered the specific inquiry regarding liquor, 5363 reported that means were taken to ascertain the habits of employees, and 1794 stated that they prohibited, either in whole or in part, the use of intoxicating drinks by their employees. In very few of these cases did the motive of philanthropy or public spirit seem to count for much. Sobriety was insisted upon from motives of pure self - interest. Of those who restricted their employees, only 28 gave as their reason, 44 to make good example for their employees ; ” 2, 44 to guard against temptation ; ” and 2, 44 for the good of employees.” In the large majority of cases, the object was either to prevent accident, or to secure better work, closer economy, or stricter accountability in positions of trust. The increasing refinement and precision of machinery, the higher speed at which it is run, the greater intensity with which people work, the immense responsibility often placed upon a single man, render a clear head and steady nerves an absolute necessity in many trades, and their number is constantly increasing. In the employers of labor, therefore, the advocates of temperance find another powerful economic interest which can be enlisted on their side.

But the employees, too, have special interests, apart from the desire to retain their places and earn good wages, which make for temperance. The development of labor organizations, and the increase in their power and responsibilities, have given them a strong incentive to watch the habits of their members. A great change has taken place in their practice in this respect. In the early part of the century, drinking was incorporated in the rules and regulations of some of the societies as a regular institution ; the place of meeting was commonly in a public house ; the rations of grog were a privilege, the withdrawal of which might involve a strike. But the unions can no longer afford to subject their members to this temptation. The magnitude of their financial operations necessitates the election of temperate men to the higher offices, while the development of an elaborate system of insurance benefits gives each member a direct interest in the sobriety of his fellows. No member of a union likes to see his contributions, which he has laboriously saved from small earnings, squandered in the support of a drinking fellow member.

The importance of conciliating public opinion during strikes furnishes another powerful motive for maintaining temperance in the unions. The result is that already many by-laws and rules of our larger unions contain special clauses inculcating moderation. In some cases, no steps are to be taken to reinstate a man discharged on account of drunkenness ; in other cases, a man is excluded from the union who engages in the liquor traffic ; in still others, men are fined who attend meetings in an intoxicated condition ; while, in very many cases, any person who loses his work, falls sick, or meets with an accident on account of the use of liquor is excluded from the benefits which he would otherwise enjoy. The Trades and Labor Council of Fort Wayne, Indiana, goes so far as to provide that 41 the Council shall never, on any occasion where it is giving a demonstration, celebration, excursion, picnic, ball, or entertainment of any description, sell intoxicating liquors itself, or grant the privilege to sell intoxicating liquors to any person or persons, firm, society, or company.” Here is another economic force, already powerful and constantly growing, which is committed to moderation, and which might perhaps be reinforced and stimulated to greater activity.

The importance of this interest is recognized by many trade-union leaders, such as John Burns, who is a teetotaler, Samuel Gompers, and others. Mr. Gompers, the president of the American Federation of Labor, in a letter to the writer says : “ I think I could convince you or any one that trade unions have done more to instill temperate habits, not only in drink, but in all things, among the workers, than all other agencies combined.”

An economic interest allied to that of the trade unions is found in the numerous and powerful fraternal orders of the country. At a congress held at Baltimore in November, 1898, delegates were present who represented a membership of over 2,000,000. According to the reports then made, there were benefit certificates in force at the end of the year amounting to over $33,000,000,000, and $34,000,000 had been distributed during the year to disabled members and beneficiaries of deceased members. We have here another powerful social influence on the side of moderation. It is true that all life insurance companies have a direct interest in the sobriety of their policy holders. The peculiarity of the trade unions and of the fraternal societies is that this pecuniary interest is represented, not by a soulless corporation, but by the friends, neighbors, and fellow workers of the insured themselves. We not only have the economic interest, but we also have the means of social pressure, which is a factor of very great moment in such matters.

Since the early part of the century, when temperance societies began to be formed, there has been a strong moral movement in the United States and in other countries, directed against the evils of the liquor habit. In many cases the arm of the law has been invoked, and this has resulted in an elaborate, complicated, and constantly changing body of liquor legislation. The facts set forth in this paper give us a partial view of some economic forces which, in the evolution of society, have come to stand for moderation, and suggest that the moral agencies of reform may yet find in purely economic elements their most powerful allies.

Henry W. Farnam.

  1. Quoted from a report, in Nature, vol. xxviii. p. 91, of a lecture delivered May 3, 1883, before the Institution of Civil Engineers.
  2. The Dangerous Classes of New York, 1872, p. 64.