Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER III: NOURISHMENT AND MORTALITY - The Comedy of Protection
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CHAPTER III: NOURISHMENT AND MORTALITY - Yves Guyot, The Comedy of Protection 
The Comedy of Protection, trans. M.A. Hamilton (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1906).
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NOURISHMENT AND MORTALITY
M. Jacques Bertillon and the mortality of large towns—M. Verrijn Stuart and infant mortality in Amsterdam—“Social Hygiene”—The Tuberculosis League and Protection—Longet of Hamburg—Dr. Livi’s Italian experiments—Mortality and the price of corn.
M. Jacques Bertillon made a classification of the districts of Paris, Berlin, and Vienna in six divisions, according to their standard of comfort: as very poor, poor, well-to-do, very well-to-do, rich, very rich; and he found that the sickness and mortality of each district was in direct relation to its economic condition.
M. C. A. Verrijn Stuart, Director of Statistics for the Low Countries, divided Amsterdam into six quarters, according to a standard of comfort fixed with reference to four elements—
Then comparing the mortality of children of less than one year of age with the birth-rate for the same year he obtained the following table:—
And these figures are the more striking as being drawn from one of the richest countries in the world, where housekeepers are justly renowned. I recommend it to the notice of those who are so ready to say to others, “Bear children,” while they at the same time bend all their energies to raising the price of food and all the other necessaries of life. It is not enough to bear children, they must be brought up. Every birth followed by a death is a waste of effort and expense.
In June, 1903, a Congress of Social Hygiene met at Montpellier. I am most ready to do justice to the intentions of its organisers and members, but why the title? Private hygiene consists of the rules which the individual has to observe for his own preservation; public hygiene has to do with the cleanliness of public streets, the supply of drinking water, the removal of dirt of every sort—but what is the meaning of social hygiene? An anti-social hygiene is inconceivable. One meets the word “social” everywhere; people talk of “social justice” as if justice could exist outside of society. To what idea does this strangely misused word correspond?
I did not know the exact objects which the organisers of the Congress of Social Hygiene set before themselves, but I should have imagined that they would concern themselves with the reform of the laws and institutions which stand in the way of individual development; with the removal of those economic obstacles which prevent prudent men from having large families; the total or partial abolition of those “impedimenta” to sufficient nutrition which lower the vitality of children, hasten the advance of old age, and condemn so many to consumption. Of all this not a word was said. The Tuberculosis League made a great noise. With the help of lotteries it got hold of millions of money, but it paid no attention to the effect of Customs duties on diet. If the directors did not see this effect, such shortsightedness makes me sceptical as to their insight; if they did see but dared not speak for fear of alienating their patrons and subscribers, they sacrificed the truth to their interests. They attack tuberculosis, which represents no vested interest; they propose means of dealing with its victims; but they salute, hat in hand, or pretend not to know, those who are in a great measure responsible for its ravages, who invite and support it by robbing each of their fellow-countrymen of a part of his bread and his meat. How can one take philanthropists seriously who pour forth sympathy like water and groan over the misfortunes of their neighbours, while they obstinately shut their eyes to the real cause of it all because it is an established power, and, in the words of St. Paul, “One must have respect to the powers that be”? Longet’s formula is entirely valid: “Insufficient nourishment is a chronic disease, of which starvation is the acute stage, and consumption is the result.”
Mr. Gebhard, Director of the German Old Age and Invalid Benefit Assurance Bureau, published the following figures for Hamburg:—
It has been shown that in Germany out of 112,000 cases of consumption in a year 80,000 are workmen. In the north Italian provinces the peasants who cultivate the corn are too poor to buy it; they are forced to live upon maize, which engenders pellagra. Our inquiry made in 1900 proves the existence of 72,000 cases of the disease with an annual mortality of from 2,000 to 4,000. Dr. Livi’s inquiry into the state of the army shows the extent to which the Italians suffer from insufficient food; the ration of the Italian army is below the French; the meat ration is 67/9 instead of 101/2 oz., and yet during their first two years of service the recruits gain in weight, and the increase both in height, weight, and girth is much greater in the case of peasants than students. The death rate rose in 1867 with the rise in the price of wheat and maize; nevertheless, although the price of corn and maize rose still further in 1880 wages rose also—a hundredweight of wheat or maize cost 132 hours work instead of 183, and the death rate was lower than in 1867. And in 1881, 1884, 1885 it fell in proportion to the fall in the price of corn and maize. If a fall in the price of corn lowers the death rate, a rise in price raises it. Those who force its rise by Customs Duties are doing the work of death, but since they only murder indirectly their scruples are few in proportion to their ignorance of their victims. M. Méline said calmly, “The food of the great towns where people live crowded together and workers require to be specially well nourished often leaves much to be desired.”1 Whose fault is that but the man’s who taxes every pound of bread 1/2d. and every pound of meat 2d.? Surely Méline is not so stupid as not to know what he is doing.
But not only Méline: in 1894 the Socialists, with Jaurès at their head, cut off a slice from the bread of all those who were forced to buy it; led away by the mirage of political power, they dreamed of winning over the rural electors by Protection, as if the peasant proprietor and the agricultural labourer had anything to gain by it! Thus the friends of the poor, the humble, and the disinherited, joined in the work of death carried on by the agrarians.
“Back to the Land and Industrial Over-production,” p. 245.