Pros And Cons Of Prohibition

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The United States has been through many eras of social reform, but none of them are quite like prohibition. In most cases, social reform is directed at a specific group of people. For example, the women’s suffrage movement aimed to reform policies affecting women, whereas the civil rights movement aimed to reform policies affecting African Americans. Prohibition, on the other hand, impacted people of every race, class, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. The question is: was prohibition successful? David E. Kyvig claims that prohibition was a failure because it only reduced alcohol consumption among certain groups of people, whereas J. C. Burnham claims that it was a success because it reduced alcohol-related arrests, injuries, and consumption…show more content…
It makes no particular sense for an amendment to ban the means of acquiring a product, but not the product’s actual consumption. This, in turn, creates confusion and a sort of gray area between legal and illegal. Accordingly, Kyvig notes that doctors and pharmacists were able to legally prescribe alcohol, which was a significant (and frequently exploited) loophole. The malleability of the 18th amendment is a significant part of what made it a failure. This brings to mind the topic of social class. Kyvig brings up the point that a significant amount of the drinking after prohibition laws were passed was done by the upper class. This is probably because the lower classes were no longer able to afford it, which raises the question: would alcohol consumption still have decreased if its price had not been driven up by prohibition laws? It is also worthwhile to note that (because of the law’s malleability and nature’s constant class inequality) it is possible that the upper class were able to get away with breaking the law. Furthermore, laws surrounding prohibition were somewhat difficult to enforce. Many people only drink in their own homes, and it is difficult to monitor what people do in private. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that local law enforcement will implement laws they do not agree with. Even Burnham admits that some “local juries refused to…show more content…
The passing of the 18th amendment resulted in a whole new era of crime. Since there were no legal places to purchase alcohol, bootlegging and speakeasies became much more common. Then, of course, there was violent crime. Alcohol became its own industry for the mafia that made gangsters like Al Capone millionaires and led to over “a thousand gangland murders” (Kyvig 196). There were gangs in major cities all over the country. Some of the mafia’s success can be contributed to the corruption they influenced within the government. Kyvig explains that several people within the prohibition enforcement unit were fired for “bribery, extortion, [and] solicitation” (199). Any law that results in such a spike in crime and corruption should be considered a

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