Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/755

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THE ECONOMIC FUNCTION OF VICE.

temperance, being among the milder vices, kills slowly. Sexual sins slay more rapidly, and the higher grades of vice do their work with a swiftness proportioned to their flagrancy. The Psalmist says, "Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days," but police records will show that David materially overstates the average. "One quarter their days" would approach much nearer exactness.

Returning to the major premise, that the "survival of the fittest" means the selection and preservation of those individuals who are most nearly in harmony with the conditions of their environment, and that the progress of the race or species involves the destruction of the weaker and inferior, who are not in such harmony, the conclusion follows that any aberration toward vice shows such a discordance in the individual with the laws of his environment as marks him as inferior, weak, and obstructive of the race's development.

Vice is not so much a cause as an effect—not so much a disease as a symptom. Vice does not make a nature weak or defective: a weak and defective nature expresses its weaknesses and defects in vice, and that expression brings about, in one way or another, the sovereign remedy of extermination.

Temperance agitators fill our ears continually with wails as to how the "demon Alcohol is yearly dragging down to dishonorable graves hundreds of thousands of the brightest and fairest of our land." This is supreme nonsense. With very few exceptions, every one who goes to perdition by the Alcohol route would reach that destination by some other highway, if the Alcohol line were not running.

Every man whose sloth or improvidence has brought himself and his family to beggary, every thieving tramp upon the highways, every rascal in the penitentiary, every murderer upon the gallows, hastens to plead, "Whisky brought me to this!" because he knows that such a plea will bring him a gush of sloppy sympathy not obtainable by any other means. But whisky makes no man lazy, shiftless, dishonest, false, cowardly, or brutal. These must be original qualities with him. If he has them, he will probably take to whisky—though not inevitably—which then does the community the splendid service of hurrying him along to destruction, and of abridging their infliction upon the public. People who have done much in the way of reforming drunkards have been astonished to find how little real manhood remained after eliminating whisky from the equation. They have supposed the manhood to be only obscured, and have been disheartened to find how frequently it happens to be demonstrated that there was never enough of it to pay for the trouble of "saving the victim of intemperance."

If, as the temperance agitators insist, "intemperance is yearly dragging a hundred thousand of the men and women of our country down to the grave," then a love of scientific truth compels the statement that intemperance, while doing some harm, as is usually the case