History of Alcohol Prohibition

"By all estimates, the Eighteenth Amendment was a costly blunder. Between 1920 and 1930, the federal government spent an average of twenty-one million dollars enforcing the Volstead Act.12 [the National Prohibition Act - enabling legislation for the 18th Amendment] During the same period, the United States lost an estimated $1.25 billion in potential tax revenues annually.13 In spite of the resources consumed by Alcohol Prohibition, it affected only one segment of the nation. National Prohibition cut in half the consumption of spirits by the poor and working classes, but the “consumption of alcoholic beverages by the business, professional and salaried class [was] fully as great . . . as it was prior to prohibition.”14 While National Prohibition kept the poor dry, it made local organized crime groups wealthy enough to extend their control over entire cities.15 This success further reflected mainstream America’s implicit rejection of temperance morality. As Al Capone himself so pointedly remarked:

"I make my money by supplying a public demand. If I break the law, my customers, who number hundreds of the best people in Chicago, are as guilty as I am. The only difference between us is that I sell and they buy. Everybody calls me a racketeer. I call myself a business man. When I sell liquor, it’s bootlegging. When my patrons serve it on a silver tray on Lake Shore Drive, it’s hospitality."

Source: 

Whitebread, Charles H., "Us" and "Them" and the Nature of Moral Regulation," Southern California Law Review (Los Angeles, CA: University of Southern California Gould School of Law, 2000) Vol 74, No. 2, p. 364.
http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~usclre...

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