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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 27

Economic Value of the Drink Trade.—(Concluded.)

page 14

Economic Value of the Drink Trade.—(Concluded.)

Here is an interesting statement by the Rev. Dawson Burns, M.A., who is admittedly a high authority upon a question of this nature, he estimates this loss as follows:—

First—Loss of wealth annually incurred in the production and retailing of intoxicating liquors.

1. The land now devoted to the growth of barley, and hops used in making intoxicating liquors, would produce food of the value of not less than £13,000,000
2. In the manufacture of strong drink there is a loss of capital and labour, worth at least 15,000,000
3. The labour of the retailers of these drinks and their servants, numbering 500,000 or upwards, would be worth, at the lowest estimate of £50 each per annum 25,000,000

Second—Expenses and burdens annually arising from the use of intoxicating liquors:—

1. Loss of labour and time to employers and workmen by drinking, estimated by the Parliamentary Committee of 1834, at £50,000,000
2. Destruction of property by sea and land, and loss of properly by theft, and otherwise, the result of drinking habits—say 10,000,000
3. Public and private charges by pauperism, destitution,' sickness, insanity, and premature deaths, traceable to the use of strong drinks, at least 10,000,000
4. The cost of police, prosecutions, courts of justice, support' of criminals, loss by jurors and witnesses, taking the proportion of cases due to drinking, at least £3,000,000
Third—Add amount of money directly spent on intoxicating liquors in 1872 £131,601,190
Then we have first the loss in production of and retailing liquors, 53,000,000
second, expenses arising from the use of the liquors 73,000,000
We have as a grand total of the yearly loss of wealth to the British nation, through intoxicating drinks £257,601,490

This, of course is simply an estimate, but nearly all competent authorities deem it an under, rather than an overestimate. Mr. Hoyle's opinion, possibly our highest authority, is that the last two items could safely be made £10,000,000 more, and that if a proper allowance were made for the lost labour of our paupers, criminals, vagrants, thieves, lunatics, &c., it would amount to at least £20,000,000 more.

Take another particular. It is admitted that the value of every industry to a community is determined by the amount of labour it employs, or its wage fund.

The accumulations of the products of industry depend upon the right application of labour. If directed to produce useful articles, and these in their turn are rightly employed, it is rapid. If wrongly employed, the accumulation—if there be any—is slow and unsatisfactory.

When we buy any article, we simply pay for the labour expended upon it. So just as a community accumulates wealth—is its power to employ labour. This question has been almost entirely overlooked by our economists. Yet there is none of greater moment.

If the influence that a proper or improper expenditure of money exercises upon the demand of labour was realized, we would readily see the value of the drink trade to the country. Let us ask, how does the liquor trade stand when brought to this test? Mr. Hoyle in "Our National Resources" illustrates this matter by the page 15 example of the Poor Law Union of Bury. Its population in 1861 was 101,132 of whom 50,000 are engaged in labor, averaging 14s. per week wage?, which gives for the year £1,750,000.

In the Bury Union there are 205 public-houses, and 295 beershops, or a total of 500 places where intoxicating liquors are sold. While since 1860 a number of grocers sell wines and spirits. The average expenditure of these houses throughout the United Kingdom is upwards of £750 per annum. Taking this average for Bury, it gives £375,000 as spent in intoxicating liquors, or upwards of one-fifth of its total income. The manufacture of £375.000 worth of intoxicating liquors would not employ more than from 200 to 250 people; and if to these be added 500 publicans, and say as many servants, gives 1000 more, or a total of 1250 persons who derive a living from the £375,000 expended upon drink. Now, if £1,750,000 will give employment to 50,000, it follows that, if properly expended, £375,000 would find employment and subsistence for 10,714 persons, or 9,464 more than when spent on drink : so that by spending so much of the money on drink, there are, out of the 50,000 workers, 9,464 who are thrown out of employment, and have to be supported by the labour of the other 40,536 workers.

But the spending of £375,000 upon intoxicating chinks involves also the destruction of at least 250,000 bushels of grain, which, if converted into bread, would make 3½ millions 4lb. loaves, and would provide sustenance for the whole year for at least one-fourth of the population of the Union.

