In 1920 congress began what was called “The Noble Experiment”. This experiment began with the signing of the eighteenth amendment of the constitution into law. It was titled by society as Prohibition. Websters dictionary defines prohibition as: A prohibiting, the forbidding by law of the manufacture or sale of alcoholic liquors. Prohibition can extend to mean the foreboding of any number of substances. I define it as a social injustice to the human race as we know it.
Prohibition was designed to rid the country of businesses that manufactured, sold, and or distributed alcoholic beverages. The eighteenth amendment made it a violation of the constitution to do and of the before mentioned. This was a crime punishable up to the Supreme Court. The original idea was that Americans as a whole were unhealthy, there was too much crime and corruption, and that people were being burdened by excess taxes that poorhouses and prisons were creating. What happened? The cheap alcohol being illegally produced killed more Americans, crime and corruption went up, taxes were raised to fund the law enforcement needed to enforce prohibition, and the prisons became overcrowded.
Some would have you believe that crime decreased during prohibition. Well, it did. Crime decreased, as a whole, by 37.7% during prohibition. However violent crime and other serious crimes were up. Theft of property was up 13.2%, homicide was up m16.1%, and robbery was up 83.3%. Minor crimes had decreased though- by 50%. Crimes such as malicious mischief, public swearing, vagrancy, etc. (Dr. Fairburn pg 75-80)
The prohibition movement did have its fair share of supporters however. The most active in the movement was the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. They worked hard in campaigning towards this amendment and gathered, what is now believed today, as to be biased statistics. For example one area that the WCTU attacked was the saloons and in particular the sale of distilled spirits, hard alcohol. The WCTU claimed drinking during prohibition was down 30% as opposed to pre-prohibition. However as a percentage to total alcohol sales the consumption of distilled spirits was up from 50% (pre-prohibition) to an astonishing 89% during prohibition. “Most estimates place the potency of prohibition-era products at 150+ percent of the potency of products produced either before or after prohibition (qtd. In Henry Lee 202)
Prohibition did not succeed at all. In order for prohibition to achieve what it was set to do it had to meet four specific guidelines. It needs to have a significant decrease in the consumption of alcohol. This did not occur. Secondly after the initial drop, it needed to maintain that low. What did happen was that after the initial drop alcohol consumption rose steadily. Next, the resources devoted to the enforcement of prohibition increased along with the consumption. Originally it was to cost 4.4 million a year to enforce, it increased to 13.4 million a year burdening the tax payer it was trying to give a break to. Last of all, the small decrease that did occur did not make prohibition a success. The bill was designed to eliminate drinking. (Mark Thornton 11)
The health that this Amendment hoped to achieve was actually harmed by prohibition. The moonshine being created by amateurs could have killed under many conditions. In alcohol related illnesses deaths from cirrhosis of the liver, pre-prohibition were 1.5%. During prohibition these deaths increased to 4% of the total deaths.
The Iron Law of Prohibition states that
“The more intense the law enforcement, the more potent the prohibited substance becomes”- Richard Lowan
Taxes were up, health was down, crime and corruption was up, social stability was down. This bill, this law, which was actually put into the constitution could stay there no longer. It had to be removed, repealed, and done away with. Prohibition had failed. The eighteenth amendment to the constitution was no more.
Once repealed society and life in general in the United States transitioned back into a functioning country. The mob shifted its focus else where and became less notorious. The moonshiners and shakespies were gone and clean, wholesome brew flowed once again. America was not stable during prohibition, and with its dismissal all became well again. I shall leave you with some closing words to think about and to realize that we are all held morally responsible to insure that America stays a free and independent country and that nothing like this, in any form is ever allowed to happen again.
“Conspiracies are nation wide in extent, in great numbers, organized, well-funded, and cleverly conducted.” (qtd. By Assistant Secretary of Treasury Lincoln C. Andrews pg 18) For the most part prohibition added to the problems that it was designed to stop. It was a social injustice that plagued our country, brought on by the leaders that are appointed to serve this nation. Used and abused by the Mafia as a source of financial gain. Some say it was a mistake, I say it was a conspiracy that goes up into the higher ranks of the nation.
Works CitedMark Thornton. Alcohol Prohibition Was a Failure 49 Policy Analysis No.157 July 17, 1999 Available: http://www.cato.orgErich S. Prohibition Nationally and Locally Available: http://www.viz.net/middle/prohib.htmlOhio State University. Why Prohibition 8 Available: http://www.cohums.ohio-state.edu/history/projects/prohibition/whyprohibition.htmOhio State University. The Brewing Industry at Prohibition 7 Availiable: http://www.history.ohio-state.edu/projects/prohibition/brewing