Once upon a time, Americans had national fit of self-righteousness and decided alcohol was the root of all evil.  To rectify the perceived problem, the nation rose up on its collective hind legs and passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment established a legal prohibition of recreational alcoholic beverages in the United States.

The separate (but closely related)  Volstead Act specified how authorities would actually enforce Prohibition, including the definition of “intoxicating liquor” — for anyone who needed an explanation.

Prohibition headline

The folks who needed an explanation were not your average Jill or Joe. Jill and Joe knew how to get drunk just fine, but apparently lawmakers, politicians and gangsters-to-be needed clarification. The gangsters needed to know what they had to do to cash in on this opportunity and the others, how to persecute people in the name of the law. Many beverages were excluded for medical and religious purposes. It was okay to get drunk as long it was accompanied by an appropriate degree of religious fervor. Or you could get a doctor’s note.

That left a lot of room — a barn door-sized hole — through which an entire generation strolled. Many people began drinking during Prohibition who had never imbibed before. Whereas previously, alcoholism had no social cachet, during prohibition it became fashionable. As with most things, making it more difficult, expensive, and illegal made it more desirable and sexy.

Regular folks, society leaders, and criminals all basked in the glow of joyous illegality. A whole criminal class was born as a result of prohibition. If that isn’t clear proof that legislating morality doesn’t work, I don’t know what is. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Whether the issue is booze, drugs, abortion, prayer, same-sex marriage, or term limits … law and morality don’t mix.


Passing a law limiting how many times you can elect a candidate rather than letting you vote for any candidate you want isn’t going to improve the quality of legislators. You’ll just wind up voting for a bunch of clowns and opportunists who don’t give a rat’s ass about government while dedicated potential candidates won’t bother to run because there’s no future in it. Making drugs illegal, especially marijuana, has created an entire drug culture — exactly the way making booze illegal created an entire criminal class based on rum running.

There are no fewer gay people because we make their lives difficult, any more than segregation made the world safe for stupid white people.

Illegal abortions kill not only fetuses, but their mothers too. You may not approve of abortion, but do you approve of forcing women to risk their lives to not have babies they don’t want? How is that better or more moral?

This kind of knee-jerk “lets solve social issues by making bad laws” causes a lot of pain and suffering. As often as not, you end up legislating your way into a vast sea of exciting new problems you didn’t have before.

Throughout history, laws designed to force everyone to do what someone else deems “right” have failed. Monumentally and spectacularly failed. You’d think citizens and lawmakers alike would notice this recurring theme, but remarkably, we seem unable to connect the dots.

If you never drank before, bet this picture could change your mind.
If you never drank before, bet this picture could change your mind.

We haven’t learned anything at all, probably because no one is aware history is repeating itself. Many of our citizens apparently don’t know any history, so how could they?

The 18th Amendment was ratified on January 16, 1919 and took effect a year later, on January 17, 1920. Immediately, the demand for liquor increased. Producers, suppliers and transporters were turned into criminals, but drinkers were not prosecuted. What could go wrong with that? The entire justice system — courts, cops and prisons — was buried under a landslide of booze-related busts. Organized crime went from being a minor group to a major social force. Progress?

Having achieved results way beyond the wildest dreams of the amendment’s creators, prohibition was repealed in 1933 via the Twenty-first Amendment, the only time in American history an amendment was repealed.

Every time I hear someone on Facebook declare how we need a constitutional amendment to solve a political or social problem, I contemplate how successfully we got rid of alcohol in 1920. No one has had a drink since.

The next time someone tells you history is meaningless, tell them without history, they are meaningless. They won’t understand what you mean, but a bit more confusion can’t hurt them. Saying it might make you feel better.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

28 thoughts on “LIPS THAT TOUCH LIQUOR”

  1. This election, we are voting on a state amendment dealing with abortion, and yard signs are everywhere supporting the cause. What bothers me is that the same people wanting to limit a woman’s right to choose are the same ones who want to own guns.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think there are quite a few of us, though mostly I steer away from politics these days. Every once in a while, though, something triggers me. In this case, it was the women in the picture. i had to use that picture (again).

