Today we celebrate a great moment in our national history. A day when it was realized that morality cannot be legislated without disasterous consequences. A day when a nation reeling from economic depression was at last given a (legal) release valve. A day when the forces of the nanny state were sent packing, or at least for a while.
For on this day seventy-five years ago, December 5, 1933, the Twenty-First Amendment was ratified, repealing the provisions of the Eighteenth Amendment. Our nation's dark period of Prohibition had ended. Americans could legally drink again.
HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN!
Repeal Day, though always important to us in the drinking community, has languished as a broader national commemoration. This website, started by a bartender in Oregon, is a step to remedy that. More needs to be done, though.
Why was alcohol prohibition tried in the first place? It was a strange marriage between Progressives and Christian Evangelicals and others. Centrally, though, the Progressives thought that mankind could be made better if alcohol was unavailable. Evangelicals believed that alcohol was the root of what they saw as the moral degridation of humanity. Alcohol caused people to do wrong. God does not want us to do wrong. Alcohol, therefore, is an abomination of God. That is rather simplified, but you get the idea.
What did Prohibition accomplish? Well, a lot. A lot, however, that its supporters didn't expect. Click here for a great overview of the effects on Prohibition on crime, health, demand and prices. Generally, though, crime rose instead of fell, more people died of alcohol-related causes rather than less, demand and prices both increased (this rarely happens in a free market). Oh, and it gave rise to organized crime and all the spending and manpower needed to "fight" it. Click here for more on that aspect.
How did it get repealed? It became clearer and clearer to the American people that the Eighteenth Amendment was doing more harm than good. Women were espcially critical here. Just having been given the vote in 1920, women flexed their political muscle for repeal. People like Pauline Sabin and her Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform were important in the groundswell for repeal.
Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Democrats ran with a Prohibition repeal plank in their 1932 platform. By "election season" in 1932, most Americans were ready to see Prohibition behind them and for this (and other reasons, naturally) FDR and the Democrats won in 1932.
It was on December 6, 1932 that Senator John J. Blaine of Wisconsin (we are really proud of this here), submitted a resolution to Congress proposing the submission to the states of the Twenty-First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It was finally ratified by the thirty-seventh state (Maine) seventy-five years ago today.
How should we celebrate? Purchase and consume alcohol. Simple as that. It can be a case of beer with your buddies, cocktails with your significant other or a bottle of scotch by yourself. It does not matter. Do it because you can. Do it because our forebears saw the error of social engineering and trying to limit the freedom of people to ingest anything they damn well please.
So, the idea of prohibition is ancient history, right? Wrong. I won't go into this at length here, but we still prohibit free individuals from access to certain substance. I am talking about what are now considered "illegal drugs." Read this interesting research report from the Cato Institute on the relation between alcohol and drug prohibition.
Where can I learn more? Click here for a great website at SUNY-Albany on the "Great Experiment," its times and (thankfully) its downfall.
Year in review
4 months ago