Posts Tagged ‘prohibition’

More Thoughts on Prohibition

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

I’m not trying to rain on the parade of Nico and Shaun over at The 21st Amendment Brewery Blog or steal their thunder for the roundup of Session #22. However, on a few common themes I feel the need to elaborate. Here’s my original post.

Alan McLeod wrote a relatively thorough treatment comparing the history of Prohibition with the current drug war (this was touched on by Lew Bryson and Jay Brooks as well). Alan gets right to the most critical point: that smoking marijuana is a fundamentally “inherently personal” act and that its continued prohibition is a result of cultural precedence. That is, though Alan never explicitly states it, racism.

I was also glad to see I wasn’t the only one to make a comparison to Proposition 8, though Rob DeNunzio made only a hyperlink aside.

The biggest issue raised by the commentaries of many was the need to prove teetotallers wrong in their characterization of alcohol as evil. We as (let’s face it) professional drinkers must set the standard for responsible drinking and alcohol education. To that end I was buoyed by the mention of the Amethyst Initiative by both DeNunzio and E.C. Delia. For those who are unaware, the Amethyst Initiative is the all-too-overdue campaign to bring discussion of the drinking age back to the national spotlight. It is supported by (at this point) 134 college and university presidents and chancellors. From their website:

In 1984 Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which imposed a penalty of 10% of a state’s federal highway appropriation on any state setting its drinking age lower than 21. Twenty-four years later, our experience as college and university presidents convinces us that twenty-one is not working. A culture of dangerous, clandestine “binge-drinking”—often conducted off-campus—has developed. Alcohol education that mandates abstinence as the only legal option has not resulted in significant constructive behavioral change among our students.

For their efforts the Amethyst Initiative has been given the new “Millstone Award” by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. That’s right, the group that largely gave us Prohibition has recognized this cause as promoting “unhealthy, illegal or immoral behavior that [they] believe places children at risk”. According to the post on their website, other organizations considered were “groups responsible for placing pornography on the Internet” and the Montgomery County (MD) Council, for their efforts to eliminate transgender discrimination. In my mind receiving this award seems like quite a high honor.

Additionally I’d like to point out this article over at Madison Beer Review. There are many exciting Prohibition-era bootlegging stories but this one is with the best of them. The Eulberg Brewery brewed full-strength beer illegally for 12 of the 14 years of Prohibition. Features a few good quotes from The Capital Times and the Wisconsin State Journal.

[edit: I originally misspelled the name of Shaun from 21st Amendment. In my defense, that’s how another Sessioner spelled it.]

Session #22: Repeal of Prohibition

Friday, December 5th, 2008

This post is my first contribution to The Session, a beer blog carnival, that is, a monthly beer-themed blog-off. It was conceived by Stan Hieronymus in January of last year and has since grown to quite the event. I’m happy to throw my hat in the ring. The roundup is available here.session_logo

The topic of this session, as today is its 75th anniversary, is the repeal of Prohibition. It is, ironically enough, hosted over at the blog of the 21st Amendment Brewery.

On 5 December, 1933, state conventions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah made the final push and voted for ratification. Only the day before it had been rejected in South Carolina. I imagine most everyone was paying attention only to the first section: “The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.” Finally Prohibition, with its attendant violence and organized crime, would be over.

See this is the problem with prohibition (little p). The teetotalers equated alcohol with sin, and thought that by removing alcohol they could cleanse the nation of sin. But people will always do what they do. So under Prohibition (big P) alcohol consumption continued in a big way, after a short decrease, to at least 60% of pre-Prohibition levels. During Prohibition the federal and state governments found themselves spending more and more money in a futile attempt to enforce the law. The handful of agents charged with the task were generally (other than Elliot Ness) corrupt at best, taking bribes to protect drinking establishments, and at worst in the gangs themselves.

In 75 years we seemed not to have learned our lesson. It is not in the place of government to legislate morality. We can draw a direct parallel with drug prohibition (which now is essentially international) or the prohibition of prostitution (which, granted, is not even national). But those are base and obvious. Here is the comparison I would like to make: in 1919, a group of (mainly religious) well-intentioned folk successfully forced everyone to follow their ideas of morality and piety with regard to alcohol consumption. Now eighty-nine years later alot of (I have to assume) well-intentioned folk in Arizona, California, and Florida have forced everyone to accept their ideas of piety in love. I’ll say it just one more time in case you missed it above: it is not the place of government to legislate morality.

Happy Freedom Day!