Prohibition, “The Noble Experiment,” was a great and genius idea on paper, but did not go as planned. With illegal activities still increasing and bootlegging at its all time high, it was no wonder the idea crumbled. Could they have revised the law to make it more effective? If so, would the law be in place today, and how would that have changed our lives today? Although it was brief, Prohibition will remain a huge part of America’s history. Completely illegalizing the production and consumption of alcohol was a great plan that ended up being a great failure.
Prohibition, under the Eighteenth Amendment was the Governments idea of illegalizing the consumption, production, and transportation of intoxicating liquors. Ratified on January 16, 1919, many states accepted the idea and it became part of the American Constitution and took effect exactly one year later. At first, many people supported the idea and felt that prohibition would greatly increase the average American’s quality of life. They also saw an increase in crime and felt that Prohibition would help to make those numbers fall and work out some of the social problems of the 20’s. Although supporters were always around, many American’s were angry and appalled by the law. Saloons and liquor was a big part of many peoples life and only a handful of them were willing to give it up. With this brought many problems that prohibition was thought to fix.
Consumption of alcohol fell at the start of Prohibition, but rose significantly shortly after. It is also believed that the removal of alcohol had many people switching to cocaine, heroin and other dangerous drugs. Prohibition clearly brought along the biggest disrespect of the law the country has ever seen. Never before had there been so many law abiding citizens, now braking the law on a regular basis. “Speakeasies,” illegal bars where people would come to socialize, dance and buy both imported and homemade alcohol also became very popular. As Jello Biafa said, “For every Prohibition you create, you also create an underground.”
Supplying these speakeasies with liquor became a huge and profitable business in its own right and helped open the door for many large criminal families and organizations. Al Capone, one of the most notorious crime bosses of all time, made unbelievable amounts of money in the industry-over sixty million untaxed dollars-while the average American worker made less then $1000 a year during this period. With new and large quantities of weapons coming back from the war-and such enormous amounts of money to be made, it was no surprise that the bootlegging industry soon became extremely competitive and very violent. Prohibition was supposed to lower crime and the consumption of intoxicating liquor, but instead did the exact opposite.
“The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this country is closely connected with this,” Albert Einstein. (Internet, quotes on Prohibition, page 1)
Prohibition not only failed to prevent the consumption of intoxicating liquor, but also led to extensive production of unregulated, untaxed and very harmful alcohol. With more violence, political corruption and the creation of organized crime, the amendment was finally overturned when Utah, the thirty-sixth state needed to ratify the 21st amendment came forward and agreed on December 5, 1933. Amazingly, many people today still believe Prohibition was a success. With so much corruption and depravity, failure seemed inevitable, but how would history and the present have differed if the law were never amended?
Nationally, over 534,000 people sustain injuries from alcohol related collisions a year, which adds up to be about one a minute. Around 16,000 die annually, about 1 every thirty minutes, due to drunk driving. (Internet, Drunk Driving Facts, Page 1). Statistics like this always come to mind when talking about alcohol. Would statistics like this be so alarming if we still had Prohibition? Would they be even worse? Since alcohol was not sold locally, many people during this time had to travel to get liquor, therefore, drunk driving was popular then and may have been worse than the present.
Alcohol related deaths are not only on the roads. With alcohol rampid on college campuses and all through today’s underage youth, alcohol poisoning and non-driving accidents are also popular. Underage drinkers lack that common sense, personal responsibility and often ignore all things that are supposed to be safe about consuming intoxicating liquor.
Even with these high numbers and statistics, anti-alcohol laws are still incredibly difficult to pass. Today, the government would never be able to enforce a law like Prohibition. Alcohol has become too much of a social staple in the U.S. and is a big part of many peoples families and personal lives. Thinking about not having bars, all dry clubs and no beer for pay per view fight nights, makes people quiver and ensures that another Prohibition is just something of the past.
“Prohibition goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation and makes crimes out of things that are not crimes. A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded,” Abraham Lincoln. (Internet, Zaads Quotes, Page 1
“My Two Cents”
I definitely have my opinions on Prohibition, most of which contradict each other. I surely feel that like communism, Prohibition is a good idea on paper that just doesn’t work in reality. Alcohol, being such a large part of life, I can see how illegalizing it could greatly hinder ones social life. Taking something that is tremendously popular and legal, taking it and outlawing it is always a bad idea that just does not settle with the American people. At the same time, it angers me to see countless numbers of lives wasted away on our roads due to drunk driving. To see our friends and loved ones buried over alcohol is always sad and makes you wonder if it is even worth it. Maybe with stricter consequences, it would be possible to lower the number of drunk drivers, which in turn would lower that number of alcohol related accidents.
Prohibition in general was a complete failure. Political corruption grew, innocent people suffered greatly, organized crime skyrocketed and there was little improvement in the two areas of society Prohibition was intended to fix: crime actually increased and alcohol consumption went up. Although a failure and a bitter part of history, Prohibition is still important to America today. It was one of few amendments to the still active U.S. Constitution. Prohibition also greatly impacted the drinking habits of today in a couple of ways. Before Prohibition, most people drank in moderation in public places. Once Prohibition took place, public drinking was outlawed, thus people who insisted on drinking began producing and storing alcohol in there homes. This made alcohol greatly accessible in the homes of the poor and others who before were not drinking. With alcohol always in your home and by your side, drinking became more popular and more common. If Prohibition had never been created, many people would not have alcohol in there homes. Did prohibition ever have a chance or was it doomed from the start? Prohibition was a great plan that ended up being a great failure.