By Manos Angelakis
In 1784, Dr. Benjamin Rush published a pamphlet denouncing the use of distilled spirits as injurious to health and generally evil, leading to “sin and fornication” (sic). The temperance movement, steeped in Protestant religious fervor where any form of merriment was considered “of the devil”, seized on these pronouncements and started organizing. Their stated goal was the total abolition of all alcoholic drinks throughout the young country. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union proceeded to create chapters in every US city with populations over ten thousand. The WCTU and the Anti-Saloon League, both highly organized and enormously influential because of the support of thousand of Protestant churches countrywide, managed to have the eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution passed in 1919. It prohibited the manufacture, sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. The Volstead Act was passed in 1920 to enforce the amendment.
Prohibition was an economic and social disaster for the country. Fueled by the socioreligious fervor of very few but influential citizens, it ended up encouraging widespread disrespect for the law by the average public leading to smuggling, bootlegging and wholesale bribery of police and courts as well as massive alcohol consumption by the average individual. It was ruinous for the Federal Treasury because a large source of taxes had gone underground; the farmers, because corn, the major source of alcohol production in the US, had stopped being utilized; and the American distillers and vintners. Eventually, the Prohibition was repealed on 5 December, 1933. We are still paying for that social experiment through the financial toll imposed by organized crime, the main and sole beneficiary of Prohibition.
Why am I recounting this sorry piece of Americana?
Because it seems to me that more than 86 years after the repeal of Prohibition, we still haven’t learned its most profound lesson; that nothing positive results by forcing an unwilling public to adopt measures that are supposedly “good for them”. Haven’t we learned anything from Prohibition? Haven’t we learned anything from the “war on drugs” that has been won, hands down, by the drug cartels? How about the legalization of recreational marijuana by more and more states. Contrary to the pronouncements of the DEA and the Justice Department, there are more drugs smuggled in the US today than ever before, more money going out enriching the druglords, and far more people are behind bars from the poorest segment of the population as a result of this quixotic attempt to regulate individual personal behavior.
Think about it!
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