The outstanding ifeuea hi the General Election t that has been
National forced upon the country Prohibition, in this grave time of crisis are not politicai, though, misdirected partisanship lias made them so. Political questions pure and simple liave been relegated to the background by possibly the majority of citizens, who. while they may have no objection to fiddling, are not convinced that tho proper time to indulge it is when the Empire is engaged in a, life-and-death struggle There arc, of course, those who can refer to the sack of Belgium in terms that would more appropriately describe a runaway horse at midday in Princes street, and there arc others who aro laying their p/aus and counting their chickens as though the Empire ivero not passing through tho mightiest convulsion in its history, and as if the Empire and New Zealand, which is a part thereof, would after tho war proi ceed unchecked along their accustomed grooves. Thus early we venture the prediction that those who so think are destined to a rude awakening. It is because of the .seeming obliviousness of the Government and their " wholo hog" suppoTt- I ers to the momentous nature of tho changes—international and interracial—that aro maturing in the world to-day that fl-e deprecate the intrusion of a General Election. The present is not the hour for the public discussion of comparatively insignificant questions. We should as a people display a keener realisation of the fitness of things if we were down on our knees and clothed in sa-ckcloth and ashes. And if our belief holds true at this time of politics in general, how much more does it apply when the greater portion of the acrimonies land indecencies of debate lUirge around two such questions as tho Right of the'Prieet to enter the day schools to teach the dogmas of his Church and the right of a majority of the people—be that majority small or great—to deny to the minority their right to import, manufacture, buy, or sell what are called alcoholic beverages. The first of these issues has at least tho poor merit of offering to make provision to meet the scruples and objections of those who do not approve it; but tho Prohibitionists, or Abolitionists, of the traffic in and ti6o of alcoholic liquors have no such intention. They openly and defiantly, and with the experienco of history'and mankind against them, declare that, no matter what may be urged to the contrary, it shall be illegal and punishable by fine and imprisonment for any citizen to import, to make, to fell, or to consume alcoholic liquors. It is a monstrous and an outrageous proposal, the colossal impudence of which grows greater the more one thinks it out. True, it is not put forward by the men or women who have made New Zealand what - it is, and it is also true that never was a serious attack upon the rights and liberties of an intelligent democracy made upon so ludicrously inadequate a charge. At tho same time, the indifforence and good-humored contempt of thoughtful people towards these pre- i sumptions are insufficient when arrayed i against that spirit of fanaticism which is born of the sincere belief that the only way to cure the drink habit in tho few is to abolish the drink, not the drinker, and to prohibit by law tenr, of thousands of God-fearing citizens from exercising their right of choice as to what they shall drink. One looks in vain among tho statements of tho advocates of National Prohibition for evidence that they consciously apprehend tho nature of their demand. Stated briefly, the demand is based on the fact that there are on an average 11,000 convictions annually for drunkenness in New Zealand. Any further assertions, such ;is the deleterious effect the temperate use of alcoholic beverages has on the normal man; the economic waste involved in the expenditure thereon,- or that every person who tastes what is too often quite wrongly called' "strong drink" will end in gaol, the workhouse, an asylum, or on the gallows—these may well be left j unnoticed. The sole ground on which the community can be asked to forgo the use of a certain article of food is that in New Zealand 8.000 persons (the bulk of whom will lie heartily ashamed of themselves in the years to come) every year abuse it. The Prohibitionist, however, docs not put forward his case as modestly as this. He lectures, and berates, and denounces. H c assumes a superior tone, and raises his own pedestal, from which ho rains his scorn upon, "the trade" and "the liquor party." We. submit that each of these largely fanciful bogies, the creations of obsessed imaginations, should be (jut of tho argument altogether. The only ones to be considered are those whom the Prohibitionist does nut consider at all—the sober, or temperate, or moderate section of the people. It is these and no others who are entitled to be consulted as to tjyir wishes in this relation, and it is theso and no others whom the orators of the Prohibition platform and street corner are holding up to mockery and contempt.
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Evening Star, Evening Star, Issue 15669, 7 December 1914