The 1920-33 National Prohibition of alcohol, also referred to as the “noble experiment,” was established to reduce corruption and crime. It was focused on lowering the tax burden and addressing social problems created by poorhouses and prisons, as well as enhancing the hygiene and health of Americans. Prohibition influenced a significant decline in alcohol consumption in the early stages, but later an increase was realized. It became dangerous to consume alcohol, and many challenges emerged, including corruption by the public officials, an increase in crime rates, and stretching of the prison and courts as the number of offenders skyrocketed (Thornton, 2014). This paper explores the impact of prohibition on alcohol and drug use.
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The government violated fundamental personal autonomy and privacy rights when enforcing the prohibition law. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) opposed the law suggesting that no one should be punished for engaging in activities that do not cause harm to others regardless of whether they harm themselves or not (Domingo Schievenini, 2020). The 1921 depression recorded the lowest annual per capita consumption after a steady decline since 1910. However, the consumed quantity started rising in 1922 following the expansion of illicit distribution and production (Thornton, 2014). Although the alcohol manufacturing industry was banned, new entrepreneurs emerged and improved techniques to boost output and make the drug available and accessible to many people.
Enforcement resources increased at a slower rate than the consumption since more people started accessing the drink. The annual budget was increased from $4.4 to 13.4 million in the 1920s to enhance the enforcement. The cost of prohibition for the Coast Guard surpassed $13 million every year (Thornton, 2014). The state and local governments spend heavily in the attempt to prohibit the consumption of alcohol but little or no success was realized.
In conclusion, prohibition was meant to reduce the consumption of alcohol by stopping manufacturing and charging offenders. However, it failed to achieve the objective and did not improve the virtue and health of Americans. The law added more problems to the issues it was meant to address. It made it difficult for people to access quality and standardized drinks, encouraging them to take risky beverages. The courts and prisons were overwhelmed by the high number of offenders linked to the consumption and sale of alcohol.
Domingo Schievenini, J. (2020). A Small Distinction with a Big Difference: Prohibiting “Drugs” but Not Alcohol, from the Conquest to Constitutional Law. The Social History of Alcohol and Drugs, 34(1), 15-47. Web.
Thornton, M. (2014). Economics of prohibition. Ludwig von Mises Institute.