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July 23rd 2003

Goteborg, Sweden



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Licensing and Temperance


ON the subject of the abuses which have arisen from time to time in the ' company' system of licensing, I quote the following from an article on ' The Liquor Traffic in Sweden and Norway,' by Mr. W. E. Johnson, published in The New Voice (Chicago), April 12, 1900:
When it became noised abroad that one could not sell spirituous liquor unless he was a ' philanthropist,' a great crop of this species sprang up all over Sweden. In a multitude of cases these gentlemen were nothing but old-time rum-sellers or local politicians. This philanthropist nuisance has been threshed out over and over again in the Swedish Diet ever since the year 1873, when the Bolag was just coming into notice. Finally, the scandal became so unbearable that, in 1893, the Diet adopted an address to the King, asking that he advise measures to check the multiplying abuses of the philanthropists. But the difficulty lay in the fact that the King was a philanthropist himself, and had a big grog establishment in his own cellar.
On May 4, 1894, the doings of the philanthropists were made the subject of a committee report in the Diet, in which the chairman, Baron Bonde, reviewed some of the cases of crookedness.
A number of philanthropists had been (as a company) renting property from themselves (as individuals) at an exorbitant rental.
In some cases the Bolag had rented the cellars of town halls or other unused municipal property, in order that the town could swallow up a disproportionate share of the profits.
The philanthropists at Skofde were paying 9,000 kronor for property which they did not want, and which they sublet for 50 cents on the dollar.
According to the investigations made by the committee, some of the Bolags consisted of but a single philanthropist; while in other cases the good man took in his book-keeper or bar-tender as a partner, so that he would not be lonesome.
Fourteen of the Bolags had but three shareholders, one of which was the Bolag at Gefle, a city of 25,000 inhabitants.
Of the eighty-seven Bolags then in existence, twenty-one were joint-stock companies, while the other sixty-six were ordinary trading companies under the Swedish law.
Of these trading companies, one-third was composed of not more than three philanthropists, and two-thirds of them had less than eight.
The directors of the Bolags at Kalmar, Oskarshamn, and Karlshamn were being paid a commission of from 6 to 10 per cent, on all sales.
At Ronneby the chairman of the board of directors of the philanthropic Bolag received 800 kronor per year, and a commission of 2 per cent, on all sales.
At Stromstad the chairman got 500 kronor per year and 5 per cent, of the net profits.
At Skara the manager was given a comfortable salary of 2,000 kronor and 10 per cent, of all net profits exceeding 20,000 kronor.
At Marstrand the manager was paid a certain amount on each litre sold.
The manager at Vestervik received a salary and commission based on the cost of liquor sold.
Some of the directors had arranged to pay for the
liquors with their private cheques, and were receiving a ' discount,1 or ' commission,1 or ' interest.'
Some of the companies retained a part of the profits, which they used as capital stock, and then collected a dividend on the capital stock.
Forty-seven of the Bolags were renting their premises from the municipality at an exorbitant rental.
Corrupt juggling of rentals by the philanthropists were developed at Sodertlege, Norrkoping, Vexio, Skara, and Vimmeroy.
The philanthropists at Norrtlege, Enkoping, Ljungby, Eslof, Kongelf, and Lund peddled out to saloon-keepers all their licenses, thus becoming merely monopolist brokers of permits to sell liquor.
One of the Bolags was found to be renting all of its premises from one of the shareholders.
Some of the companies compelled the manager to provide his own premises and recoup himself by a commission.
Thirty-four of the Bolags had peddled out all their bar licenses, retaining only the bottle trade.
Different Bolags paid different prices for the same stuff. ' Commissions' and ' rake offs' were openly discussed.
The Bolag philanthropists were sending agents and canvassers into the Prohibition districts to dispose of their goods.
Some of the philanthropists sold liquor cheaper at Christmas-time in order to stimulate trade. . . .
The crookedness of the philanthropists in the operation of their Bolags resulted in the law passed by the Diet in 1895, in which the town councils were forbidden to entrust their liquor business to Bolags having less than twelve stockholders. The dividends were limited to 5 per cent., the sending out of agents and canvassers was forbidden, the payment of commissions to managers was prohibited, and the practice of renting premises from interested parties was legislated against.
