Suppression of anti-social interests by the methods in vogue amounts to little more than their banishment to the underworld. And we can well imagine the joy with which the denizens of the underworld receive such new accessions to their numbers and power. For in the nature of the case, it is inevitable that all varieties of outcasts and outlaws should join forces. The religious schismatic makes common cause with the pariah; the political offender with the thief and robber. Such association of elements vastly increases the difficulty of repressing crime. The band of thieves and robbers in the cave of Adullam doubtless found their powers of preying vastly increased through the acquisition of such a leader as David. The problem of mediaeval vagabondage was rendered well-nigh incapable of solution by the fact that any beggar’s rags might conceal a holy but excommunicated friar.
Let us once more review our experience with the usurer. As an outcast he offers his support to other outcasts, and is in turn supported by them. The pawnbroker and the pickpocket are closely allied: without the pawnshop, pocketpicking would offer but a precarious living; without the picking of pockets, many pawnshops would find it impossible to meet expenses. The salary loan shark often works hand in glove with the professional gambler; each procures victims for the other. The “hole-in-the-wall” or “blind tiger” provides a rendezvous for all the outcasts of society. “Boot-legging” is a common subsidiary occupation for the pander, the thief and the cracksman. Where it flourishes, it serves to bridge over many a period of slack trade. Franchises whose validity is subject to political attack, bring to the aid of the underworld some of the most powerful interests in the community. The police are almost helpless when confronted by a coalition of persons of wealth and respectability with professional politicians commanding a motley array of yeggs and thugs, pimps and card-sharpers.
Let us suppose that the developing social conscience places under the ban receipt of private income from land and other natural resources, and that a powerful movement aiming at the confiscation of such resources is under way. It is superfluous to point out that the vast interests threatened would offer a desperate resistance. The warfare against an incomparably lesser interest, the liquor trade, has taxed all the resources of the modern democratic state—on the whole the most absolute political organization known. In no instance has the state come out of the struggle completely victorious; the proscribed interest is yielding ground, if at all, only very slowly. What, then, would be the outcome of a struggle against the vastly greater landed interest? Perhaps the state would be victorious in the end. But for generations the landed interest would survive, if not by title of common law, at least by title of common corruption. And in the course of the conflict, we can not doubt that political disorder would flourish as never before, and that under its shelter private vice and crime would develop almost unchecked.