Drink up!

June 30, 2008

Indiana was one of the strongest supporters of Prohibition (which ended 75 years ago last week – raise a toast!).  Hoosiers believed it would lower crime, improve health, decrease accidents, lead to prosperity, protect young people and raise public morals. It didn’t quite work out that way:

Instead of reducing crime, it made criminals of ordinary citizens as well as promoted the growth of sometimes-violent organized crime. Instead of increasing health and safety, it led to the widespread consumption of often-toxic moonshine that sometimes caused paralysis, blindness and even death.

Prohibition led to speakeasies and their operation required that law enforcement officials, and sometimes entire law departments, be bribed. Payoffs were simply a cost of doing illegal business.

With the decline in public morality, respect for the law in general decreased. In 1928 the Indiana Bureau of Statistics reported that the murder rate had gone up in the state and it expressed concern over problems caused by Prohibition including “fast living by young people.”

Prohibition fervor was so strong here that the national Prohibition Party was headquarted in Indiana for four decades after repeal. And we’re still feeling the effects of that failed social experiment today:

Indiana remains one of only three states in the country that still prohibits the Sunday sales of beer, wine and spirits. This is despite the fact that Sunday has become the second busiest shopping day of the week.

Many of the things wrong with Prohibition can be said to also be wrong with the government’s designation of some drugs as illegal. I’ve heard the arguments and even made a few of them. But the main reason Prohibition was an unmitigated disaster was that drinking was an integral part of the American social fabric — the government was criminalizing behavior engaged in by the majority of ordinary people. The same isn’t true of taking drugs.

And keeping those blue laws in place makes absolutely no sense at all.

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3 Responses to “Drink up!”

  1. Bob G. Says:

    ((With the decline in public morality, respect for the law in general decreased. In 1928 the Indiana Bureau of Statistics reported that the murder rate had gone up in the state and it expressed concern over problems caused by Prohibition including “fast living by young people.”))

    Hmm…wonder what our “excuse” is THESE days?

    B.G.

  2. Harl Delos Says:

    the government was criminalizing behavior engaged in by the majority of ordinary people. The same isn’t true of taking drugs.

    So what percentage of the Indiana population has tried marijuana?

    In 1991, the CDC reported that 47% of all high school kids had tried marijuana, and 82% had tried alcohol. Across the country, more people are in prison for drug-related crimes than for all other crimes combined.

    We can’t afford to give all these people vacations at government expense; it costs more to keep someone in prison than to send them to Harvard.

    And all this for a “problem” that solves itself? We shouldn’t be thinking of drug use as a crime, but rather as evolution in action.

  3. Steve T. Says:

    “[Advocates] believed it would lower crime, improve health, decrease accidents, lead to prosperity, protect young people and raise public morals. It didn’t quite work out that way”

    Same for the now-officially-discredited liberal drive to achieve governmental disarmament of a free people.

    “drinking was an integral part of the American social fabric — the government was criminalizing … the majority of ordinary people”

    Ditto.

    “And keeping those blue laws in place makes absolutely no sense at all.”

    Exactly. One wonders why Steve Carter didn’t get this bit done along with his other fine initiatives while state Atty. General… Time ran out, or nobody thought of it?


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