VII - BENEFITS OF PROHIBITION TO BE CONSERVED
Such benefits as are clearly shown to have followed from the Eighteenth Amendment and the National Prohibition Act bear immediately upon the problem of enforcement. They cannot have resulted from abstract prohibition. They must have resulted from such enforcement as there has been in the past decade. Hence in passing judgment upon enforcement we should determine and appraise these benefits as something to be conserved in any program of improvement.
1. ECONOMIC BENEFITS
Disregarding the highly speculative assertions as to the so-called drink bill and its relation to industrial and financial conditions during the first decade of prohibition, the subjects upon which there is objective and reasonably trustworthy proof are industrial benefits i.e., increased production, increased efficiency of labor, elimination of "blue Mondays" and decrease in industrial accidents - increase in savings, and decrease in demands upon charities and social agencies.
There is strong and convincing evidence, supporting the view of the greater number of large employers, that a notable increase in production, consequent upon increased efficiency of labor and elimination of the chronic absence of great numbers of workers after Sundays and holidays, is directly attributable to doing away with saloons. On the other side, it is contended by an able and conscientious group of skilled workers, leaders in organized labor, who appeared before us, that this increased efficiency of labor is to be attributed rather to the efforts of the unions in bringing about better conditions of employment, better hours, and better wages. It is contended also that improved methods of selection of personnel, the results of industrial engineering improved management and general progress in the organization of industry and methods of production must be credited with the greater part of the undoubted advance in efficiency. In addition, account must be taken of newer and better modes of recreation and of occupying leisure time which it is said would have superseded general resort to drink in any event. It may be admitted that much of this is well taken. But with all deductions we are satisfied that a real and significant gain following National Prohibition has been established.
As to decrease in industrial accidents, nothing is clearly established. It is controverted how far drinking was a considerable factor in those accidents before prohibition. Better hours, better factory organization and methods, improved machinery, safety devices, the activity of insurers, and more systematic inspection have made it impossible to compare with any assurance the statistics of the first decade of the present century with those of today.
There has been an increase in savings evidenced especially by savings deposits. As to this allowance must be made for the results of the vigorous campaign for thrift during the war, for the effects of increased activity of banks in stimulating savings deposits, for increased wa(res in the era of industrial prosperity following the war, and for the growth of the idea of investment during that era. Nor may we overlook the change in our standards of lliving whereby it has become the general custom that the wives and daughters of workers are employed for the whole or a part of their time. Moreover, there was a great and steady increase in savings before prohibition.
It cannot be said that anything is clearly established on this point.
As to decrease in demands upon charities and social agencies, allowance must be made for conditions of employment during the era of industrial prosperity and the change whereby the women members of the household are so generally earning wages. Also the decrease which seemed to be indicated some years ago has not maintained itself wholly nor in all localities. Such statistics as are shown to be significant and worthy of credit make this matter too doubtful to be taken as the basis of a conclusion.
Looked at over the decade of prohibition, the most that may be said with assurance is that there has been a real and far-reaching improvement in the efficiency of labor, especially in mechanical industries. Even if we concede the contention of some labor leaders that in the last few years there has begun to be an increase in drinking among workers, an improvement remains. In an industrial country, in an industrial age, this established fact must be of great weight.
Except in a few places where there seem to have been exceptional conditions, there is general agreement among social workers that there has been distinct improvement in standards of living among those with whom such workers come in contact, which must be attributed to prohibition. Here also deduction must be made for the economic conditions in the decade following the war, for the tendency of women members of the household to work for wages, and for the general diffusion of improved means of recreation. There would be no profit in going into details. It is enough to say that upon weighing all the evidence, there is a clear preponderance to establish a gain.
Beyond this the social benefits asserted are not so clear. It has been urged that there has been great improvement in domestic relations. But such few statistics as to divorce for drunkenness as are available and are reasonably trustworthy, seem to show a steady increase in divorce on that ground after a sharp drop in the initial years of prohibition. It is not safe to interpret these figures either to support a claim of gain or to show bad effects of national prohibition. A change in the general attitude of women is so disturbing an element that the statistics as to divorce before and since prohibition are simply not comparable.
So also as to the effect upon public health which has been urpred by some writers. The steady development of means of conserving the public health and the continual advance of medical science preclude any just comparison of the statistical data available.
What may be said with reasonable assurance is that there has been real and substantial improvement in the life of those with whom social workers come in contact.
Any program of liquor control should go forward from these economic and social gains. It should begin by conserving these benefits. But conceding them to the full extent to which they may be taken as established, they are due not so much to the attempt at federally enforced prevention of the use of intoxicating liquor as to the closing or substantial closing of the old time saloon. Hence the first desideratum in any constructive plan is to keep closed the saloon and its substantial equivalents. Public opinion almost if not quite everywhere would sustain keeping the saloon closed as a permanent achievement for good order, good working conditions, good morals, and improved domestic life.