The regulation of the liquor business involves fundamental questions of the function and scope of government, and there is hardly any department of organized human activity that has been the subject of so much experiment and futile tinkering.... The only people who are perfectly consistent are the prohibitionists, whose policy is abolition. Let us, however, try to detach ourselves from any personal interest that we may have in the subject, and consider it impartially as a matter of public concern.

What the brewer as an individual cannot do, the brewers as an organization have done successfully in many places in spite sometimes of official negligence, corruption, or incapacity. The Texas Brewers' Association is reported as having successfully prosecuted two thousand cases against keepers of disreputable resorts during the past three years. The object of their campaign was to purify the retail liquor trade from unclean and law-defying elements.

The greatest gain that has come to society, as distinguished from the individual, through the temperance movement is its effect in unconsciously informing the public that the regulation and administration of licensing is in itself a great and vital problem; and as a secondary result of such agitation, I should cite the growing sensitiveness of all persons in the business to the power of public opinion.

The recognition by brewers of the force of public opinion is a recent affair. In former years they were totally indifferent to it, if indeed they did not openly flout it. Even now their appeal to public sentiment is mainly a special plea for defensive purposes, and has little or no educational value. Brewers have opposed practically every effort to effect a change in excise laws, often without any convincing reason, but simply because the proposed change involved temporary inconvenience and uncertainty, and perhaps a temporary loss. The brewing trade has utterly failed to develop a constructive programme in connection with the public regulation of its affairs. It does not seem to have any fixed principles or positive convictions as to excise methods and liquor laws. Its policy has been that of an opportunist, at the best,—or an obstructionist, at the worst. As in all other industries which affect the welfare of the people, reforms have been forced from the outside, with no help from within. Of course this is equally true of insurance and railroad corporations, of food purveyors, mine owners, cotton merchants, and a score of other interests. It is due not merely to human selfishness but to shortsightedness; in other words, to a lack of statesmanship.

To call your opponents hypocrites, cranks, fakirs, and fanatics may relieve your feelings, but it doesn't convince anybody, and only hurts a just cause. It is foolish to question the motives of men who, without thought of personal gain, are trying to remedy the evils of inebriety.

The church is perfectly right in urging total abstinence upon the individual. The only path of safety lies in abstinence for some individuals....

The recognition of the right of a community to establish its own licensing conditions carries with it the right of the community to determine whether there shall be any licenses at all!

To make the discussion of this subject as fruitful as possible, I venture to submit the following questions for your consideration. None of them involve any direct moral issue, but there is an honest difference of opinion about each one of them, and they are certainly of vital importance in determining the course of wise and just administration.

What has been the effect of high license?

How much public revenue should the traffic yield?

Does high license stimulate unlawful trade?

How much license tax should be imposed upon local bottlers and grocers? Should they be allowed to peddle beer or to sell it in single bottles?

Should the place or the individual be licensed?

Should the licensing authorities be appointive or elective? By whom should they be appointed, and for what term of office?

Have the courts made good or bad licensing authorities? Where the courts issue licenses, what has been the effect on the court?

Should the licensing authority alone have the power to revoke a license, and discretion to withhold a license?

How can the licensing authority enforce the law? Should it not be independent of the police?

What should be the penalty for breach of the law? Do not severe penalties miscarry?

On what plea, and under what conditions, should licenses be transferred?