Once upon a time so many years ago, Americans had national fit of self-righteousness. We 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 prohibition against the manufacture and consumption of recreational alcoholic beverages in the United States. The separate (but closely related) Volstead Act authorized who would enforce Prohibition, including defining “intoxicating liquor” for anyone who needed an explanation.

The folks who needed an explanation were not your average American. Regular folks knew how to get drunk. No government assistance required. Lawmakers, politicians and gangsters-to-be needed clarification. The gangsters needed to know what they had to do to cash in on this amazing opportunity. The rest needed to know how to persecute people in the name of the law.

Many alcoholic 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 a doctor’s note.

That left a lot of room through which an entire generation strolled. Many people began drinking during Prohibition. Those who had never imbibed before were so titillated by the idea of a booze-free America, they had their first alcoholic beverage while it was illegal. This made it more fun

Whereas previously, alcoholism had no social cachet, during prohibition it became fashionable. As with most things, making it more difficult, expensive, and illegal also made it desirable and sexy. Regular citizens, society leaders, and criminals basked in the glow of illegality. A whole criminal class was born during prohibition. If that isn’t clear proof that legislating morality doesn’t work, I don’t know what is. It didn’t work then. It won’t work now. Whether the issue is booze, drugs, abortion, prayer, same-sex marriage, or term limits, law and morality are a bad mix.


Passing a law limiting how many times you can elect a candidate rather than voting for a better (or at least different) candidate won’t 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. Take a look at our current GOP and you can see the results in full color with flashing lights. Making drugs illegal, especially marijuana, created the drug culture — exactly the way making booze illegal created the crime underworld.

The knee-jerk “lets solve social issues by passing bad laws” causes considerable 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 and quite possibly never imagined were possible.

Throughout history, “morality” laws have failed monumentally and spectacularly. You’d think someone would have noticed, but ignorance being bliss, we haven’t.

The 18th Amendment was ratified on January 16, 1919 and took effect a year later. On January 17, 1920 the amendment became law and instantly, the demand for booze increased.

Producers, suppliers and transporters were turned into criminals, but drinkers were not prosecuted. What could possibly go wrong?

The entire justice system — courts, cops and prisons — was buried under a landslide of booze-related busts. Organized crime went from a minor issue to a major social force. Now that is progress!

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

Now when I hear someone declare how a constitutional amendment will solve a political or social problem, I contemplate how successfully we got rid of booze in 1919.


Categories: #American-history, Crime and Cops, Culture, Government, History, Law, Legal Matters

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