Prohibition Amazing Success
1. The Rest of the Story of Prohibition Success
2. Prohibition Did Not Forbid Drinking
3. Alcohol Consumption Decreased 50 Percent
4. Majority of People Supported Prohibition
5. Crime Did Not Increase
6. Prohibition Does Not Support Drug Legalization
7. If Prohibition was a Success, Why was it Repealed?
The Rest of the Story of Prohibition Success
The question "Was Prohibition a success in the 1920s" is a matter of big debate. There are two sides to the story. Here will be presented the little known facts that prove the success of Prohibition. The evidence is available for those who wish to seek it out. As Paul Harvey used to say, Here is the rest of the story: five truths about the success of Prohibition.
- Prohibition did not forbid drinking
- Alcohol consumption decreased fifty percent
- The majority of people supported Prohibition
- Crime did not increase
- Prohibition does not support the legalization of drugs
Only Public Drinking was Illegal, not Private Possession
Prohibition did not Forbid Drinking
The eighteenth amendment forbid "the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors," but not the consumption, private possession, or production for ones own consumption. A person could have his own still.
The amendment was ratified on January 16, 1919 and took effect a year later on January 16, 1920. This gave a year for anyone who wished to stock their home cellars with their favorite beverage. Drinkers were allowed to serve alcohol to their friends and family in their homes. Drinkers could even make their own alcohol in their own stills in their back yards. Yet, even with all these allowances, the consumption of alcohol dropped fifty percent during Prohibition just by forbidding public use. Once the law was passed, most people decided to obey it.
What was outlawed was public sale of alcohol in public places such as saloons, speakeasies, and other public gatherings. Also prohibited was the corporate manufacture and transportation of alcohol. People were allowed to have alcohol in the privacy of their own homes, but that is all.
Pledge not to Drink Alcohol
Alcohol Consumed Decreased Fifty Percent
Public health records show that diseases caused by drinking alcohol decreased by over fifty percent. Cirrhosis death rates for men were 29.5 per 100,000 in 1911 and 10.7 in 1929. Admissions to state mental hospitals for alcoholic psychosis declined from 10.1 per 100,000 in 1919 to 4.7 in 1928. Arrests for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct declined fifty percent between 1916 and 1922. All of these statistics show a sharp reduction in drinking. Source
Prohibition did not stop the use of alcohol. What is significant is that it did succeed in reducing by fifty percent the use of a drug that was widely popular. Once Prohibition became the law of the land, many citizens decided to obey it. Source
These statistics are from an article in the New York Times by Mark H. Moore, a professor of criminal justice at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. See the references below.
Majority Supported Prohibition
During the 1928 presidential election, Prohibition had been in effect for 9 years. Republican presidential candidate Herbert Hoover was dry. His opponent, a popular Democrat, Al Smith, was wet. So why was dry Herbert Hoover elected? If after 9 years Prohibition was so unpopular and creating so many problems, why was Herbert Hoover elected by a landslide? His opponent Al Smith would have tried to repeal prohibition.
Another interesting fact is that both parties favored prohibition on their platforms. The Democrats were so worried about their popular candidate's wet stand that they gave him a dry vice president to run with. If Prohibition was so unpopular after 9 years, why did both parties favor prohibition on their platforms?
Politico Magazine cites the Encyclopedia Britannica in explaining how Herbert Hoover won the presidency in 1928 while favoring Prohibition. Hoover won with 444 electoral votes. Al Smith lost with 87 electoral votes, or just barely forty percent of the popular vote.
Even after Prohibition's Eighteenth Amendment was repealed several states decided to stay dry. The Volstead Act gave enforcement of Prohibition to the state governments. The states make their own decisions concerning drugs and alcohol. These are the states that stayed dry for several years after Prohibition was repealed:
- Kansas stayed dry until 1948
- Oklahoma stayed dry until 1959
- Mississippi stayed dry until 1966
- 10 states still contain many dry counties
Here are the states that still have many dry counties: Source
- Nearly half of Mississippi's counties are dry. In fact, its even illegal to drive through a dry county in the state with alcohol in the car for any reason.
- In Kentucky, thirty counties are wet and 55 are dry
- Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Kansas, and Virginia have a large portion of dry counties
- Hundreds of dry towns within wet counties exist cross the county
If so many voters supported Prohibition, why was it repealed? This matter will be addressed at the end of this article.
Crime did not Increase
A second reason why Prohibition was a success...is that it did not...--contrary to popular myth--cause an increase in crime. quote US Dept. of Justice
Crime did not Increase
Contrary to all the media hype, crime did not increase during Prohibition. The US Department of Justice Drug Enforcement blames media hype for the myth of the huge increase in organized crime. It is true that there was a small increase in homicides, but not in overall crime. The increase in homicides was among the African-Americans who were not involved in the trafficing. See the Justice Department reference below in references.
