Copies of the report of the Chicago vice commission have been impounded by local postal officials awaiting an opinion from the attorney general as to whether they are mailable. This is another illustration of that crass stupidity or of that readiness to stretch the law so as to make it fit the whim of an individual which has been displayed too often by postoffice officials.
It is the law that no lewd, obscene or lascivious book or other publication shall be allowed there; and somebody should be authorized to keep them out, but when power is given to a bureaucracy some bumptious, self-sufficient member becomes a law unto himself. The report which has been held up in the Chicago postoffice does not come within the law except when interpreted by ignorance or pruriency. It gives the results of the sober, scientific investigation of a social problem. It is not a book for indiscriminate reading, but is full of instruction for municipal officials, legislators, and sociologists.
No intelligent person would think of consulting the attorney general about this matter. But when we remember that one publication was called unmailable by a postal official because it had certain extracts from Herbert Spencerís writings this latest blunder may not excite surprise.
There must be a certain degree of censorship of the mails, but it must not be asinine. It must not trespass on the legitimate use of the mails for the spread of knowledge and the dissemination of ideas. The political, social or other views set forth in a publication may displease some jack in office, but he should not be permitted to wrest the law to keep it out of the mails.