A comparison between the 1920's and the 1980's.

Topics: Prohibition in the United States, Stock market, Wall Street Crash of 1929 Pages: 5 (1420 words) Published: September 7, 2003
The 1920's and 1980's are similar in many ways. Their similarities are social, economical, and political. Some of the similarities between the decades are Prohibition and the War on Drugs, the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and 1987, and the influence of music on society.

Prohibition was passed as the 18th amendment, that importing, exporting, transporting, and manufacturing of alcohol was to be put to an end. Prohibition did not achieve its goals. Instead, it added to the problems that it intended to solve. It was expected that the decrease in alcohol consumption would in turn reduce crime, poverty, death rates, improve the economy, and the quality of life.

As a result of the lack of enforcement of the Prohibition Act and the creation of an illegal industry of bootlegging an increase in crime transpired. The Prohibitionists hoped that the Volstead Act would decrease drunkenness in America and thereby decrease the crime rate, especially in large cities. Although towards the beginning of Prohibition this purpose seemed to be fulfilled, the crime rate soon skyrocketed to nearly twice that of the pre-prohibition period. In large cities the homicide went from 5.6 (per 100,000 population) in the pre-prohibition period, to nearly 10 (per 100,000 population) during prohibition, nearly a 78 percent increase. Serious crimes, such as homicides, assault, and battery, increased nearly 13 percent, while other crimes involving victims increased 9 percent. Many supporters of prohibition argued that the crime rate decreased. This is true if one is examining only minor crimes, such as swearing, mischief, and vagrancy, which did in fact decrease due to prohibition. The major crimes, however, such as homicides, and burglaries, increased 24 percent between 1920 and 1921. In addition, the number of federal convicts over the course of the prohibition period increased 561 percent (Hanson 31-34).

After Prohibition was deemed a failure, the National Prohibition Act, or Volstead Act, was passed. The Volstead Act was put into place to determine specific laws and methods of enforcement; the Federal Prohibition Bureau was formulated in order to see that the Volstead Act was enforced. Nevertheless, bootleggers and commoners alike flagrantly violated these laws. Bootleggers smuggled liquor from oversees and Canada, stole it from government warehouses, and produced their own. Many people hid their liquor in hip flasks, false books, hollow canes, and anything else they could find (Hanson 29).

Although one would think that prohibition would enhance the difficulty of obtaining alcohol, liquor was actually very easy to acquire. The bootlegging business was so immense that customers could easily obtain alcohol by simply walking down almost any street. Replacing saloons, which were all shut down at the start of prohibition, were illegal speak-easies. These businesses, hidden in basements, office buildings, and anywhere that could be found, admitted only those with membership cards, and had the most modern alarm systems to avoid being shut down (Hanson 28).

In the beginning of the 1980's drugs begin to spread rapidly through inner cities because of the easy accessibility. In 1982 the National Survey on Drug Abuse found 22 million Americans had used cocaine one time in their life. It became the choice of drug for the famous and successful; professional athletes, celebrities in entertainment, lawyers, university professors, and Wall Street brokers. It became labeled as the "champagne of drugs". Many people took to the popular form of cocaine known as crack, which could be disguised as smoking a cigarette even though it was incredibly addicting. People could also acquire crack cocaine easily and inexpensively. Dealers would disguise regular homes and apartments as "crack houses" where a user could easily obtain their fix.

In the 1980's Reagan had a similar problem with the war on drugs. Inner city violence increased due to gangs fighting for...

Cited: Bondi, Victor. American Decades 1980 - 1989. Washington D.C. : Amanly, Inc. Book 1996
Hanson, Erica. Through the Decades The 1920 's. San Diego: Lucent Books, Inc. 1999
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