Prohibition did not create organized crime in the United States. Organized crime started in this country before 1870. During the late 1800s and the first two decades of the twentieth century, organized crime was centered in the large urban areas and heavily involved in prostitution and gambling. Prohibition just gave it another venue to run. Long before Prohibition, organized crime was paying off the police to look the other way and corrupting city governments. None of that was new with Prohibition. Sourc
An example of a city without alcohol occurred in San Francisco after the great earthquake of 1906. The big earthquake and resulting fires destroyed a large portion of the city. The resulting fires lasted 3 days. 30,000 buildings were destroyed. Half the town was left homeless. It took nine years to completely rebuild the city. However, certain essential services were up in a matter of weeks.
The alcohol at many saloons was not damaged. But law enforcement officials wanted to minimize gang violence resulting from the devastated city. The police went to the saloons and destroyed all the remaining alcohol. Reportedly, officials destroyed almost $30,000 worth of liquor in 1906 value. The value would be much more today. Source
A temperance activist writing at that time showed how the city of San Francisco's crime problem basically ended temporarily while the saloons were temporarily closed because of the great earthquake. The activist of the time wrote,"this remarkable freedom from violence and crime was largely traceable to the disuse of intoxicants." Others noticed this as well: "The editors of some of the leading dailies took the position that it would be for the permanent betterment of society and for the up building of the best interests of the city, were the saloons forever to remain closed." However, as soon as the saloons reopened their doors, violence and crime filled the city once again. Source The reference is in the 25th paragraph of this source.
Now it is true that Prohibition did not eliminate drinking; but it did decrease drinking by a significant amount. Drinking was cut by fifty percent according to many reports.
Media Dramatized Organized Crime
The drama of....Al Capone largely was just that, drama sensationalized by the media of the time. quote from US Dept. of Justice
Prohibition does not Support Drug Legalization
The amount of alcohol drank during Prohibition did lower by fifty percent according to many. That is a good reduction considering use in homes was allowed and enforcement was lax. Temperance workers should have been more content with this than what they were.
So prohibition of drugs leads to less drug use, just like alcohol during prohibition.
The idea that legalization of drugs will make the drugs cheaper and thereby lessen crime does not work. That is because of the nature of addictions. Addiction is an ever growing monster that overcomes the users will power. If drugs become cheaper, the user will just buy more. The more drugs used, the less likely the user can work to support himself. He will then turn to crime for food and shelter. So drug legalization will result in more crime, not less. Source
Prohibition does not prove the need to legalize drugs. On the contrary, it proves just the opposite. Drugs do need to be banned. Prohibition cut alcohol use by fifty percent.
Why was Prohibition Repealed?
In 1928, a dry candidate was overwhelmingly elected over a wet candidate. But Pres. Herbert Hoover was not without his questions about Prohibition. Prohibition was presenting some difficulties.
One of the first things Pres. Hoover did as president was create a special commission to study the problem of enforcement of Prohibition and whether repeal was necessary. This commission was chaired by former US attorney General George Wichersham. The Wickersham Commission met over eighteen months. After completing their extensive research, the eleven member commission unanimously opposed both repealing the 18th Amendment and the return of legalized saloons.
So why was Prohibition repealed?
Just nine months after Pres. Hoover took office, the economy collapsed into the Great Depression. Unemployment doubled to over three million. Hooverville tent towns sprang up across America. America was in its worst economic shape in its history. Pres. Hoover got the blame for a lot he was not responsible for.
Pres. Hoover was not able to do much to help the plight of suffering Americans. He did not believe in big government. He thought any help for the people should come from churches and the private sector. This has given him a bad name in history.
The alcohol industry saw this and a light bulb came on. They started promoting the idea that legalizing alcohol would help the economy. Alcohol could be taxed and would create more jobs. This would mean more tax dollars for the government to help improve the economy and end the depression.
In the election of 1932, Franklin Roosevelt promised all the help the government could give. Plus he campaigned for Prohibition repeal to gain the tax dollars and jobs. Pres. Roosevelt was elected in a landslide. The process of repealing Prohibition started during Pres. Hoover's lame duck session, the end of 1932.
A group of staunch Prohibitionists fought the repeal. They thought that having alcohol legal again would cause more problems than it would solve. They did not believe repealing Prohibition would improve the economy.
The repeal of Prohibition did not provide enough jobs or tax dollars to help much with the depression. America struggled for six more years in the economic dumps. Then the war economy of World War II started to grow in 1940. Pres. Roosevelt began supporting England and other Allied countries with necessary supplies for fighting the war. He was converting America over to a war time economy. That is what pulled America out of the depression.
In conclusion, there is much evidence showing Prohibition to be a success. If the Great Depression had not collapsed the nations economy in 1929, it will never be known how long Prohibition would have lasted. A correct understanding of Prohibition provides no excuse for legalizing drugs.
Links and Resources
Drug Legalization: Myths and Misconceptions Chapter 8: Role of Tobacco and Alcohol in the Drug Legalization Debate by U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470475 Did Prohibition Really Work?
© 2019 Doneta Wrate