The Wets Vs. The Drys


The Prohibition, or formally known as the 18th amendment, was a time in American history that began in 1920 and lasted for 13 years till December of 1933. It was the ban of the manufacturing, transporting and sales of intoxicating liquors in the United States. Now why would this happen at this time in America, the land of the free, where people come to fulfill their American Dream? There are a few correlating factors to why this happened. First, there were groups pushing hard for the prohibition of alcohol.  The first major push was made by the WCTU (Women’s Christian Temperance Union), and soon to back them up was the Anti-Saloon League.  It was said that the Prohibition was going to be the answer to all crime, dieses, and poverty in the United States.

It wasn’t just a random time that the U.S. decided to put a ban on alcohol, even though the “drys” were pushing hard for it.  World War I had a significant role in the opening of serious talk against alcohol.  A momentary wartime prohibition was enabled by President Wilson in 1917. Its purpose was to save the grain that produces alcohol, to make food for the war.   At that time people were starting to question whether or not they should be putting their money and resources into the war efforts instead of the booze.  The Drys argued that the saloons were starting to take over men. They would go there after work and spend all of the money they had earned getting drunk, instead of returning it home to their children and wives.  It was viewed by all the opposed alcohol groups, that alcohol was going to be the demise of the United States if something wasn’t done.

The official Prohibition went into effect in 1920.  You can say the effects were looked at way differently by whatever side was looking at them. The Drys thought it was great, that families had more money to buy household consumer items, which lead to a booming economy.  They thought that work productivity for men was increasing greatly.   They looked at America as a healthier, less domestic violent, lower public drunkenness, nation.  On the other side of the isle it is looked at quite differently. The Wets argued that it did nothing positive for America.  That it encouraged illegal activity and rose teen drinking rates.  They also played on to one of the arguments from the Drys. The Drys argued that the Prohibition would help protect women and children, while the Wets said it did the exact opposite because there were so many federal officers around trying to bust illegal bootleg operations that they weren’t even worried about the women and children’s safety.  The Drys other argument of a booming economy, also came to a halt when the Great Depression came into view.  The Prohibition was finally ended when Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected into office in 1933 after running his campaign on ending Prohibition. It was the 21st amendment that did it, repealing the 18th amendment.

With all of that being said, no I do not believe the government had the right to pass this type of “moral” legislation. The United States is a mixed economy or otherwise known as a free enterprise.  It is run for the most part by private ownership and depending on which market, there could be some government regulations.  The Prohibition took away the jobs completely of a whole industry and that almost looked like a socialist government to me.  Was alcohol abuse a real problem during that age and even now?  Yes, I believe it was, but I also believe that smoking too much is a problem and the government never did a prohibition of cigarettes.  I say this because even though those two things aren’t the best for your body, being able to choose those things really shows what freedom is in this country.  If the Government was to ban smoking as well as alcohol again, where would the line stop.  I do not believe that much government involvement in our own personal lives is what we really want. With freedom comes amazing opportunities, but also possibilities for slipups. I am willing to have the risk of messing up myself than to let the government be a part of every private industry.

Keene, Jennifer D., Saul T. Cornell and Edward T. O’Donnell. Visions of America: A History of the United States, Combined Volume, 3/e. Boston: Pearson, n.d.

History.com Staff. (2009). Prohibition. Retrieved from History.com: http://www.history.com/topics/prohibition

 

16 thoughts on “The Wets Vs. The Drys

  1. I like your comparison to the cigarettes because I feel like those do more damage to your body but they never banned them. In theory the prohibition was good for the nation with more money to buy consumer goods but just because they didn’t buy alcohol legally, doesn’t mean they didn’t buy it at all. Was it a fact that there was more money for the economy or was that just part of the theory?

    1. I agree with you about the cigarettes and want to know why they weren’t banned since they damage your body. I also agree that just because the purchasing of alcohol was illegal didn’t mean that no one ever bought it. Even if it was a theory or not that we had more money, our economy still improved.

      1. I also agree with the comparison to cigarettes. They do so much more damage to your body then alcohol does. People still found a way to drink and people still found a way to get it. Prohibition did not stop alcohol from being drank and consumed by people.

