The howling against the stupidity of American life and society is so constant that the somewhat nebulous "average man" soon grows deaf to it. But occasionally there occurs an event which not only justifies complaint, but which makes the present outcry appear to be the mildest of protests. Such is the history of the New Hampshire bill to prohibit the sale of cosmetics.
That a group of sane minded men should sit in solemn conclave, discuss, deliberate, and finally pass a bill that dictates what, or what shall not be used to beautify feminine cheeks, is assuredly the height of Babbittism. The news has just arrived from the Harvard-Boston expedition to Egypt that the princess, who was first thought to be wife of Sneferuw, used green cosmetic. If the walls of the tomb had also contained a solemn royal edict to the effect that no such decoration was to be used by the women of the Nile valley, the explorers would doubtless have enjoyed a hearty laugh at its absurdity. Yet it is just such an edict which the New Hampshire House passed.
It is not the subject of the bill that is so utterly discouraging, however. What is disheartening is to read that the fight against its passage in the state Senate is being waged not by the people whom it would affect, but by the proprietors of drug and department stores. Their action is natural enough, but there is no reason for the apathy of the general public; it hasn't even enough interest in a bill which so clearly involves the whole theory of the sphere of government action to laugh the perpetrators of the absurdity to shame. It is allowed to take its place with the Kentucky anti-evolutionary teaching law the Kansas anti-cigarette bill, and the Zion City bye-laws as an expression of American democracy. The puerile "clean book" bills and the theatre censorship regulations of New York begin to appear truly dignified and truly American by the side of such bigoted officialism.
The American democracy has lost its vision. In its crass materialism it has forgotten the great broad theories and ideals of government upon which it was founded. A little sound reflective thought is needed, a restatement of creeds and goals. A sound conception of the nature and sphere of government would prevent, for example, the motion picture censorship undertaken by the municipal Worcester Board of Review which is now to use Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and members of the Worcester Boys' and Girls' Club as judges. Even the Boston American sees the absurdity of this movement, and gently pokes fun: "It is understood the theory is that if the morals of the boy and girl representatives of the organizations named are not blasted by the pictures, then it will be safe to show them to the rest of the children."