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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/608

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

when another keg of root beer was charged to them, and so on! This, of course, is only one of hundreds of such devices, which are the rule and not the exception in the liquor-prohibiting States. And I beg to ask, what respect a State can expect its citizens to have for its laws, or for themselves, when forced to habitually resort to a deceit which deceives nobody, in order to live as they see fit and as they have an inalienable right to live?

Liquor has always properly been, and always properly will be, a subject of revenue, or, as it is called, excise, and this excise is most conveniently levied in the shape of licenses. Of licenses, high and low, high license is doubtless the best for all concerned, as providing cleaner and more sumptuously appointed drinking places, with that modulation and betterment of manners and of speech to which elegance of surroundings will always conduce. But prohibitive liquor laws should be discontinued, because sixty years of certainly faithful trial have shown them to be failures, dangerous to the public peace, the public health, and the public morals; against public policy as tending to bring all reasonable laws into bad repute, and against absolute right as an interference of the law merchant with the jurisdiction of the criminal law; enacted, as criminal laws are enacted, by those who are not supposed to come under their operation.

Much of what has been said of prohibitory liquor laws in this paper might also be said of the usury laws,[1] which are of the family of crime-creating statutes, which are always readily evaded and which interfere with the market value of the commodity protected. But there is this difference, that usury laws are demanded by the protected class, while prohibitive liquor laws are not, and never can be.

Admitting freely all that can be said about the horrors which liquor can work, sociologists as well as Samaritans know that no public evil can be dealt with abstractly—dragged up by the roots and exterminated in a single swoop of virtue. Sinful as the liquor industry may be, its absolute and sudden annihilation would throw millions out of employment, and put starvation into the room of competence in countless homes, to remain until, by the slow labor of economists and publicists, capital and labor had readjusted themselves to the new condition. And the literal interpretation of statutes at present upon the statute-books of certain American States would send fathers of families to State prisons to serve out terms of sixty or a hundred years—under cumulative sentences which more than cover the natural lives of men. Fortunately, however, the drinking of liquor does not de-


  1. In Queen Elizabeth's time the analogy was still more perfect, for the price of liquor was regulated as the price of money now is sought to be by usury laws—by statute.