THE DRINK TRADE .
[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.]
have read with very great interest the articles, corre- spondence, and your comments on the above, and should like to refer to your note at the end of a letter by Mr. B. Williams the point of which has now, I see, been endorsed by Lord- Astor.
It seems to me that two things are implied in your note. 1. That it would be harmful to the community if the con- sumption of alcoholic liquors were increased. 2. That in this respect the Trade differs from all other trades. May I say that no one abhors drunkenness more than I do ; I yield to no one in my desire to promote temperance ; yet I contend that both your assumptions are false.
You speak of the consumption of alcohol ; would it not be more accurate to speak of the consumption of alcoholic liquors ? It is not quite the same thing. When one means the consumption of tea, one does not, as a rule, speak of the consumption of tannin. You further say : " Of course, the, Drink Trade .. . has to defend itself—i.e., push its sales." But cannot the Trade defend itself from the attack of a political party without pushing its sales ? And is it not a fact that the publican does not push the sale of his goods in the way other traders, drapers for instance, push their goods ? Had you said " The Trade naturally desires to defend its sales or its trade," one would have agreed. •
should like further-to call attention to the fact that the Spectator, has ably defended the view. that, the Trade should be ;transferred - from . private ownership . to State ownership on,Varlisle lines. This is important. -It assumes that in the- view of the Spectator the consumption of alcoholic beverages is not bad per se. Now I deny that it would necessarily be a bad thing for the consumption of such drink to increase.
I say it with absolute conviction that thousands of men and women' who do not drink these beverages to-day would be all the better for drinking a glass of ale. For forty years I went without it. To-day I believe a glass of ale is the finest drink procurable. Look at our young men feeding in our =popular tea shops on bread and cheese and tea, steak pudding and tea ; you know that this is the sort of meal thousands are taking day after day. Do you deny that bread and cheese and a glass of ale would make a finer meal than bread and cheese and tea ?
The consumption of ale may be compared with that of bread : no one disputes that it would be good and a desirable thing to increase the consumption of bread if it meant that those who are not getting enough received more, but surely it is not a desirable thing to increase the consumption of bread for those. who already consume enough ; and although it may be a bad thing, as I believe it would be, to increase the consumption of, alcoholic beverages among those who already have enough, it is equally true that it would be a good thing if those who do" not drink, or who drink very little, consumed the increased