THE VICE REPORT
The vice commission is hardly to be blamed if the summary of its investigations of the social evil in Chicago and in other cities does not provide a novel solution. Dealing with a problem which began with civil society, the commission report represents fairly the principal points of view which men hold toward it — the religious, the social, the economic.
The commission reminds us that "until the heart of man is changed we cannot hope to annihilate the social evil," nevertheless we are admonished of our duty to do what may be done to mitigate this evil by wise individual and organized effort. To this end generous recommendations are made, some of the so obviously sound as to permit no ??ate. Among these are the recommendations for vocational training of girls in continuation schools between the ages of 14 and 16, the extension of public recreation facilities for young people under a stricter regulation, the establishment of municipal dance halls under proper surveillance, and the prohibition of public dances in buildings where liquor is sold.
There is the usual demand for stricter enforcement of existing laws and ordinances, prosecution of procurers and house keepers, and for much tightening up of the administrative machinery of prosecution and police.
The proposal of the "morals commission" and a "morals court" is one which should be considered carefully before adoption. Commissions are helpless without active public opinion back of them, and arouse public opinion is capable of getting results then from the police. The mayor and the chief of police are a morals commission already in existence. Would the morals commission now proposed be, in the long run, only less subject to conditions which deter action by these present agencies of law enforcement? If the recommendations of the report as to the disciplining of grafting or negligent policemen are carried out, a morals commission will not be necessary, and if they are not carried out it will be because of political and other reasons which in time could overcome the morals commission and its machinery.
One of the chief causes of the evils sought to be avoided by a morals commission is the system of grafting, blackmailing, and connivance at law breaking by the police. But this cannot fail to result where a community refuses to recognize the social evil and regulate it by law. The vice report itself accepts the permanency and inevitability of the social evil to the extent of postponing hope of its eradication till that millenniary when the heart of man shall be changed yet it cites with approval the undoubted fact that public opinion will not countenance the recognition and legalization of inevitable conditions.
This being our paradox, we must accept the defects of extra-legal methods which are profoundly demoralizing to officials and ought to be more obnoxious to our Anglo-Saxon conscience than the formal recognition of any social fact.
Upon the question of segregation the report leaves the reader "in the air." Segregation is condemned as defective, bu it is not explained what the alternative is. ???? the report acknowledges, annihilation is not possible until the heart of man is changed, the only alternative to segregation is dissemination. But the merits of dissemination as against segregation are not declared.
Just what is the commissionís solution of this difficulty?
The most important aspect of the report is its direction of the public mind to the fact that the social evil is a phase of the social problem in the broadest and deepest sense. The older attitude toward the social evil was the religious or moral attitude. It is well we should understand that poverty is the prolific mother of vice. The inadequate wage not only starves the body. It denies the nation needs of human beings for common comforts, for decency, for food, warmth, raiment, social intercourse. It denies the instinct for happiness. It breaks down the will and throws every temptation into the path of the young.
Sex sins will continue "until the heart of man is changed." But the social evil is a social problem, but the main cause is to be found in the economic maladjustment which leaves so large a class upon the narrow edge of bare subsistence.
The most useful concrete recommendation of the report deal with practical measures of child welfare. Prove more means of wholesome enjoyment for the children and help them to a higher level of self-help through sensible education, and the child "supply" of the unfortunate and criminal class will be checked at the source.