When the states ratified the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919, the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages was outlawed. Protestant leaders and some politicians celebrated. People thought that the law would make workers more productive and would help families. Fourteen years later the failed law was repealed.
Advantages to Prohibition
There were some social benefits to the law. Alcohol consumption went down to a third of what it was before World War I. There were fewer instances of alcoholism and alcohol-related diseases. More families were able to save money, but no one knows if that was because they bought less alcohol or because the economy was strong.
Disadvantages to Prohibition
The government did not budget enough money to enforce the law, and people still found ways to abuse alcohol. Alcohol was allowed for medical reasons, and people were allowed to make small amounts in their homes. Illegal breweries sprung up, and many people began to drink illegally. Speakeasies, or secret bars, were found in every city. Alcoholic drinks got stronger and people began to drink as much as possible as quickly as possible, to avoid getting caught. None of the illegal bootleg alcohol was regulated by the government and it was sometimes poisonous, causing blindness, nerve damage, or even death.
The group that profited the most from the illegal market was organized crime. City crime bosses sold their products to people and even frightened others into purchasing from them. Organized criminals fought against each other. They made businessmen buy protection. Even the police took money from organized criminals like the famous gangster Al Capone.
The 18th Amendment was unusual because it restricted rights instead of granting them. The economy was the reason this amendment failed. It was too expensive to enforce the law. At the height of the Great Depression, the 21st Amendment was ratified to repeal Prohibition.
Source: The Fight Against “Demon Rum”
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