The argument over prohibition was based on determining when personal decisions that some might find unsavory actually begin to infringe on others’ rights. The rule of law cannot be held captive to ideological tendencies and should focus on minimizing social damage. It is difficult to argue that Prohibition accomplished this goal.
The Temperance Movement
Support for prohibiting alcohol in America began during the early 19th century as the Temperance Movement momentum. Various social groups began attributing alcohol as a major cause of poverty, crime, and violence in society. This strong political lobby helped enact the 18th Amendment in 1919.
The Prohibition Years
The “noble experiment,” or the Prohibition Years took place between 1920 to 1933. While alcohol was illegal, it was widely availably at speakeasies and various underground drinking establishments. However, the illicit nature of alcohol made its price sky-rocket. Aggregate spending on alcohol actually increased during Prohibition, as did purchases of other drugs.
The Volstad Act
Congress passed the Volstead Act in 1919. It provided the legislation to enforce the 18th Amendment. The act also included an interesting loophole that allowed the head of any American household to produce 200 gallons of wine a year for personal consumption.
The 18th Amendment
- Section 1: After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to its jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.
- Section 2: The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
- Section 3: This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of submission hereof to the States by Congress.
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