The Prohibition is one of my favorite periods throughout history. If there were a time I could choose to live, it would be to have lived my twenties during the 1920s. I love Modernism. I love the style. I love the people: Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, F. Scott Fitzgerald. I even named my dog Capone after Al Capone. I once attended dinner at Tommy Gun’s Garage in Chicago which is restaurant that replicates a speakeasy and it was exhilarating experience with the fake police raids and to dressed like a flapper. While it was a fun evening of theatrics for me, unfortunately it was a less fun reality during the 1920s and early 30s.
The 18th Amendment banned the sale, manufacture, and transportation of intoxicating liquor in the United States of America. Congress approved it in 1917, however it was 3 years later in 1920 that it went into effect. Thus, began over a decade of the Prohibition era. During this time, the Volstead Act (1919) defined any beverage with more than 0.5% alcohol as intoxicating liquor (Keene, Cornell, & O’Donnell, 2015). Today, on average, the ABV (alcohol by volume) for beer is 4.6%, wine is 11.6%, and liquor is 37% (Bryner, 2010). This proves how intolerable the 18th Amendment was for liquor containing even trace amounts of alcohol.
People who supported prohibition claimed that it would improve the country’s health, morals, and finances. It was also thought that the economy would benefit because without alcohol, workers would be more productive which would increase their income that they could then use to buy other goods and services (Keene, Cornell, & O’Donnell, 2015). There were many people who supported the prohibition because on the surface, all of these seem like completely valid reasons to discontinue sale of alcohol, but on a deeper level, I feel that this was of detriment to the morals and economy of the United States.
I feel that the morals of the Constitution were disregarded with the passing of the 18th Amendment. The purpose of amendments prior to the 18th was to protect the rights of citizens of the United States. The 18th Amendment took rights away from American people. Individual morals were compromised because people didn’t discontinue drinking. Instead they were undermining the law and going to speakeasies or distilling their own liquor to sell. Organized crime became rampant especially in metropolitan cities as bootlegging became popular. Organized crime took money out of the economy because gangsters were hiding their money within their illegal bars and operations rather than investing in banks or purchasing goods and services honestly. Without regulation of the alcohol content, people were drinking without knowing the effect it may have on them which took away any surety that workers were being more productive without alcohol, mostly because they weren’t without it.
I don’t think that prohibition contributed to the prosperous economy at that time and if anything, it diminished morals of people who ignored the law to continue distributing alcohol. I could even argue that the lack of alcohol content regulation in bootlegging jeopardized the health of many. Not to mention the number of people who died in gangster wars because of the illegal distribution. I would have not supported prohibition at that time and I still maintain that it should not have been implemented in the first place. You would have most certainly found me in a speakeasy in a flapper dress sipping on a Manhattan. The 21st Amendment that repealed the 18th may be my favorite amendment (Thanks, FDR!), but the 18th is definitely my least favorite.
Bryner, M. (2010, July 29). https://www.livescience.com/32735-how-much-alcohol-is-in-my-drink.html. Retrieved October 12, 2017
Keene, J. D., Cornell, S., & O’Donnell, E. T. (2015). A Turbulent Decade: The Twenties. In Visions of America (pp. 628-655). Boston: Pearson.