Sunday, December 7, 2008

The lessons of Prohibition

An interesting article by Radley Balko, writing in Reason Magazine, on the 75th anniversary of the end of Prohibition (via the ratification of the 21st Amendment):
This Friday, Dec. 5, is the 75th anniversary of Repeal Day, the day America repealed its disastrous alcohol prohibition.

Prohibition was the pièce de résistance of the early 20th-century progressives' grand social engineering agenda. It failed, of course. Miserably.

It did reduce overall consumption of alcohol in the U.S., but that reduction came largely among those who consumed alcohol responsibly. The actual harm caused by alcohol abuse was made worse, thanks to the economics of prohibitions. [emphasis added]

Black market alcohol was of dubious origin, unregulated by market forces. The price premium that attaches to banned substances made the alcohol that made it to consumers more potent and more dangerous. And, of course, organized crime rose and flourished thanks to the new market created by the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act. [emphasis added]

So hospitalizations related to alcohol soared. And so did violent crime. Corruption flourished, as law enforcement officials in charge of enforcing prohibition went on the take, from beat cops all the way up to the office of the United States Attorney General. Even the U.S. Senate had a secret, illegal stash of booze for its members and their staffs. [emphasis added]

Note the similarities in the arguments to those of the gun-banners, versus the actual results of banning alcohol:
In 1924, the great social critic H.L. Mencken wrote of prohibition:
Five years of Prohibition have had, at least, this one benign effect: they have completely disposed of all the favourite arguments of the Prohibitionists. None of the great boons and usufructs that were to follow the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment has come to pass. There is not less drunkenness in the Republic, but more. There is not less crime, but more. There is not less insanity, but more. The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased, but diminished.

Looking at places like England, we can see replicated similar effects -- increased violent crime, higher levels of gun crime, less respect for the law among the populace -- of that country's ban on privately owned firearms.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The same could be said to apply to guns as well as the failed Drug War, but most conservatives don't see the correlation. They are in essence the same issue.