from Atlantic Monthly
Easy as Pie
by Ellis Parker Butler
The proper solution of the P. Q. -- and of course everyone knows that abbreviation stands for our old friend the Prohibition Question -- is so simple that I lie awake every night and chuckle to think Congress has not adopted it. Only last night my wife said to me, "Darling, you left the water running in the bathroom," and I said, "No, darling, that is just me chuckling." "Well, please, don't chuckle," she said, "because it sounds as if you had left the water running in the bathroom."
So you see, -- what with the Lit. Dige. taking the vote, and a crisis in the P. Q. rapidly approaching, -- it looks as if a crisis were rapidly approaching, and if there is anything I do hate to see it is one of these crises that keep approaching and approaching and never come in and sit down and have a cup of tea.
To understand my solution you must first get a weevil -- a boll weevil -- and read up about it. Or get a road. Or a schoolhouse. Or, if these are not handy to get, get the Roosevelt Dam. Hold this in one hand and my solution of the P. Q. in the other. You are now ready to understand my solution if anyone can. No one has yet.
In the other hand -- or, if you have not that many hands, you may put down the Roosevelt Dam for a minute -- you will take, let us say, the State of Kansas. If you do not examine this too closely you will see that it is a dry state. It wants to be dry as a bone -- any bone will do as long as it is as dry as Kansas wants to be.
You now put Kansas over on the piano for a minute and take up the state of New York. Hold this to your nose and sniff it and you will find that it is wet. Ask it, "Do you want to be wet?" and it will answer, "Yes, I want to be wet." Proceed in this way with all the states, putting the wet states in one pile and the dry states on the piano, where Kansas is, and you will find you have two piles of states, one pile wanting to be dry and the other pile dripping on the carpet.
You now pick up the Roosevelt Dam again and ask it, "Who paid for building you?" and it will answer, "The Federal government paid for me." You then ask Delaware, "Do you want a Roosevelt Dam built in you?" and the answer will be "No!" -- because, after all, there wouldn't be room for anything else in Delaware if a Roosevelt Dam were built there.
You now say, "Ha! See? The Federal Government spends its money in one state for a Roosevelt Dam, because that state wants a dam, but that does not mean that because it builds a Roosevelt Dam in one state the Government has to build Roosevelt Dams in all the states."
We now turn the boll weevil over on its back and let it kick its legs in the air, and we observe that, while the Cotton States desire the Federal Government to spend large sums to poke the boll weevil in the solar plexus in their territory, Montana does not ask for money and men to exterminate the boll weevil. Montana hasn't any boll weevils. Neither has Kansas. What some have thought were Kansas boll weevils were merely ordinary Kansans after drinking Jamaica ginger.
You now see how beautifully my whole solution fits together. First I hand States rights back to all the states and let each state decide whether it wants to be wet or dry. This may be decided either by vote or by drawing straws. I then replace the liquor revenue laws, thus causing the wet states to pay millions to the Government of the United States. I then pass a law -- or let Congress do it, because Congress is touchy about such things -- requiring the United States Government to spend for Prohibition enforcement in each self-decided dry state a sum equal to the amount appropriated by that state each year. Or ten times as much, for all I care.
This ought to please everybody. If you wanted to be dry you could move over into a dry state, and if you wanted to be wet you would not have to break a law or pack up your corkscrew and move to Canada or Patagonia. By concentrating on the states that want to be dry the government could accomplish something. The wet states would be happy because they would be wet, and the dry states would be happy because the liquor revenue taxes of the wet states would be paying for the Prohibition enforcement in the dry states.
A special fund of seven billion dollars would be set aside to keep the dry Senators and Representatives dry, this money being collected by the Government for permits to carry hip flasks in wet states. To prevent the return of the saloon in wet states a law would be passed eliminating the word "saloon" from the American language and substituting the word "refectory." No more saloons.
This is as far as I have worked out my solution to date, but I am now considering the advisability of sweetening the whole matter by doing away with all the terms that are such red rags to the Prohibitionists. So far I have decided that beer would no longer be called "beer," but "wumble," which is a perfectly harmless word and should make no one angry. I have not yet decided whether to rename whiskey "gloops" or "biffick," but at present I rather incline towards "gloops." The word "souse" would, of course, be done away with entirely, and I think I will substitute the word "thirstarian." When all this is done the tender ears of our Prohibition friends will no longer be jarred, and their ire aroused, by such sentences as, "The old souse went into the saloon for a slug of whiskey," but should hear with calm indifference, "The elderly thirstarian went into the refectory for a portion of gloops."
This solution should avoid civil war, but if civil war comes you will find me ready, exactly as I was in the Great War, to make four-minute speeches, some of them thirty minutes long. Longer, even.