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Prohibition: The Noble Experiment

“Prohibition, sometimes referred to as the noble experiment, did not achieve its goals. It did the exact opposite by adding to the problems that it was intended to solve” (Thorton). It is also considered to be the thirteen years that damaged America. On January 16, 1920 one of the most disobeyed laws was put into effect. The 18th amendment, also known as Prohibition, was ineffective and caused more corruption in America with the rise of organized crime and the increase in alcohol consumption. Prohibition had many different purposes; one was to reduce the consumption of alcohol by Americans.

This was going to fail no matter what because if you are told not to do something only going to want to do it more. That is just human nature. It also focused on reducing crime, corruption, poverty, death rates, solve social problems, reduce the tax burden created by prisons and poorhouses, and improve health and hygiene in America (Thorton). Not only did it not accomplish this but it did the exact opposite. And lastly it focused to improve the economy and the quality of life. Theoretically Prohibition was feasible, but in reality it had too many flaws.

For one it was unenforceable. This is defiantly the biggest problem. What good is law if you can not enforce it? Fiorella H. LaGuardia was a prominent New York City politician who served several terms in the House of Representatives. He said, “It is impossible to tell whether Prohibition is a good thing or a bad thing. It has never been enforced in this country. ” Even he was a realist that could see that this experiment was going to fail. Prohibition was not a new concept for Americans in the 1920’s.

In fact, it was part of society since the 1600’s. The feminist movement originated early in the 1800’s. Until the 1870’s, however, feminine involvement in the temperance effort was largely peripheral. The Women’s Crusade of 1873 and the organization of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in 1874 marked the formal entrance of women into the temperance movement (McGrew). The Nation Prohibition Act was formally known as The Volstead Act was set up to provide for the enforcement of war on Prohibition. This law set up the guide lines for Prohibition.

It stated that: “no person shall on or after midnight January 16, 1920, when the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States went into effect, manufacture, sell, barter, transport, import, export, deliver, furnish or possess any intoxicating liquor except as authorized in this Act” (Bowen 154). It also said that beverages over 0. 5% alcohol by volume were banned (except alcohol used for medicinal and sacramental purposes). Besides getting alcohol through prescription people had many ways of obtaining it. One way was to going down to any of the thousands of speakeasies around the country.

Speakeasies were formed in the 1920’s as a means to get around the everyday hassle of law enforcement watching for people to violate the 18th Amendment. For every legitimate saloon that closed as a result of the new law, half a dozen speakeasies were established (Behr 164). These speakeasies were one of the many ways that people during the 1920’s and early 1930’s obtained illegal alcohol. By 1925 there were thought to be 100,000 speakeasies in New York City alone. Patrons often said you could get a glass of liquor at any building on 52nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in New York City.

If you knew where the speakeasies were and if you had the password to get in. Federal agents also reported that this area was on of the wettest’ in the country” (Crime and Punishments166). With all these speakeasies and extensive drinking going on, you might be wondering where all this illegal alcohol was coming from. Well Bootleggers smuggled liquor from oversees and Canada. Most of it was stolen from government warehouses, but they also produced their own. They got it into the country hidden in hip flasks, false books, hollow canes, and anything else they could find to hid it.

Bowen 159). Many bootleggers also had the local police forces bribed but most of them were already corrupt to begin with. “Prohibition destroyed legal jobs, created black-market violence, diverted resources from the enforcements of other laws, and increased prices people had to pay for prohibited goods” (Thorton). But more than just prices rose due to Prohibition. Most of all the sales of medical alcohol, which is 95%, increased 400% between 1923 and 1931 (McGrew 22). Due to the large number of resources to make beer more and more people were drinking more potent drinks.

This, in turn, raised the death rate from alcohol from 1,064 in 1920 to 4,154 in 1925. The effect of Prohibition did not raise everything, it dropped the age of the average male to develop a drinking habit from 22 in 1920 down to almost age 20 in 1927. Also arrests for public drunkenness and disorderly went down, but strangely arrests for drunk driving increased 81% (Behr 195). Throughout all of America these statistics stood true, but the places where most of the action was taking place most was in New York City, and Chicago.

New York was most renown for its speakeasies, and Chicago was legendary for the gangs and gang violence that went on. After more than twelve years of purchases, threats, and elections, organized crime had “in its pocket” the political and governmental power structure of most medium-to-large cities, and several states (McWilliams). After Prohibition, some organized crime bosses made a fortune wielding this power (McWilliams). As good capitalists, they sold police protection, court intervention, and political favors to the highest bidder (McWilliams).

One of the biggest names that we attach with bootlegging and gangs is Al Capone. Al Capone was probably the most powerful and infamous bootlegger. He was notorious for his violent responses to challengers and ties with political officials. Prohibition had the most profitably business of that time and this caused much rival between different gangs. Capone had organized one of the bloodiest and gruesome mob hits in history nicknamed the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. On this morning he had hired five men to go to a warehouse and murder seven of George “Bugs” Moran’s men and break the power of the North Side gang.

This was the act that finally began the decline of Capone’s criminal empire. Even though he had a solid alibi and was in Miami at the time everyone knew he was behind the hit. He had just gone too far and the authorities, and even Capone’s adoring public, were ready to put an end to the bootleg wars (Bowen 175). Even though there was a steady decline in the volume of drinking in the first year, consumption increased after less than a year (Thorton). More Americans turned to hard liquor – it was more concentrated, easier to transport, and a great deal less expensive, therefore Americans became drunker by drinking less.

Prohibition as an experiment of social control was an absolute failure. It is simply just not possible to tell people what they can and can not drink, especially in the privacy of their homes. Reasonable measures were not taken to enforce the laws and so they were practically ignored. Prohibition was probably the worst and most ineffective law the government had ever passed. Not only did it not help, it was damaging to people and society it was meant to help. For those thirteen years it was allowed to damage society.

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