Dr. Ernst Almquist, Professor of Hygiene at Stockholm, in a paper contributed to the HygienischenRundschauon the temperance movement, declared himself in favour of' absolute abstinence,' but explained that by an absolute abstainer he meant a person who took beverages which did not contain more than 1 per cent, of alcohol. In concluding his paper, the professor said he was bound to admit that, among the various stimulants which had been indulged in by the human race, alcohol must certainly be regarded as a ' mild' one, and he thought it would be in the highest degree unfortunate if alcohol were to be exchanged for some other form of stimulant, such as morphia. He continued :
' There are already signs pointing in this direction. Some persons who leave off alcohol become slaves to other vices which are no better. The greatest danger which threatens the Northern people at the present moment is increasing unchastity. In provinces which have experienced a perceptible decline in drunkenness there has been a rapid increase in immorality. The latter, of course, cannot be attributed merely to a misuse of alcohol, though from the point of view of health and working power it does at least as much harm as alcohol.'
In an article published in the Munchener Nuesten Nachrichten in 1905, on the results
of the teetotal movement in Norway, it was stated:
' There is no room whatever for doubt that the shortsighted policy of the prohibitionists has had the effect of bringing about, to an extraordinary extent, the abuse, alike in public and in private, of morphia. An unmistakable indication of this tendency is offered by the generally recognised fact that, as the direct result of the stricter administration of the laws controlling the sale of alcohol among the labouring classes, there has been a striking increase in the consumption of ether; and the question has on several occasions been considered whether greater restrictions should not be imposed on the dealers holding concessions from the State who sell large quantities of ether, under the popular designation of " naphtha," more especially on the weekly pay-days of the workers. Reflective persons, versed in social politics, will find here a new proof of the old experience—that to seek to overcome national habits by force is, generally speaking, equivalent to driving out the devil with the help of Beelzebub.
' In regard, also, to the consumption of morphia, various measures have been proposed; but it is generally considered that they cannot be enforced if the people are resolved not to observe them. No less would be the difficulty of fighting the evil by administrative action; for in the immediate vicinity of the shops recognised by the law there are dens the occupants of which, carrying on the business in secrecy, know well how to evade the authorities. Some of these individuals even have a Staff of agents whose sole occupation consists in pandering to the cravings of the morphia-loving public, either in the capital or in the provinces. This illicit business is generally conducted with the help of large wholesale firms in other countries— especially England—and those engaged in it vie with one another in the subterfuges they resort to in order to get the morphia into the country without attracting attention.'
Some results of the company system in Finland, where local ' philanthropists' have taken charge of the liquor traffic in the towns on the usual basis of 5 per cent, for the shareholders and devotion of net profits to public purposes, with an especially strict control of the sales, are thus described in an article published during 1904 in the Tageszeitung fur Brauerei, in regard to the conditions at Tammerfors, where there is a population of 40,000 persons, including 25,000 who belong to the working class :
' The people drink denaturalized spirit. The very smell of it should be enough; those who must take it may regard themselves as put to the rack. Here, in Tammerfors, it is Consumed in large quantities. Even French polish (" Politurlack") is resorted to, and this not infrequently, so that numbers of persons who have drunk either the denaturalized spirit or the polish go to the hospitals for treatment on account of severe stomach ailments. But, as I learn from a medical man, most of the sufferers try to conceal the fact of their indulgence in such unnatural drinks. Consequently, there is often much difficulty in diagnosing their condition, and it happens not seldom that death is the result. When one hears all these things, one can only deplore in the strongest degree the rigorous laws by which such difficulties are placed in the way of obtaining ordinary alcoholic beverages.'

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