By: Rachel E.
Prohibition was a very bold move from the government in 1917. According to our text, “It banned the sale, manufacture and transportation of intoxicating liquors” (Visions of America 637). The pro to Prohibition was that people had no access to alcohol which we know can be addictive and can cause physical and emotional harm to people with excess use. Alcoholism is a very real issue for many people in the United States. Drinking can cause impaired judgement and can even be fatal in some instances. Perhaps during the prohibition, the government thought it could save people from fatalities or addictions. However, it did little to help.
People who want to drink will still drink. People who want to smoke will still smoke, regardless of the law. If anything, prohibition caused more harm than good. When there is a will, there is a way. Just because the government prohibited alcohol, it didn’t stop people from drinking. Similar to today where drugs and certain weapons are illegal in the U.S, people still manage to find it, smuggle it, deal it, sell it and use it. The same thing happened in the 20’s when alcohol was illegal there were many mafias and gangs that thrived. This helped the black market grow.
Many people benefited from the prohibition because individuals and gangs alike were making unreported and un-taxed money from under the table alcohol sales. Well this didn’t last too long and when alcohol was made legal again, it was heavily taxed because it’s a huge source of revenue for the government. Our text also points out that this had a lot to do with the Great Depression, and during this time of financial strife across the U.S, legalizing alcohol again “brought prosperity” when President Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress to repeal prohibition (Visions of America 638). The government saw how much people profited during the prohibition from alcohol sales and they abolished the prohibition because our country was facing major economic problems and they wanted a piece of the lucrative income stream to help get the U.S back on track.
The main issue with Prohibition though is that it takes away our freedom. Many people like to enjoy having a drink in social settings or as a means to de-stress. Some choose not to drink at all, but either way it is 100% a personal choice. It’s up to you to take care of you. The government isn’t necessarily here to take care of us every step of the way. If you want to drink or not drink, that’s up to you. We should live the life we want to (without hurting anyone of course) and accept the consequences of our own actions.
In my opinion, some laws that are passed do help people for the greater good. However, overall and looking at the big picture, I believe the government should not be legislating morality. The founding fathers viewed the government as fairly limited. The fundamentals of what our government is for is to guarantee individual rights. Among those, the rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The prohibition really went against our individual rights.
There are many moral systems and viewpoints so if you try to lock in one, you’ll surely go against others. When you go down the path of legislating morality you’re imposing the will of one group on all people. It is a problem because it formalizes the morality of a few and enforces that point of view onto all people. The whole reason that ethics and morals are philosophical is because there is no right answer, there is no right or perfect set of moral codes to live by. Every one has their own beliefs and morals have a different meaning/context to everyone on this planet.
In conclusion, this is not an easy question. Our society still wrestles with the concepts of legislating morality. The biggest examples of moral issues that I am seeing people getting involved with in my lifetime are matters such as abortion, marijuana legalization, drinking age, euthanasia and many more. After the prohibition, people felt victorious because they had gained their freedom back. The intentions of the government when legislating morality may be good and they may think that they are helping everyone and in some cases, they definitely have. Nonetheless, the great thing about having individual rights is that you can choose for yourself. Not a single person thinks alike, has the same opinions or same set of morals and beliefs. I think it is great that we all can think for ourselves and have our own beliefs. That is why I feel that the legislation of a few guys in charge should not be imposed on all, so overall I feel that legislating morality invariably is only the viewpoint of those in power and not necessarily representative of all. The prohibition proved that maybe the government needs to take step back on certain things, focus on bigger and more important issues in this country such as poverty and hunger for example, and let people express free will when it comes to having a drink or not.