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.