American Prohibition: Was It Worth It?


Prohibition, a legislation which banned most forms of alcohol in the United States, was the ultimate goal of the American Temperance Movement. Those who believed prohibition was good were referred to as drys and those who viewed it more negatively were called wets (Keene). Many drys believed that alcohol had the ability to part families and caused more problems that it was worth, while wets thought that the government overstepped bounds by banning alcohol. Was the government right to pass this type of a “moral” legislation? I personally believe it was not.

While prohibition did have some benefits and some drawbacks, I believe the government was not right in passing this type of legislation. While it is difficult to counter some of the health benefits that drys focused their campaign for prohibition upon, the drawbacks of prohibition were quite costly. For instance, lack of enforcement led even more immoral crime syndicates to form, which made large amounts of money from the illegal production and distribution of alcohol. The banning of alcohol did not have much effect on the morality of the general American public and was unjustified in that regard. Speakeasies simply replaced bars and saloons due to lack of enforcement, essentially rendering the law ineffective.

To many wets, prohibition felt like the government overstepped their bounds. Many also felt worried about higher government power to enforce prohibition (Keene). They were worried after seeing the Russian revolution, that giving more power to the federal government could result in a similar response in America, especially with America in the middle of its first Red Scare. One senator criticized the law as an infringement on personal freedom stating that,”It seemed unfair to tell an exhausted worker… “You shall not have a glass of beer”. I agree with this stance, as moderate consumption of alcohol has no immediate health risks, which would justify government intervention through removing it from the public.

I feel as though the government took it too far by creating the eighteenth amendment, and was correct to repeal it in the twenty-first amendment. The government is meant to balance public safety with personal freedom, and the eighteenth amendment infringed upon the latter. While there were some benefits to passing prohibition, it also caused far more problems as a side-effect.

10 thoughts on “American Prohibition: Was It Worth It?

  1. I agree with what you talk about in your blog. The government made a bad decision in trying to make alcohol illegal in the United States. While it did have some benefits, it just created more problems. A lot of alcohol were being produced illegally which caused a whole new crime. The banning of alcohol was morally wrong and the U.S. went too far in trying to improve the lives of their citizens.

  2. I would have to agree with you about how the government took to far with the eighteenth amendment. I also feel as it took away from the human rights. Your blog post gave me a better understanding of the topic thank you!

  3. I agree that the government went too far with the 18th amendment. As you said, there are many benefits to prohibition, but many drawbacks as well. A benefit would be the reduction of general crime. A drawback would be the increase of organized crime syndicates in cities during this time. As the 18th amendment made the production and sale of alcohol illegal, crime syndicates made a profit through selling it. This leads me to believe that the 18th amendment made more problems than it solved.

  4. I love your point in the end that the government has a responsibility to balance public safety with personal freedoms. We can see this issue pop up during the 1920s also with the controversy over contraception availability. During this time period, many states made it illegal to even spread information regarding abortions and contraception. Margaret Sanger’s appearance at the Ford Hall Forum with her mouth bandaged summarized her feelings on the issue well. While perhaps not as flashy of an debate as prohibition, it follows the same question – how much moral policing does the government have the right to participate in? It is difficult to answer, but personally I think that the eventual victories (even if progress was slow sometimes) of Margaret Sanger and the wet movement were positive and liberating events in American history.

  5. I agree, I do not believe the government had any right to pass this legislation. Although there were positive outcomes, I still believe the choice to consume alcohol or not should be made by the consumer rather than the government. The idea of these speakeasies was rather interesting because it is almost like an underground club. It would be cool to do more research into these and see what other things went on in them.

  6. I agree with you, the government went too far. It did do a lot of good things, by giving people the opportunity to save money, and be able to start a savings. There were also some drawbacks to it, they could have done things differently. We have the choice on what we consume, if they would’ve just educated everyone instead of banning it all together things could’ve gone a lot better.

  7. I agree that the government went To far during this time involving the prohibition. Organized crime Spread trying to move alcohol. Drinking alcohol is a choice and they can’t just ban it altogether. It offered some good things but overall people found a way to get it and it lead to more petty crime

  8. I agree with you when it comes to how the government overstepped when it came to the 18th Amendment and making alcohol completely illegal. I think that most Americans thought that the did as well because of the fact that it didn’t stop people from sneaking around the cities finding where they could get alcohol. I think that the government shortly after ratifying the Amendment saw that they bit off more than what they could handle because they couldn’t “officially” enforce it. I feel like the government focused on the wrong idea in connecting alcohol to World War One. I think that the main reasons so Americans were upset about the Amendment is because they felt as though part of their freedom has been taken away, which I agree with.

  9. I would have to agree that the government stepped in to far and crossed the line. As you mentioned, the government should balance public safety with personl freedom, but i don’t think tying drinking specifically to that scenerio was called for. I seen you mentioned some of the negatives from the prohibition but i didn’t see positives things that cam from it listed in your blog? I didn like your reference to the Russian Revolution, an example of how one nations people can learn from anothers.

  10. Nice blog post. I enjoyed your analysis on whether or not the government had the right to pass a moral piece of legislation, in this case prohibition. I agree when you said that the eighteenth amendment was an infringement on the rights of the people. I liked your point that the governments job is to balance personal freedoms with the safety of the public. Again, nice post.

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