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Prohibition As A Cure-all

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Thomas Walter Mills lectured last week in Ann Arbor before a large andience, on "Must government by the people fail?" and, making allowance for a little exaggeration, we will admit that he gave a very fair statement of the dangers of our system, especially the evils in our large cities. Probably no city in Europe is controlled by a gang of crimináis such as controla elections in Baltimore. The vast increase in population of our cities as compared with the rural districts, and the rise of the vicious classes to the virtual management of the largest cities, are facts which ought to be alarming. Having accepted that much of Mr. Mills' speech, the next step isto ask the cause. Here he is weak. He did not ay it clearly, but it is a just inference from what he said that he believes intemperance is the cause of the dangers to our institutions which he so ably portrayed. His only remedy is the success of the Prohibition party, from which we have the right to suppose that be would give prohibition as the cure-all for the evils of our government. We have no disposition to underrate the evils of intemperance, but when asked to acknowledge that it is the cause of the evils in city life and politics today, we must decline. Intemperance is the immediate cause of untold misery and degradation, but after all it isan incident and not the cause of the great phenomena he portrayed. It is a symptom of the disease, not the disease i tself. We have not time to support this at length. It is a pure assumption to claim that intemperance is the cause of the evils. Merely showing that the effects of intemperance are eztremely bad does not prove it to be the original cause of our national decay ; and it is quite impossible to believe that it is. The importance of discovering the trne cause cannot be overestimated. If intemperance is not the cause of the evils, but is itself largely the effect of stronger forcea, then two things are apparent: 1. Prohibition cannot care the defecte of oursystem of government; 2. Prohibition can never largely eradicate intemperance. While admitting that intemperance is a fearful evil, and that prohibition might do some good, we would like our prohibition friends to ponder on the above considerations. How can prohibition cure the evils of which Mr. Mills complained, wheu internperance is not the canse but is itself one of the effects of a larger cause? How can prohibition largely stop intemperance when the real canse of intemperance is yet not recognized fully ? That the cause of all the evils of which Mr Mills complained, and which make the clearest-sighted people today wonder "Must government by the people fail ?" is to be found in the tendency ofwages to fall to a minimum, there can be no doubt. The evils of city government today are in the ignorance and poverty of the people. The same thing which makes thousands of women toil 14 to 15 hours a day for 50 cents per day ; which makes the miner dig ten tons of coal before he can secure one for himself; which makes 75,000 girls and boys work in the coal mines and factories of Pennsylvania until many lose all semblance to human beings; which makes it impossible for an industrious and sober father in the factories to support his family from his earnings alone ; which causes the erection of tenement houses ; which throws a million persons out of employment in oneyear; which causes the accumulation of fabulous fortunes; the things which causes these is evidently what is at the root of our national decay. The absolute prohibition of the saloon could not reach these things, for intemperance does not cause them ; and while we favored theamendment ason the whole a good step, yet it was with no idea that it would prevent our civilization going to the dogs. Prohibition would help a few to save what little they earned, and it might immediately save a few thousands to respectability ; but its economie effect would be to lower wages . Thousands now engaged in the liquor business would have to compete in other lines of work; and some sobered men would ask forsteady work, thus making fiercer competition. These are hard facts, but those who are not willing to look hard facts in the face are not of much use in this world. Our prohibition friends would do well to modify their claim that prohibition is a " cure-all," and cease to try to build a party on an idea that will not bear investigation.


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Ann Arbor Register