1. The Law of Necessity.
It has long been recognized by wise and far visioning men that at the advent of war many changes must be made in our habitual careless mode of living, if we are to fight to the very utmost, and for victory.
For the first time since civilization has been in possession of the means of transportation to foster commerce, Europe faces actual hunger. Great nations are knowing the failure of sufficient nourishment to feed their peoples. In three years of war the most powerful races of the earth have been reduced from a state of astounding opulence to a condition where their very lives may depend upon their ability to obtain food. In such a condition of universal and terrible lack, which is the forerunner of starvation, the United States, whose resources our rhetoricians are fond of calling unlimited, is called upon to give nourishment that the whole world world may live.
The resources of our country are great, they are incomprehensible save by the mind that may reckon in millions. But the need of the world is greater, and its dire famine far more incomprehensible. The very utmost producing power we may muster from our whole continent may well be needed before we have fulfilled that which we are called upon to do by our allies of Europe, and those small neutral nations which are stricken by a war in which they have no share nor control.
In such a time it is folly to make use of our resources in any other way save to promote that cause which we have undertaken, as an earnest nation, with our whole hearts. We have no surplus for the spendthrift ways of riches. It is folly to waste in even the least degree that natural fertility with which we are entrusted as warders for less fortunate peoples. And the folly of nations may well be the most evil of sins.
Every year the fertility of this nation is taxed at the rate of six billions pounds of foodstuffs which go into the production of forms of alcohol which have no social nor economic value. That is enough, as our economists have shown, at a low estimate to provide sustenance for seven million men for a year. Such figures might be compiled indefinitely. They may be gained from any governmental report.
The essential truth in understanding such a staggering total is that we have in the abundance of our riches allowed the diverting of a tremendous share of our annual production for purposes which can in no manner be regarded as of primary or secondary or cental human value. Such wastage might well be allowed in times of peace, when all men as a matter of course waste their time and their strength. It can not to the least degree be allowed in time of war, when our utmost strength is called upon that we as a brave nation may achieve triumph.
Those six billion annual pounds represent nourishment for all the fighting men of Russia. Given to Germany, they would render England's long and arduous blockade a failure. Given to England, they would cause the shipping shortage to become a forgotten terror. They may mean the difference to our nation between sufficiency and want. They may mean to our cause the difference between justification and defeat.
There is no time to argue concerning the defied and immemorial right of men to get drunk when they want. There is no time to rant about the freedom of the individual; nor to sentimentalize poetically upon Dionysus. We are not fighting philosophers, demagogues, or poets. We are fighting a nation which allows no waste.
We can allow no waste. We must have war prohibition. There can be in no wise question upon that.