To show that substantially the same results always attend the presence of this trade, we append two or three tables from Dr. Hargreaves, United States, " Our Wasted Resources." Table IX., page 85, shows the number of persons employed, the wages paid, value of materials used, the capital invested, etc., by expending but little more than half of what is paid for intoxicating drinks in Pensylvania

Name. No. Persons Employed. Wages Paid. Cost of Materials. Capital Invested. Total Cash Expended.
Dollars. Dollars. Dollars. Dollars.
Farm Products 8,333,333 1/3
Building Houses 2,000 1,000,000 2,600,000 1,400,000 5,000,000
Cotton Goods 4,000 1,100,000 3,000,000 3,000,000 5,000,000
Woollen Goods 2,500 800,000 3,400,000 2,500,000 5,000,000
Worsted Goods 2,500 850,000 3,000,000 2,000,000 5,000,000
Furniture, &c 8,500 1,500,000 2,000.000 3,000,000 5,0000,00
Clothing 6,500 1,000,000 4,000,000 3,600,000 8,333,333 1/3
Boots and Shoes 7,650 2,800,000 3,500,000 8,250,000 8,833,333 1/3
Total Manufactures 28,650 9,710,000 18,500,000 18,750,000 41,666,666 2/3
Total 50,600,000

By this table it will be seen that by expending for useful and necessary articles of our manufactures, only 41,660,666 2/3 dollars, or little more than half of what is spent for liquors in Pensylvania, it would give employment to 28,650 hands, pay 9,710,000 dollars in wages, use 21,500,000 dollars worth of raw materials, and find an investment for 18,750,000 dollars of capital in the manufacture of the articles named. What the result of that on the happiness, comfort and general prosperity of the State would be is incalculable.

Among the manufactures of Pensylvania, as given in the Census Returns of 1870, are the following :—

Table X. Showing the Liquors Manufactured in Pensylvania in 1870
Kind of Liquors. Hands Employed. Wages Paid. Cost of Materials. Capital Invested. Value of the Liquors.
Dollars. Dollars. Dollars. Dollars.
Distilled Liquors 512 215,837 1,950,077 2,504,857 4,018,228
Fermented do 1.583 773,207 3,553,986 6,966,236 7,056,400
Vinous do 15 4,250 7,960 100,160 17,900
Totals 2,110 993,354 5,512,923 9,571,253 11,692,528
page 16

Let us now compare the totals of Tables IX. and X. and see how the question stands:—

Kind. Persons Employed. Wages Paid. Cost of Materials. Capital Invested.
Dollars. Dollars.
Totals of Table IX. of useful Articles 28,650 9,710,000 21,500,000 18,750,000
Total of Table X. of Liquors 2,110 993,354 5,512,023 9,571,253
Total difference 26,540 8,716,646 15,987,977 9,178,747

By the difference of totals we find that the money, if spent for useful articles, would employ 26,540 more hands; pay 8,716,616 dollars more for wages; pay 15,087,977 dollars more for materials; and invest 9,178,777 more capital to produce 41,666,663 2/3 dollars' worth of useful articles than it would to produce 11,692.528 dollars' worth of liquors at the places of manufacture.

We think statements such as these show beyond question that the existence of the liquor traffic is destructive of the best material interests of a community, and is the real cause of bad trade, and the commercial disasters, which recur periodically while they are the fons origo of pauperism and vagrancy, to say nothing of the social and moral ruin wrought by their use.

Our space is exhausted, and our tale but half told. We had hoped to have referred to the address of Mr. George, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, some time since, when he availed himself of his position to commend the interests of the liquor traffic of the district to the tender consideration of the community. But that must be deferred for some other occasion. In the meantime, we ask our readers to apply the conclusions to be drawn from the foregoing statement to the state of this City of Wellington. We gather from Mr. George that there is about half a million of capital invested in Wellington in this trade, that taking the consumption of the city to average the rest of the colony, there is £100.000 spent here in intoxicating liquors annually. What we wish to be considered is this: supposing this capital was diverted from the trade, and employed in some other, which would use more raw material, and expend a vastly larger wage fund. What would be its effect on the trade, and the social life of the city? If this £100,000 swallowed annually by the inhabitants was diverted to the channels of productive and legitimate trade, the cry of depression and hard times would pass away, never to return.

And herein lies the remedy for the pauperism, which Major Atkinson is so laudably desirous of preventing. If he would apply his mind to this question and grapple with it, as he is doing with his National Insurance scheme, which even if he could carry it, would be at best, but a palliative, leaving a cause which in spite of any, and all such nostrums, would unfailingly produce a poverty so dense, as would practically enable the people to contribute the premiums necessary to insure the benefits sought. We venture to commend this matter to the honorable Ministers serious attention, as that which will be a radical cure, not only of the poverty, but largely of the vice and crime of the New Zealand which he loves, and of which he is so distinguished a son.

W. P.