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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata graph of the day

The Times 28 October 1916 p5

The Times 28 October 1916 p5

In case there should be any doubt: I do not like the implication that state violence can make the world a better place. I suspect there are all sorts of reasons why the graph might not be accurate and if it is accurate for doubting that it tells the full story. For instance, a lot of the men who would have got drunk are by this stage in the army and serving in France.

Even so, what if it’s true? What if restrictions on alcohol helped to increase munition production and helped to win the war?

Like now, the war against alcohol was very much a feature of the time. Earlier on in the year, along with other restrictions, the “round” had been banned. Just this week (a hundred years ago) a full-page advertisement had appeared in The Times calling for prohibition until the end of the war. The 1,000 signatories included such luminaries as H.G. Wells, John Masefield, Thomas Hardy, Robert Baden-Powell, Ernest Rutherford, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and General Smith-Dorrien.

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10 comments to Samizdata graph of the day

  • The rise in convictions from 1909 to 1913 argues against the idea that mere punishment is reversing the trend. The massive fall in the war years is wholly explained by the war: the men were in France much of the time, there was greater tolerance of soldiers’ being drunk (for various reasons), and the remaining policemen (and, in the war, increasingly policewomen) had much else to do besides arresting drunks. Rules on drunkenness during the war were a tiny part of a huge practical and moral pressure on people to focus on the war.

    The only surprising thing on the graph is the fall from 06 to 09 and rise after. The liberals took power in 05, were in power up to the war and after, and were more hostile to drink, more ready to penalise, than the tories. The ’10 election reduced their majority to the point where it depended on Irish members (hence the home rule bill) – but also reduced the Lords’ abilities to reject their bills. I’d guess the Irish members were less friendly to drink restrictions. If I knew more I might know of licensing changes related to those facts, but I’m nevertheless guessing social trends, not government action, is where to seek an explanation.

  • Mr Ed

    Even then, scoundrels were not running graphs down to the zero point on the x axis, as if the y axis started just south here of 40,000, making the drop appear relatively greater than it actually is.

  • Rob

    Yes, I expect the first graph in history was deliberately rigged to emphasise the drawer’s opinion.

    It’s a fair rule that any graph used for political reasons will have been rigged or doctored in some way, and if it isn’t obvoius then it definitely has been.

  • Fraser Orr

    > Even so, what if it’s true? What if restrictions on alcohol helped to increase munition production and helped to win the war?

    But don’t you think that attitude is precisely backward? The purpose of the nation state is to allow people the freedom to enjoy their lives, and consequently, ostensibly the purpose of a state action, like war, is to allow the people the freedom to enjoy their lives.

    The idea that removing that freedom to prosecute the war gives the idea that the people are a resource for the state rather than the state a resource for the people.

    Of course that is because it is true — in the view of the politicians the people are a resource to be farmed for the furtherance of their state goals, and the power goals of the powerful. And as to whether the first world war advanced anybody’s goals… well lets just say it was the end of the British Empire.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker!) Gray

    Besides, I’ve always liked the Utopian way of war- put a massive bounty on the heads of the leaders of your enemies, and keep increasing it until someone decides to collect it! Why should the ordinary soldiers be blamed, or bear the burdens of war?

  • Thailover

    “In case there should be any doubt: I do not like the implication that state violence can make the world a better place.”

    At the risk of sounding elitist, it’s simpler minds that think of good and bad in terms of verbs rather than states of being. Homosexuality, for the condemning religious, is a verb rather than a state of being. (And they often don’t seem to know the difference between gay and bisexual). Ditto for both transsexualism and “morality”, i.e. they think they’re verbs rather than a reflection of the inner-person. I think for the philosophically active mind, morality isn’t reflected by being forced to behave a certain way, but rather innate compassion and empathy for the innocent. And in this same vein of thought, peace IS NOT the absence of physical violence, it’s the absence of force and coercion. Police states and dictatorships are not “peaceful”, and neither is Islam a religion of peace where Sharia is practiced. A reduction in “convictions for drunkenness”, if it’s the result of a hammer-handed police state is also not necessarily a good thing, as it is STILL treating people like children and their condition is not a reflection of their uncoerced (and unthreatened) choices. It’s merely a reflection of their willingness to surrender to force and threats.

  • Paul Marks

    The comments say it all – no need for me to add anything.

  • Thailover

    Rob wrote,

    “It’s a fair rule that any graph used for political reasons will have been rigged or doctored in some way…”

    It was the Russians. ‘Just ask Slithery. LOL.

  • Surellin

    I believe I read in something by Colin Wilson that, during the Blitz, crime and suicide in London both dropped remarkably. Interesting, eh? Perhaps people had more important things to worry about than getting plastered (or committing crimes). Same in WWI?