Top-Rated Free Essay

Why Prohibition Failed to Control American Alcohol Consumption

Good Essays
A single sketchy light flickers in a dark room. The smell of pure, hard liquor (most likely moonshine), permeates the air. Screams, laughter, shattering glass, and the freshly-made whiskey are shared by all in the dingy lair--until a stern knock cuts through the noise, silencing and destroying the night. It was this scenario and countless others like it that defined American Prohibition, also known as “The Noble Experiment”, a ban on any intoxicating beverage from 1920 to 1933. Reasons Prohibition was enacted was to correct corruption and reduce prison numbers, solve social unrest, lower taxes, and improve hygiene and health of the people. However, Prohibition ultimately failed in its attempt to control the behavior and vices of its citizens.

One particular issue that arose from Prohibition was that it fostered corruption; poor, young immigrants gradually morphed into mobs and general crime became organized. Extensive crime syndicates solidified and what is now colloquially known as the “Mafia” formed. The public had nowhere else to turn but these bootleg distilleries (dubbed “speakeasies”), because the method of getting in was a password--and by the end of Prohibition, over one million gallons of liquor had been bootlegged and brought into the United States alone. Not only had organized crime increased, but most crimes in general did, too. In addition to distilling alcohol illegally, police budgets in the period of Prohibition had increased by 11.4 million dollars (adjusted for today’s inflation, more than 140.5 million dollars). Total federal expenditures on penal institutions increased by a whopping 1000%. Homicides, civil unrest, the prison population, and Prohibition violations had actually increased during Prohibition. The demand for alcohol and the elimination of the public’s legal supply ultimately played a large part in the spike in crime during this era.

Besides the fact that crime multiplied uncontrollably, Prohibition was also practically unenforceable. Interestingly enough, the act of drinking in itself was not banned, rather, only sale and distribution. Bootleggers outnumbered police officers and enforcement became laughably lax in some areas of the United States. The 21 Club, a popular speakeasy in New York City, had been raided many times by police, but the owners were never caught. Many American immigrants viewed liquor not as a vice but as an integral cultural component. Smuggling and bootlegging were in full swing, and by 1927 the number of speakeasies was twice the number of legal bars pre-Prohibition. The Volstead Act itself (the enabling legislation for Prohibition) allowed the sale and production of wine at home and for religious purposes, allowing for vineyards to sell grapes and concentrate for people to make their own wine at home. The contents of the law was full of loopholes that were often exploited, such as whiskey prescription for medical reasons. The Prohibition saw a sharp increase in prescriptions written for patients that called for alcohol.

Prohibition had also decimated the alcohol-production industry, particularly that of winemaking. As mentioned previously, winemakers had to find loopholes and crafty ways to bypass the law. Many went out of business due to the fact that any alcohol over 0.5% was banned, and most wines had about a 13% alcohol content. Wine for sacramental purposes was allowed, and people who acted as imposters of church figures obtained wine through this alternative route.

Lack of support was widespread and only increased as Prohibition went on. The increase of chaos, loss of businesses, and most of all crime only caused any original support for the law to dwindle. Finally, at 3:32 p.m. on December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified, effectively nullifying the 18th Amendment and repealing Prohibition. As the Roaring Twenties came to a close, the United States of America saw that the tax revenue generated by legal sale of alcohol would help take the edge off of the financial burden that came with the Great Depression.

In conclusion, Prohibition in the United States is generally known as an unsuccessful experiment in enforcing morality in legislation. Illegal distilleries and speakeasies (establishments for illegally purchasing alcohol) broke out and encouraged the spread of crime. The Mafia was established as poor immigrants who found an easy way to make a great deal of money by selling alcohol to those in desperate want of it. Countless loopholes were exploited and enforcement of the laws, over time, decreased steeply. Despite the conviction by Congress that going dry would help the United States cut down on alcoholism and crime, Prohibition ended up doing the exact opposite. Overall, lack of support, increase in crime, unenforceability, and necessity of alcohol in society during the 1920s caused the ultimate downfall and failure of the American Prohibition.

CITATIONS (sorry that this version does not have them inline): http://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/alcohol-prohibition-was-failure http://www.albany.edu/~wm731882/organized_crime1_final.html http://www.westegg.com/inflation/infl.cgi http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/database/article_display.cfm?HHID=441 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1655505/pdf/calwestmed00210-0040b.pdf http://library.thinkquest.org/04oct/00492/Why_It_Did_Not_Work.htm http://www.netplaces.com/wine-guide/a-brief-history-of-wine/prohibition-wipes-out-an-industry.htm http://history.howstuffworks.com/american-history/prohibition.htm

Citations: (sorry that this version does not have them inline): http://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/alcohol-prohibition-was-failure http://www.albany.edu/~wm731882/organized_crime1_final.html http://www.westegg.com/inflation/infl.cgi http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/database/article_display.cfm?HHID=441 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1655505/pdf/calwestmed00210-0040b.pdf http://library.thinkquest.org/04oct/00492/Why_It_Did_Not_Work.htm http://www.netplaces.com/wine-guide/a-brief-history-of-wine/prohibition-wipes-out-an-industry.htm http://history.howstuffworks.com/american-history/prohibition.htm

