prohibition

Prohibition did not achieve its goals. Instead, it added to the problems it was
intended to solve , which is actually true because since alcohol was seen as the devils
advocate , prohibition came along to try to put an end to all the crime , poverty and the
rest of the problems of America but instead made them worse by the creation of
organized crime like organized gangs who competed amongst each other to sell illegal
liquor and the development of stronger proof liquor and other new kinds of liquor too .


On Midnight of January 16, 1920, one of the personal habits and customs of most
Americans suddenly came to a halt. The Eighteenth Amendment was put into effect and
all importing, exporting, transporting, selling, and manufacturing of intoxicating liquor
was put to an end. Shortly following the enactment of the Eighteenth Amendment, the
National Prohibition Act, or the Volstead Act, as it was called because of its author,
Andrew J. Volstead, was put into effect. This determined intoxicating liquor as anything
having an alcoholic content of anything more than 0.5 percent, omitting alcohol used for
medicinal and sacramental purposes. This act also set up guidelines for enforcement .
Prohibition was meant to reduce the consumption of alcohol, seen by some as the devils
advocate, and thereby reduce crime, poverty, death rates, and improve the economy and
the quality of life. National prohibition of alcohol — the noble experiment — was
undertaken to reduce crime and corruption, solve social problems, reduce the tax burden
created by prisons and poorhouses, and improve health and hygiene in America . This,
however, was undoubtedly to no avail. The Prohibition amendment of the 1920s was
ineffective because it was unenforceable, it caused the explosive growth of crime, and it
increased the amount of alcohol consumption.

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It is impossible to tell whether prohibition is a good thing or a bad thing. It has
never been enforced in this country (LaGuardia). After the Volstead Act was put into
place to determine specific laws and methods of enforcement, the Federal Prohibition
Bureau was formulated in order to see that the Volstead Act was enforced. Nevertheless,
these laws were flagrantly violated by bootleggers and commoners alike. Bootleggers
smuggled liquor from oversees and Canada, stole it from government warehouses, and
produced their own. Many people hid their liquor in hip flasks, false books, hollow canes,
and anything else they could find . There were also illegal speak-easies which replaced
saloons after the start of prohibition. By 1925, there were over 100,000 speak-easies in
New York City alone . As good as the ideal sounded , …prohibition was far easier to
proclaim than to enforce . With only 1,550 federal agents and over 18,700 miles of
vast and virtually unpoliceable coastline , it was clearly impossible to prevent
immense quantities of liquor from entering the country . Barely five percent of
smuggled liquor was hindered from coming into the country in the 1920s. Furthermore,
the illegal liquor business fell under the control of organized gangs, which overpowered
most of the authorities . Many bootleggers secured their business by bribing the
authorities, namely federal agents and persons of high political status . No one who is
intellectually honest will deny that there has not yet been effective nationwide
enforcement .
As a result of the lack of enforcement of the Prohibition Act and the creation of an
illegal industry an increase in crime transpired. The Prohibitionists hoped that the
Volstead Act would decrease drunkenness in America and thereby decrease the crime
rate, especially in large cities. Although towards the beginning of Prohibition this purpose
seemed to be fulfilled, the crime rate soon skyrocketed to nearly twice that of the pre-
prohibition period. In large cities the homicide went from 5.6 (per 100,000 population) in
the pre-prohibition period, to nearly 10 (per 100,000 population) during prohibition,
nearly a 78 percent increase. Serious crimes, such as homicides, assault, and battery,
increased nearly 13 percent, while other crimes involving victims increased 9 percent.
Many supporters of prohibition argued that the crime rate decreased. This is true if one is
examining only minor crimes, such as swearing, mischief, and vagrancy, which did in
fact decrease due to prohibition. The major crimes, however, such as homicides, and
burglaries, increased 24 percent between 1920 and 1921. In addition, the number of
federal convicts over the course of the prohibition period increased 561 percent. The
crime rate increased because prohibition destroyed legal jobs, created black-market
violence, diverted resources from enforcement of other laws, and increased prices people
had to pay for prohibited goods .
The contributing factor to the sudden increase of felonies was the organization of
crime, especially in large cities. Because liquor was no longer legally available, the
public turned to gangsters who readily took on the bootlegging industry and supplied
them with liquor. On account of the industry being so profitable, more gangsters became
involved in the money-making business. Crime became so organized because criminal
groups organize around the steady source of income provided by laws against victimless
crimes such as consuming alcohol . As a result of the money involved in
the bootlegging industry, there was much rival between gangs. The profit motive caused
over four hundred gang related murders a year in Chicago alone .
Incidentally, large cities were the main location for organized gangs. Although
there were over a half dozen powerful gangs in New York, Chicago was the capital of
racketeers, including Johnny Torrio, Bugs Moran, the Gennas, and the OBanions .
The most powerful and infamous bootlegger however, was Al Capone, operating out of
Chicago. One of the most gruesome and remembered gangster shoot-outs of all time
occurred on Valentines Day, 1929. Because of business differences, Capone had his
henchman, Machine Gun Jack McGurn plot the murder of the OBanions, led by Bugs
Moran. McGurn staged a delivery of alcohol to Moran at a warehouse and had his gang
members impersonate police officers and pretend to raid the transaction. With a sweep of
machine gun fire, McGurn killed all that were inside. Capone had a solid alibi, being in
Miami at the time, and no convictions were ever made. This event is an example of how
prohibition fueled gang warfare and increased the crime rate in America .
Seldom has law been more flagrantly violated. Not only did Americans continue
to manufacture, barter, and possess alcohol; they drank more of it . The Americans that
supported the law of prohibition argued that if drinking was not allowed, then Americans
would drink less. Although the consumption of alcohol fell immediately after the
beginning of prohibition, there was a subsequent increase after less than a year .
After the start of prohibition, because manufacturing and importing alcohol were illegal,
people needed to find ways to avoid being caught. Because beer had to be transported in
large quantities, which became difficult, the price of beer went up and thus Americans
began to drink less of it. Instead, they began to drink more hard liquor, which was more
concentrated and easier to transport and thus less expensive. Because of prohibition,
Americans began to drink more potent drinks and so became more drunk by drinking
less. Another downfall of prohibition was that the illegally made products had no
standards. Deaths from poisoned liquor rose from 1,064 in 1920 to 4,154 in 1925.

The results of the experiment prohibition are clear: …organized crime grew into
an empire; …disrespect for the law grew; and the per capita consumption of the
prohibited substance — alcohol — increased dramatically . It is obvious that this noble
experiment was not so noble but rather a miserable failure on all accounts. Reasonable
measures were not taken to enforce the laws and so they were practically ignored. People
flagrantly violated the law, drinking more of the substance that was originally prohibited.
The problems prohibition intended to solve, such as crime, grew worse and they never
returned to their pre-prohibition levels. Not only was prohibition ineffective, it was also
damaging to the people and society it was meant to help. Prohibition should not have
gone on for the thirteen years it was allowed to damage society.