Prohibition was a reform set into motion in the late 1910s that dealt with the consumption of alcohol. Prohibitionists wanted America to be considered “dry,” so that consuming alcohol would be considered illegal and against the law. Congress approved prohibition on December 18, 1917, with the Eighteenth Amendment, which meant that selling, making, or transporting alcohol was illegal. By 1920 prohibition (also known as temperance) went into effect, and Congress declared that a drink with 0.5 percent alcohol or more was intoxicating (Keene, Cornell, O’Donnell 637). The Twenty-First Amendment repealed prohibition and the Eighteenth Amendment in 1933. Of course, people during this time debated whether this law was in the realm of the government. There are positive and negative aspects of prohibition, and people still debate whether the government should have passed such a moral law.
The positive aspects of prohibition were idealistic but true. One positive aspect was that if people truly did not partake of alcohol, they would be much healthier. We know even more today that alcohol can damage our bodies if consumed heavily. Another positive aspect was that it would help families save money, or “thrift” (Keene et.al. 636). Alcohol can be expensive, and that money could be spent in other ways to help families out. Most importantly of the positive aspects is the moral issue of prohibition. People for prohibition argued that alcohol was evil in that it harmed the family. In that era, men who abused alcohol tended to abuse their wives and children both physically and emotionally. To end all alcohol consumption to people pushing for temperance meant to help curb the abuse that went on all too often in homes.
However, with all the positive aspects, there were negative aspects to prohibition as well. Prohibition took away a personal freedom from Americans across the country (Keene et.al. 636). By not allowing anyone to consume alcohol, even those who had in the past consumed it responsibly, the government took away a lot of freedom. Another major negative was that the government did not plan how to enforce prohibition well, which led to illegal drinking and increased crime. Bootlegging became widespread, as organized crime operations made and delivered alcohol which became very profitable. One famous example is Al Capone’s gang (pretending to be policemen) murdering another gang (Keene et.al. 637). Illegal drinking became so common and even popular among the common class and elite classes of people. It was beginning to be “socially acceptable” to commit crimes in the area of prohibition (Keene et.al. 638). Crime rates were high, and illegal drinking had become fun, not dangerous. The opposite of what the prohibitionists wanted happened, and crime increased.
Although the intention of the government in passing this type of “moral” legislature seem good in nature, I do not think that the government should have passed such a moral law. Everyone in the USA has certain undeniable rights, and I think that the government passing this sort of law was not just. Although some people do abuse alcohol and hurt others, many people also can enjoy alcohol responsibly. The government should do what is best for the people, and they were not able to stop people from illegally consuming alcohol. This in turn caused more crime and hurt more people. In the end, the government should do what is best for the people, and taking away alcohol created more problems than it solved. The government needs to look at matters that it can help to solve and better the people.
Source: Keene, Jennifer, et.al. Visions of America: A History of the United States. Volume 2, Boston: Pearson Education, 2015.