    2. I agree with you! I don’t understand why they would ban alcohol and not cigarettes because they do more damage to your body than alcohol does. Even though it was banned people still bought and drank alcohol. People tend to want to do something more when they’re told they can’t. I also agree with the fact that since it was illegal to buy alcohol they would have more money to purchase consumer goods however, people were still buying alcohol even though it was illegal.

    3. At least for the time frame cigarettes wouldn’t make sense, yes we know now that they cause a myriad of health problems, but back then they had no idea. During this time in America children were still allowed to smoke and buy cigarettes themselves, while it was detrimental to your health in the long run it didn’t alter your personality in such a notable way, whereas alcohol was obvious. The prohibition was just another mainstream failure of the government to remove stimulants from the populace, just look at the “War on Drugs” we still have today.

      1. You made a great point about cigarettes and the time frame. Sometimes when we study history it’s easy for us to forget that societies in the past didn’t know everything we currently know as a society. Their lack of knowledge just bears witness to how much society has evolved over the years.

  2. In a way, I think that alcohol causes a ton of problems however having the government dictate what you can eat or drink is more involvement in our personal lives than we want. Besides, it isn’t the alcohol that causes the issues it is the individuals drinking it and can not control how much they drink. Like it was stated above, people probably were buying it illegally anyway so who knows if the prohibition was beneficial or not.

    1. I agree that alcohol can cause a number of problems but only if a large amount is consumed. The things we eat or drink should be no concern of the governments. The prohibition applied to everyone but that does not mean the whole community followed the rules. Many individuals thought it was stupid to banned the purchasing of alcohol.

    2. I agree that it was the individuals who were drinking the alcohol causing the problems for everybody. It’s sad how the actions of one group of people can affect the entire country with what they can or cannot do legally. I also agree that there were a lot of people buying it illegally which just caused much more organized crime to happen anyways.

      1. I agree that making alcohol illegal raised crime rates. Since they made it illegal people went behind the governments back and bought it anyway because they wanted it. This raised crime rates and made the United States a more dangerous place. Drinking alcohol did cause many problems however, the prohibition didn’t fix these problems.

        1. I agree with you as well that crime rates increased. The purpose of the prohibition was to create a safer place for Americans and create more law abiding citzens, but in reality it did the exact opposite. I think it caused 10x more problems than alcohol itself ever could.

  3. I can understand why drinking was banned for certain reasons. Military men wanted to get away from their reality so they would go get drunk instead of spend time with their families. Drinking didn’t solve anything so the government stepped in so the products that produce alcohol can be used as food for the war. They also did it so people wouldn’t spend so much money on alcohol and instead invest in supplies for their families. Although I can see why they thought it would be a good idea to pass this legislation I don’t agree it. Americans have the right to decide what they spend their money on, including how much alcohol they want to consume and purchase.

  4. I agree and I also like the comparison of cigarettes. I also agree that government should not decide what a person can drink or eat. Though in generally it might be best trying to get everyone to quit smoking in a way i think its more important for the people to chose what they want. At the same time I do believe there should be regulations like letting people knowing the dangers of it. The government should not chose what you do.

    1. I also think that’s why many states tax cigarettes so heavily, to make people think a little more before spending their hard earned money on them. It think people should be able to make their own choices , but at the same time if someone is a smoker and is uninsured and ends up in the hospital with bronchitis or ends up with clpd then pretty much everyone ends up footing the bill. Meanwhile the tobacco industry is racking in the money…

  5. It is interesting to see a lot of the reasons prohibition came about, especially the influence WWI had in the decision. Even though prohibition was an absolute disaster in it’s enforcement one could definitely see the ‘good intentions’ that went into it’s decision. However as they say ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’ and this was certainly the case with prohibition. I feel that history is the best precautionary tale, and we have a lot ot learn from the prohibition about the importance of enforcement and how our laws can sway and change culture and public opinions and it’s important to look at these kind of events to know what’s effective and what isn’t.

    1. I definitely agree with you about prohibition being a cautionary tale. Beforehand I’m sure it would have been difficult to predict organized crime taking over and crime becoming worse instead of better. I wonder if it would have turned out differently if they had tried it before WWI.

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