A TEST OF PROTEST
Shortly preceding and long following July 1, 1918 came the Prohibition joke--a noxious thing which everyone hoped would shortly die a natural death. But it was imbued with remarkable staying powers and nearly six years after its birth, this old joke, this same old discussion, is still going strong. People try to shut their ears against its monotonous reiteration but such action will do no good. The reason for its staying powers is that like Banquo's ghost the question will not down. The Prohibition question, if not liver than ever, is certainly as live as when the Eighteenth Amendment was passed.
Among most of the states of the Middle and Far West the issue is regarded as closed. But the East will not have it so; and until some fairly definite expression of public opinion, one way or the other, is had, violations of the law will continue to be flagrant and the present intolerable state of affairs will not be remedied. The question is serious, and undergraduates who cast their votes seriously today in the local referendum upon it will be performing a real service to the country.
But aside from Prohibition itself, there is even a larger question involved upon which the vote of Harvard students should throw some light the question of the value of the referendum per so. It has been tried on state and national electorates but its usefulness is far from proved. And the reason is that the average voter, when making up his mind on a question, is swayed by powerful economic or social prejudices in his character. In a college, however, the referendum can be tested almost in vacuo. Practically all undergraduates have nothing to away their minds except what they consider to be best for the country, granting that they can divorce themselves to some extent from personal tastes or distastes. Therefore it is only logical to say that if the referendum at the University should turn out a failure, any referendum in the country at large will have even less value as an interpretation of public opinion.