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Good Essays

    Why Prohibition Failed

    • 480 Words
    • 2 Pages

    Why Prohibition Failed Prohibition: Help or Harm? Prohibition damaged America Imagine this"¦ It's 12:30 am in a dark New York City street during the 1920s. Everything is silent. Then a man walks around to the back of an old saloon, closed due to Prohibition. He knocks three times on the back door then mutters the words " Joe sent me". The door opens to the sound of ragtime music and people singing. The door shuts and it is silent again"¦ That was an example of just on of the 100,000 "speak-easies"…

    • 480 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Alcohol Consumption Essay

    • 2252 Words
    • 10 Pages

    Alcohol Consumption [Abstract] Everyone knows that alcohol has its consequences. At the same time, people don’t care and brush off the consequences in order to have a good time. This paper summarizes studies done on the physical, cognitive and emotional effects that alcohol has on people, before and after consumption. This paper accesses the effects on a person’s body, mind and soul. Alcohol affects the way a person thinks, acts, and feels. Methods include gathering statistical information…

    • 2252 Words
    • 10 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    1.0 Introduction This assignment is based on a study of alcohol metabolism and its impacts to human health. The assignment explains that how the body can dispose of alcohol and discern some of the factors that influence this process and influences of the process to the metabolism of food, hormones, and medications. 1.1 History of alcohol The word “alcohol” appears in English as a term for a very fine powder in the 16th century. It was borrowed from French, which took it from medical Latin.…

    • 8117 Words
    • 27 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    The total consumption of alcoholic beverages in India is expected to touch 217.1 million cases in 2010, marking a growth of 8 percent from the previous year, according to a report. According to a report published by market research firm International Wine and Spirit Record (IWSR), the total consumption of spirits in the country stood at 200 million cases in 2009. A case has 12 bottles, totaling nine liters. The Indian alcoholic beverages market is dominated by whisky, which accounts for more…

    • 365 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    from a 2015 survey reported that 86.4% of participants over the age of 18 consumed alcohol at some point in their life while 56.0% drank alcohol in the past month. It is possible for us to use alcohol safely. Many of us are able to control the amount of alcohol they drink and are known as recreational drinkers. They have the ability to refuse alcohol once they know that they have consumed enough and are able to control their behaviour while drinking. In fact, research has shown that drinking in moderation…

    • 280 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    November 2010 Arguing Positions: Prohibition of Alcohol Alcohol abuse is an extremely ravaging calamity, and many resolutions have developed as a result of its effects. The eighteenth amendment was ratified in 1920, and eliminating the legal use of alcohol was adopted. Also known as the prohibition of alcohol, it became effective in the United States of America. Its intentions were to prevent the manufacture, import, export, sales, and consumption of alcohol and alcoholic beverages. After thirteen…

    • 503 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Better Essays

    Why Prohibition Is Wrong

    • 1350 Words
    • 6 Pages

    Prohibition, We Gotta Get Out of Here! Making a wrong decision is bound to happen to everyone in life. Throughout history there have been multiple choices that end up being the wrong decision to choose. Humans, governments, and countries all make wrong choices. Creating Prohibition was one of those incorrect decisions in life that the U.S. government made. When the government put the ban on the making and selling of alcohol it lead to the decay and social disorder all around the U.S. Many people…

    • 1350 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Good Essays

    the Question Prohibition, a change which was created in 1919 through the 18th amendment, and abolished 1933through the 21st Amendment. This ratification was created to stop consumption of alcohol, and lower crime, and lower violence in families, however it failed in more ways than one, but it could also be viewed as a success. Prohibition was in many ways a failure. The banning of alcohol increased crime drastically. Gangsters and crime bosses bootlegged beer, and alcohol, selling it for…

    • 265 Words
    • 1 Page
    Good Essays
  • Better Essays

    Marijuana Prohibition Has Failed United States In today’s society, criminalizing the use of marijuana has proved to be as effective as prohibition ended the consumption of alcohol in 1920. In retrospect, many people find ways in which to illegally obtain the drug. This drug has infiltrated our nation to the point that many citizens find the drug readily available in society and according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 34.8% of 12th graders admitted to abusing the drug in the year prior…

    • 2670 Words
    • 11 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Alcohol consumption became big in the 1800’s and the common man drank alcohol every day. They started to drink it more commonly and even at work, men would get injured because their abuse of alcohol. Husbands would beat their wives if they drank to much and they weren't in the right mind this led to families separating. The temperance movement was effective in achieving its goals because the consumption of alcohol went down. The political cartoon shows the necessity of banning alcohol. The American…

    • 129 Words
    • 1 Page
    Satisfactory Essays