SEPTEMBER 30, 1950
NEW YORK, Friday—The gambling scandal in New York City points up for us again how difficult it is to prevent people from doing what they want to do! Evidently gambling, like drinking, is one of the things that many people want to do.
I thought when we passed the Prohibition Amendment that we were doing a wonderful thing. I had seen some of the ill effects of too much hard liquor. The real drinker can disrupt a home and create sorrow among his loved ones. Furthermore, drinkers are not always men; they can be women, too. No amount of money makes a real difference in the suffering, but when the family is dependent on the earnings of the man or woman the material situation is more serious.
After a while, however, I came to see that you could not enforce a law that the majority of people did not want. Instead of simply having drinkers, we had, lawbreakers. Then I came to believe that men and women had to learn to discipline themselves and to give up certain things because they were wrong, regardless of whether they were permitted by law or not.
I still believe that certain regulations can be helpful. We have pretty well done away with saloons and I hope we will never see the old-fashioned saloon again. Gambling has brought many people sorrow and disaster, but I begin to doubt whether laws can do much good.
I saw somewhere the suggestion that we vastly increase the pay of our police force and attract men who would enter this service as a profession. On that basis, it is argued, they would not be tempted by the type of corruption that gambling brings in its train. I doubt if even this would work.
Perhaps it would be better, as was recently proposed, to legalize and heavily tax this type of amusement or occupation or whatever you choose to call it. Many countries have found that a high tax on hard liquor greatly reduced its consumption.
Of course, in a great city like New York there are innumerable ways in which city servants can be tempted to make money "on the side". Housing inspectors, fire inspectors, those who give out licenses for various businesses can be tempted in a hundred and one ways to make "a little on the side," and those who pay the "tribute" are probably as guilty as those who receive it. It is probably easier, however, not to go through the trouble of refusing "tribute."
In the end the person who tries to buck this sort of thing may find himself in a very difficult position. So the average little man will pay his tribute and grumble about it. But the net work of tribute takers goes on until something like the present scandal breaks.
We hope that a new broom will sweep clean for a while, but to keep a large city administration free from anything of this kind is going to take more than a change of administration.
There will be promises, of course, that if you elect certain candidates they will do the job and citizens of New York City may expect sweetness and light and complete integrity in their city employees. But, I am afraid it takes constant vigilance, regardless of which party is in office. The people of the city will have to be vigilant and will have to be willing to take the trouble to fight things that they think are wrong instead of accepting them and taking the line of least resistance.