      It is comforting to find a community of like-minded souls. It gives me a glimmer of hope for our future.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. One of the few things that bugs me about getting older, apart from becoming generally slow and creaky is that I’m old enough to see the same mistakes being made for the second or third time and wonder why nobody seems to remember even things that happened 20 or 30 years ago.
    I do agree with you on most of those issues. I don’t think we should have to be told what we can drink, who we can marry or whether we can choose to have children. However I do believe in gun control. Regular people like us don’t need to own military style weapons and I do think that the US should have some laws about that.


  3. I like how the newspaper article mentions that the US has taken the first step in the world-wide drive for prohibition. It never really took off anywhere else!
    I always quite liked the idea of tables which rotated at the push of a button to hide the booze, though (or was that only in the films?).


  4. Great post – Teepee for President! 😀 Imagine if anyone had tried to enforce a prohibition in France… it would have been the Revolution all over again! I worked this one out through parenting: the more you prohibit something, the more attractive and fascinating it becomes for many.


  5. Your post offers of an endless parade of evidence that Adams and Jefferson were right about democracy—something most American’s don’t know is that the Founding Fathers created a Republic and put in place a balancing system to control the dangers democracy presents.

    Adams said, “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself.” He insisted: “There was never a democracy that ‘did not commit suicide.’”

    The people who pull the trigger on that suicide are just like CW, while those who think like him believe it is everyone else and that it is their duty to pass laws to control our lives.

    The CWs vote in the representatives who will strip freedom of choice from the rest of us or severely limit it. This may explain why the U.S. now has more people in prison than any other country and more than twice the number of the country ranked #2 and that country is China with almost five times the population of the U.S.

    I wonder how the CWs, who often hate China, would explain the fact that while poverty has increased in the United States along with its prison population, China is responsible for 90% of global poverty reduction in the last 30 years while growing a middle class that almost outnumbers the entire population of the US, and this authoritarian one-party system that rules through the consensus of 80-million Communist Party members has done this and kept their prison population about half that of the U.S.


    1. Thing is, they would have no answer nor feel they need an answer. They already have whatever answers they feel they need. That’s the nut of the problem. It is often hard for me to remain optimistic in the face of the rampant idiocy I keep encountering.


      1. I see several groups of people that are eligible to vote. Statistical reports show that about a third of eligible voters—the same people—vote regularly in every election. During Presidential elections the number that vote climbs painfully into the 50% range, which is tragic when we consider that the popular vote doesn’t decide who will be president, becasue the 538 electors in the Electoral College decide who becomes president, which is much different than how China picks its president every five to ten years.

        Among those who vote, we have the extremists who will vote with their group without question—for instance the often blind and mute tea party people—and then we have those who think for themselves and study the issues (this is probably the smallest group); then those who vote with the party of their choice without question, and those who can’t make up their minds until the last minute.

        The billions spent on ads in each election are usually aimed at those who can’t make up their minds easily, and those ads are usually misleading and full of lies and cherry picked facts in an attempt to fool as many of the undecided as possible.

        In this election, the Democrats are working overtime to get out people in another group, who don’t normally vote in any election, because if the Democrats can activate that group, then they may tilt the election in their favor as they have done for Obama twice now. The GOP has trouble with the average nonvoters because there probably aren’t that many in that group who can stand the tea party, fundamentalist evangelical stench of the GOP.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. I often turn to Vote Smart and fact check sites. Hopefully the oligarchs haven’t bought and compromised these information sites yet, and I’m sure they are trying. There is so much dishonesty and corruption in these billionaires and corporate CEO’s who pull the strings for their bought politicians, I think their bones dissolved long ago from the weight.







            1. We actually get mailings from both parties, probably because we are on the voter registration lists. It helps that Garry knew and still knows many of the players personally … he knows the wolves from the sheep. But sometimes, even so, the choice isn’t encouraging.


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