Pro’s & Con’s of a Controversy: Prohibition

On January 16, 1920 the full effect of prohibition was upon the United States. The Senate voted in favor of prohibition the day the 18thAmendment was proposed in 1917. By 1919 the needed number of states adopted it. To begin I would like to clarify a common misconception about the 18thAmendment, the amendment does not prohibit the consumption of alcohol but rather the sale, manufacturing of, importation and the transportation thereof. Prohibition in the 1920s, like nearly all legislation has both pro’s and con’s.

To begin with a pro, general crime in the United States decreased. Though general crime decreased, organized crime (for example, gang activity) grew more popular and advanced during the time of prohibition. Crime could be seen as both pro’s and con’s when analyzed more in depth. In my opinion crime should be classified as more of a con when looking at it through the lense of prohibition. I believe this for the reason that underground crime developed drastically (in my opinion) during the time alcohol was outlawed in the United States. Although it was against the law many people still participated in illegal activity because it benefited them. This pertains to current legislation, giving support that even though something is outlawed people will use means to access the things that will benefit them.

Another pro, in my opinion (that may not be widely seen as a pro) is that of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The WCTO was founded officially in 1874 but had a larger voice during prohibition. This is a pro because it was one of the first women’s unions that had traction in the United States where women were taking on a role previously unheard of. I am a firm believer in Unions and strong women and I believe that those two things together was a huge step forward in our country. Another con in my opinion is how truly controversial prohibition was.  The country was fairly divided on the issue which in turn separated the country into wets and drys, those against and in favor of the law. This is a definite con because in the words of President Abraham Lincoln (quoting the bible) “A house divided against itself, cannot stand.”

When asked if the government should have passed the Amendment on the basis of it being a moral type of legislation I have conflicting opinions. I believe that the Amendment abided by the standing constitution and was legally sound for the most part when it comes to the right of the Congress to enact it. However, I also believe that the legislatures thought that it would help improve the country but morally I don’t think that it should have passed. Due to the Amendment trying to fix social issues, crime, burdens on the government, corruption and much more I believe that alcohol was more of a scapegoat than the solution. Personally I don’t believe that politicians during the time wanted to look deeper into the situation to truly find the root of the problem and used alcohol as means to try and fix the issues with a band aid approach. I addition to my previous thought I believe it interfered with personal rights of citizens. Unfortunately I believe it was an instance where the government walked on thin ice and got away with it. The 18thAmendment was repealed with the 21st(Amendment) in 1933.

In conclusion, I believe that prohibition was a positive thing in our countries history. I believe this not because of the illegality of alcohol but rather a time our country has learned from. There are things we learned during the time that we can apply now and in the future to help us improve as a nation.

10 thoughts on “Pro’s & Con’s of a Controversy: Prohibition

  1. Great blog! Reading about how society changed after the 18th amendment was put into place really makes me wonder what would happen if we did something like this today. With crime rate dropping and people being more productive in the workforce after some regulation was put on the sale of alcohol in the twenties, what if a law was passed to regulate drugs today. I feel the drug issues in today’s society is very comparable to the issues that revolved around alcohol in the twenties.

    1. I found your comparison of the alcohol issues in the twenties to the drug issues of today very interesting. The drug crisis that the world is facing today is a very delicate issues with people very strongly on two different sides. This was also true for the availability of alcohol in the twenties. While I do believe that drugs and alcohol are extremely different items being brought to the table, a lot can be learned by comparing the two. It allows for an understanding of what the people of the twenties were truly going through and feeling while this was taking place.

  2. Good job on the blog! I too, think that the 18th amendment drastically increased organized crime. Like you said, the 18th amendment might have decreased general crime, but organized crime definitely went up. If the sale of alcohol wasn’t banned, leaders of organized crime syndicates like Al Capone might have never become so powerful. In short, the 18th amendment might have done some good, but it also did some bad as well.

  3. I loved the points you made in your blog, and that you looked at both the pros and cons of each reasoning behind prohibition. I agree completely that it helped general crime, but made crime overall worse, by giving it a reason to organise. I also really like the point you made about alcohol being a scapegoat for social problems of the time. While politicians justified prohibition by associating it with all means of crime, it really was people who were issued. A lot of social change was happening all at once, and many were divided by it, giving root to disagreement and founding the division needed to encourage people to resort to crime. I also agree that prohibition was great in the sense that it was led by a female political organisation, showing that women truly could have a huge amount of power in politics now that they had gained the right to vote. I found your blog very insightful and liked the way you organised it in terms of pros and cons.

    1. I found it interesting that you pointed out how alcohol was a way of dealing with social issues for the people of the twenties. The people of the twenties were definitely facing many social changes that they had not anticipated. Alcohol was a way of numbing the pain, just as many people use alcohol today. In turn, alcohol brought on crime when it was not readily available because people needed something to numb the pain. Alcohol became, in a sense, a medication to ease the way people were dealing with the constant social change taking place around them.

  4. I think the 18th amendment definitely increased organized crime. Many gang leaders seen this
    As an opportunity to make some money. I also did not know the wtco gained such traction in this time period. It feels the same as today when you mention the division on the country. Today it feels like we at times are still divided.

  5. Hey, great blog. It is kind of crazy to think about what life would have been like back then with the 18th amendment in rule. It is even crazier to think about something like that in effect today. There certainly are two sides to this coin. I won’t comment on whether or not I think it was right or wrong, but I do think that we certainly did learn a thing or two from this time period in American history.

  6. I like how you mentioned that maybe the government used the banning of alcohol as a band-aid fix for a much bigger problem or even multiple problems. Placing blame on one particular substance does seem to be an escapegoat for some other underlying issues. You are right using this point in time as a learning experience. We as a people must learn form our mistakes and push forward in a direction that can keep us from making the same mistake twice. I also like the addition of the Abraham Lincoln quote. All these years and it stills reigns loud and true! Great Blog!!

  7. You said that prohibition lowered general crime but increased organized crime as a pro, I would say this is more of a con. Organized groups killed thousands if not tens of thousands of people and made billions off of breaking the law and hurting others. In my opinion the decrease in general crime does not outweigh the harm done by the proceeding increase in organized crime which the prohibition of alcohol brought with it. Many of these criminal organizations wouldn’t have gotten their start if prohibition had never been enacted considering many got their start and made their money by manufacturing and transporting alcohol with a huge markup since it was illegal.

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