Posts Tagged ‘repeal of prohibition’

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only to the first section: “The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.”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!