Judge Hooper on Luxury
by Ellis Parker Butler
Our eminent jurist, Justice of the Peace Lem Hooper, put down the evening paper and spoke to his wife.
"My dear," he said, "once in a while I see something in this newspaper that makes me want to throw up this Justice of the Peace job and get myself elected to Congress and go down to Washington and raise the average of common sense if not of intelligence. I do get so mad!"
"You shouldn't, dear," said Mrs. Hooper. "I'm sure it raises your blood pressure, or lowers it, or something."
"I don't care a hang if it does," said Judge Hooper. "Look at the way Congress would have cut down the navy if Harding had let it, until it would have been about as powerful as a kindergarten afloat on a raft. Look at the way it wants to cut down the army!
"The trouble with Congress is that it has the 'minimum' disease. When it reaches any desirable appropriation item its motto is, 'Pare its toe-nails just below the knee.' Don't say I want this nation over-armed or over-navied, because I don't, but when I see those men down there thinking that the voters' mandate to pull off the iron mitt and cast it away means getting out the carving knife and taking the bones out of the nation's fist so that its good right hand will be as flabby as a wilted jelly fish and just about as useful, I roar!"
"I should think you did!" said Mrs. Hooper, calmly threading a needle. "And I'm not deaf, you know."
"I roar!" repeated Judge Hooper. "I tell you this thrift business is being carried too far! What do we have a Government for? Tell me that!"
"We have to have one, don't we?" asked Mrs. Hooper. "Or there wouldn't be anybody to pay the taxes to, would there?"
"Taxes? We're so used to paying taxes that if there was no Government we'd pay them to the ice-man. Or the fish-man. Or the man that comes to read the meter," said Judge Hooper. "The first duty of the Government is to protect us against any possible foreign foes. You don't think the Thirteen Colonies got together so that there would be someone to send out a Thanksgiving Proclamation every November, do you? 'Notice! The navy now consisting of one (1) ferryboat of the vintage of 1845 with three slabs missing from the paddle wheel and the army now being composed of two (2) lady stenographers and the one-armed janitor, we, the President of the United States, beg to announce that this nation has been annexed by the Republic of Panama. Let us give thanks!' A mighty poor way to economize.
"Thrift; I tell you, my dear, luxury won the war. Back in the days when the doughty men of war poked each other in the ribs with the pitchforks they grabbed out of the haystacks when the war-cry sounded this cheese-paring thrift was well enough in its way, but when war comes now ten million men must be thrown neck and crop into munition factories and necessity making. And where do you get them? Out of the luxury shops and luxury factories! Ten billion dollars must be thrown into the Government coffers. And where do you get them? You give up your luxuries and buy bonds -- Government bonds -- and pay taxes.
"That's the idea. Luxuries! Our luxury expenditures are our reserve force. We are a great nation because we earn as no other nation earns and we earn because we are an extravagant luxury-buying nation, and we are unconquerable because we are so confounded luxurious and extravagant that when war comes, we can fight the big fight with the luxuries we give up. We have the men -- making luxuries -- to put to work overnight making gunpowder and guns; and we have the dollars -- buying luxuries -- to put to work the next day buying bonds and paying war taxes.
"This is a great nation, my dear. It has a pair of earrings to match every gown and it has a gown for every day in the week. When Columbia isn't having her hair permanently waved by a man fully able to bore a rifle she is having her fingernails manicured by a girl thoroughly capable of making a gas mask. War -- and Alonzo Rosetti turns off the electric current and goes and bores rifles! War -- and Mame O'Toole locks the orange stick and the pink paste in her drawer and goes and makes gas masks.
"And it is the same in peace, my dear. When the emergency comes Henry J. American is not crawling along two feet from the poorhouse gate. He gets out of his automobile and sells it for $268 and faces Fate with both feet on the ground. He fights hard for luxuries when all is well and when the ill wind blows he has something to do without that he can do without. He's a crab. A crab has a lot of fun with its multiple legs, but if you grab it by a leg it can shed it and get along as well as could be desired. If you pull a couple of legs off the thrifty ant, my dear, it is a gone ant. I repeat, a reasonable extravagance has made this nation great!"
"Lemuel!" said Mrs. Hooper, "I can't imagine why you are talking to me like this; you never do. Have you been invited to go to New York and make a speech before the Silk Stocking Manufacturers' Board of Trade, or before the Amalgamated Union of Fifteen Dollar Silk Shirt Makers? Are you trying out your speech on me?"
"No, my dear," said Judge Hooper; "nothing of the sort."
"Then what is the matter with you?" asked Mrs. Hooper.
"Nothing!" said the Judge. "Nothing! I have merely paid my Federal Income Tax, and my State Income Tax, and my Poll Tax, and my Real Estate Tax, and have looked over the new Tariff Bill, and I am trying to persuade myself that I have a right to buy myself a new spring hat."