I shall not dwell on that, but pass on to the taxpayers’ revolt. We people don’t see the effect of all this. You know we used to say we must have this money to help pay the taxes, this liquor tax of 70 millions a year.

I want the boys particularly to remember this – that more than all the revenue derived from the whiskey shops must go to build prisons, must go [to] the hospital, the home for the friendless, police justices and police officers to take care of these people who go crazy [get drunk] on purpose and to pay all that, so that it costs us yearly the difference between 70 and 90 millions of dollars.

We have lost yearly on that old financial basis twenty millions a year – twenty millions lost. I want you to think about that – that is the very thing we do.

This is from a text by Frances Willard, in 1884, about temperance. I have tried to interpret it as the liquor tax not having a useful purpose, but in the end I believe it does not make any sense. She mentions that the revenue should go to all that but what is the difference between 70 and 90 millions? where did 90 come from? Can someone help me interpret this paragraph or reword it so that I can understand it?

  • 2
    This is not 'badly worded'--it is a transcript of a spoken, non-scripted address, and it is constructed as speech is, with simple clauses and frequent supplements, rather than as written texts are, with complex nested subordinations. It is perfectly grammatical, and to the ear it would be perfectly intelligible. Nov 16, 2015 at 2:09
  • @StoneyB I understand how written text is more structured, and that speech can be somewhat different from written text with all the clauses. thanks. I edited the title Nov 16, 2015 at 3:09

1 Answer 1


First, your quote is incomplete. See the full text here She is arguing that the social cost of drinking (prisons, hospitals, etc), which she calls "paraphernalia" outweighs the tax income by 20 million. On these grounds (assuming a ban on liquor could be enforced at no cost), public policy would be better served by prohibition than by the then-current level of tax.

  • I wanted to copy the whole paragraph from that book but I was afraid it would be too much. Nov 16, 2015 at 0:36
  • So she's saying that although we are getting a lot of money in from drinking, the cost of drinking still means we lose money, therefor banning alcohol is a better idea. Is this right? Nov 16, 2015 at 0:37
  • While she supports prohibition, her argument is simply that the current liquor tax does not offset the governmental expenses incurred by drinking, and her argument is that the liquor tax does not make financial sense as constituted. It should be obvious that a 30% increase in the tax would make fiscal sense, but she is careful not to make that suggestion. Nov 16, 2015 at 1:11

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