INTEMPERANCE Aside from the death or desertion of the breadwinner, the three great and constantly recurring causes of destitu tion are sickness, lack of employment, and drink. These are not the only causes. Industrial inefficiency, dishon esty, or other criminal act, and a number of other causes not easily classified, produce their share of dependent fami lies, but as compared with the three just named even so considerable a cause as inefficiency or lack of training becomes less conspicuous. Industrial displacement and the prevention of disease are considered in other chap ters. We must now face more directly the relief problems attributable to drink. It is a conservative estimate that one-fourth of all the cases of destitution with which private relief agencies have to deal are fairly attributable to in temperance. That is to say, in this proportion of cases the death of the breadwinner or the loss of work and the difficulty in securing new employment, or the exhaustion of financial resources, or whatever other reason may be assigned at the time of application, is readily and incon trovertibly traced back to intemperate habits on the part of the applicant himself, or other members of the family whose cooperation is essential to self-support. There are many other instances in which the applicant has been accustomed to a greater or less use of alcoholic beverages, and in a certain proportion of these, if the facts could be fully known, it would be apparent that greater temperance or entire abstinence would have prevented the need for outside assistance, but the same thing might be said with equal truth of other more or less foolish or wasteful habits. The estimate made above includes only the cases in which there is an obvious connection between the use of alcohol 144 and the dependent condition in which the family is found. The question as to how much should be added to cover the cases in which there is only a partial or indirect respon sibility is a matter for conjecture, and estimates upon this point are likely to differ according to the standpoint of the one who makes them. It is a matter for conjecture also, and estimates differ here again, as to what other evil con sequences, aside from poverty and destitution, are due to drink. That there is an endless train of evils, aside from the burden of pauperism and dependence which it entails, cannot be gainsaid. Insanity, suicide, and death in other forms result from the use of alcohol, in many instances in which no question of relief arises. Cruelty, neglect, and unhappiness result directly from the use of alcohol in fami lies which are by no means near the verge of dependence. Crimes are committed under its stimulus, and demoralizing associations are formed or strengthened under conditions in which the use of alcohol is an important element, and it makes easier the path to vice and the indulgence of every debasing appetite. Certain diseases, such as tuberculosis and pneumonia, are far more likely to attack those who are subject to alcoholism, and it greatly impedes the recovery of those who are attacked. These consequences are not exhausted in the lives of the intemperate themselves, but are bequeathed to posterity in various forms of degeneracy, spiritual and physical.
The extreme position that alcohol acts always as a poison, and that it cannot be taken except with injurious physical effects, is rejected by a preponderance of medical opinion, nor, in spite of the appalling consequences of alcoholism, can one find moral grounds for objecting to the moderate use of alcoholic beverages by those who find that they are physically beneficial or that they are pleasurable and with out evil results. The entire prohibition of the manufacture
and sale of alcoholic beverages cannot then be justified on the ground that their use is, for all persons, and under all circumstances, physically and morally injurious. Prohibi tion may, however, be justified on less extreme grounds. If it is established that for a very large proportion of those who use alcohol physical injuries and economic disaster are likely to result, then the community, even if it be admitted that these results do not follow with absolute uni formity, may wisely determine to cast out the active cause of so much distress and disaster. Even if it be only the weak that yield to their appetite and drink to excess, it may still be best, for the sake of those weaker ones, and in the interests of the community of which they are a part, to forego the pleasure and the beneficial results experienced in a few instances. It is quite conceivable that a commu nity made up of perfectly rational human beings, with a due regard for the doctrine of personal liberty and with a just appreciation of the advantages resulting in some in stances from the use of alcoholic when they look out upon the crime and poverty and distress which are chargeable to its use by others, may deliberately decide that the brewery, the still, and the saloon shall not exist, or that whatever alcoholic liquors are produced shall be permitted to be used for medicinal purposes only, on com petent medical advice. This has been the attitude of many who have upheld prohibition as a state policy. There are many who hold views by no means extremely puritanical, and who are quite ready to admit that the mod erate use of wine does not imply moral obliquity, who are nevertheless convinced that a community in which liquor cannot be obtained is a better place in which to bring up children and a safer place for the average adult. Maine, Iowa, and other states which have made more or less com plete experiments with the system of prohibition, have come nearest creating conditions of this kind, but they have not extended throughout any entire state, and it is probably impossible that they should. A law prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages can be en forced only when a considerable majority of the citizens believe in its principles. It is essentially a law which must rest upon public opinion. Secret and constant violation of the law, which is always possible when a considerable minority reject the principles upon which it rests, and re gard the statute as an infraction of their personal liberty, tends to bring all law into contempt, and speedily makes the law in question injurious rather than beneficial. In the greater cities containing a large foreign population ac customed to a very general use of alcoholic beverages, and containing also a considerable number of more or less reck less and vicious persons who have a craving for alcohol, prohibition has seldom been in successful operation for any long period of time. In rural communities, on the other hand, and in the smaller cities it has often been entirely successful, and children have grown to manhood, although by no means secluded on their own farms or in their own villages, without having had an opportunity to drink alco holic beverages at their meals or elsewhere. If prohibi tion has proved to be impracticable over so large an area as a state, it may still have, then, a legitimate place in the form of local option, and in many states the territory over which such option may be exercised may be the county or even a group of counties acting together.