Prohibition in America: A Lesson Learned?
Infamous gangster, AL Capone, and many like him built their dynasty off a short period of time during United States history called Prohibition. Prohibition was a period where alcohol was not permitted in the United States, which lasted from 1920 to 1933. After the Revolutionary War, drinking was on the rise in the United States, and many orginizations were created to disuade people from becoming intoxicated, starting a new temperance movement (Lerner 96). At first these orginizations tried to push the idea of moderation, but later they decided they wanted alcohol gone for good (Rosenberg). The ban was the eightteenth ammendmant to the constitution, known as the Volstead Act. The president at the time was Woodrow Wilson, who actually vetoed the act, but he was over ruled by Congress and Prohibition became the law of the land (“Teaching with Documents”). America had been changed for the worse by the prohibition of alcohol through: lost tax revenue, enriching and empowering criminals, and endangering the health and welfare of its citizens. Mobsters rose in power and overburdened law enforcement. Their bribary and corruption resulted in people disrespecting the law, and those responsible for its enforcement (Florien). Since America is fighting some of these same problems in the war on drugs, the question today in the United States of America in 2012, is whether the obvious lessons presented by Prohibition, the extreme turmoil it created, and its repeal thirteen years later, are lessons which America has learned from or are doomed to repeat. By banning alcohol in America, the government lost a major amount of money for only the few years it was banned (Graham). Also Prohibition was extrmely expensive, “Some estimate the total cost was about a billion dollars in a time when a Ford factory worker made $5 a day”(Florien). The economy during the 1920s was driven by alcohol in a immense way (“Prohibition”). Alcohol was the fifth biggest industry in the United States before it was banned (“Prohibition”). During this time, the Great Depression was in full effect, the money made from alcohol could have been used as a great contribution to the awful economy. Many jobs were lost when the breweries throughout the U.S. closed down, “Hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs because of Prohibition” (Florien). The government in today’s society could have used the money from alcohol during this time. During Prohibition, alcohol could have brought in over eleven million dollars just in tax revenue(“1920's Prohibition”). Nearly thirty times of that amount was used to enforce Prohibtion, “…while costing over $300 million to enforce” (“1920's Prohibition”). When an industy is made illegal, it puts that industry in the hands of criminals, thus increasing crime rates and basically giving money to criminals. “People in the alcohol business had two options: to find lower-paying work or become criminals (that is, staying in their profession),” this encouraged people to break the law just to support their families (Florien). Major criminals and gangsters made their dynasty through the ban of alcohol such as Al Capone (Bryce). Organized crime was invented during Prohibition, and America would have to deal with it for many years to come (“Teaching with Documents”). All of Capone’s revenue was made from bootlegging and the selling of alcohol. Many other gangsters during this time made their legacies just on bootlegging, ” Prohibition made life in America more violent, with open rebellion against the law and organized crime”(“Teaching with Documents”). Prohibition brought even physical harm to people. Since alcohol was no longer legal, the purity of it was no longer regulated (“Prohibition of Alcohol”). So when people started making their own alcohol, they were not sure if it was pure enough to drink or not: Because alcohol was illegal, its purity was not regulated. While fruit, vegetable, and...
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