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By 1925, half a dozen states, including New York, passed laws banning local police from investigating violations. Prohibition had little support in the cities of the Northeast and Midwest. (Mintz)
The issue most largely debated today regarding prohibition is that the social experiment did not improve conditions in the U.S. For anyone and in fact created massive violence and great deal more illegal activity that had been occurring before the 18th amendment.
Prohibition quickly produced bootleggers, speakeasies, moonshine, bathtub gin, and rum runners smuggling supplies of alcohol across state lines. In 1927, there were an estimated 30,000 illegal speakeasies -- twice the number of legal bars before Prohibition. Many people made beer and wine at home. It was relatively easy finding a doctor to sign a prescription for medicinal whiskey sold at drugstores. In 1919, a year before Prohibition went into effect, Cleveland had 1,200 legal bars. By 1923, the city had an estimated 3,000 illegal speakeasies, along with 10,000 stills. An estimated 30,000 city residents sold liquor during Prohibition, and another 100,000 made home brew or bathtub gin for themselves and friends. Prohibition also fostered corruption and contempt for law and law enforcement among large segments of the population. Harry Daughtery, attorney general under Warren Harding, accepted bribes from bootleggers. George Remus, a Cincinnati bootlegger, had a thousand salesmen on his payroll, many of them police officers. He estimated that half his receipts went as bribes. Al Capone's Chicago organization reportedly took in $60 million in 1927 and had half the city's police on its payroll. (Mintz)
The experiment ended December 5, 1933 when Utah ratified its repeal by becoming the 36th state to register support of the 21st amendment.
By then, even some proponents admitted that the 18th Amendment resulted in "evil consequences." The Rev. Sam Small, an evangelist and temperance advocate, said that Prohibition had created "an orgy of lawlessness and official corruption." John D. Rockefeller, a teetotaler, observed in 1932, "drinking has generally increased, the speakeasy has replaced the saloon; a vast army of lawbreakers has been recruited and financed on a colossal scale." (Mintz)
Prohibition (the 18th amendment) proved a failure in the sense that economic gain was not procured for the government, and societal ills were not curbed, and in fact were bolstered to a large degree. Amendment 21 responded to the failure of the 18th amendment by repealing it and redirecting efforts toward a more controlled distribution and manufacturing alternative, where the alcohol was available for sale but was regulated and formed a basis for revenue for the nation. The rebuttal to the support of amendment 21 claims that the 18th amendment was a success in several areas and should not have been repealed, but does not take into consideration the legitimate ills that were created by this attempt to control fundamental rights. It is a fundamental right to prosper (legitimately) from the sale of goods and services but not a fundamental human right to do so when the way you do it is illegal. Seeking to eliminate the means of production and distribution of alcohol removed legitimate work and revenue opportunities in the public and private sector and ultimately created the opportunity for illegitimate means of production to reign, therefore increasing illegal activity. Specifically the rise of the mafia and other individuals who prospered from the price hikes on alcohol and the extreme opportunity, with risk to profit from it. (Reuter)
If someone were to argue that the 21st amendment (the amendment that repealed prohibition) should never have happened for religious or immigration reasons would be really wrong as the discrimination that occurred toward new immigrants seriously challenges religious principles. (Thornton) the broader concept of immigration discrimination, grounded in the fact that earlier settlers from other regions of the world were discriminatory against Eastern European and Irish immigrants and the sheer number of their arrivals was economically and socially challenging to an already stretched social and economic infrastructure. Some also argued that the manifest destiny of the U.S. is to create a better society, lacking social ills and that such a society can do so by prohibiting the sale and distribution of alcohol negates the fact that some of the perceived social ills had nothing to do with the legitimate exchange of alcohol and more to do with other economic and the social realities they created. Some of these issues are a lack of supportive welfare systems, lack of livable wages and very poor housing and work conditions facing immigrants who had been promised and were seeking far better alternatives upon immigration. These arguments do not include the fact that in general the religions and cultures of the previous immigrants were ultimately opposed to alcohol while those of the new immigrant population were not. This very fact separates the two and allows the previous immigrants to use alcohol as a scapegoat for all social problems, when clearly this was not the reality. (Auerhahn)
Social conditions for new immigrants were regionally varied but in the large part atrocious and those who were more established felt threatened by the overwhelming nature of the visible symptoms of poor wages, squalor in living conditions and limited opportunity for success on the part of new immigrants. None of this was associated with the legitimate distribution and sale of alcohol and its prohibition in fact made things worse as it slowed the development of state supported social services that might have partly addressed the real social issues of the time and slowed legislation that might have helped, housing codes and property standards, hygiene legislation, municipal infrastructure building, minimum wage laws, fundamental child labor laws and legislative challenges to institutionally accepted economic and social discrimination against new immigrants. The problems in society were not seated in alcohol distribution or sales but in broader issues and at the very least alcohol consumption was a symptom rather than a cause of social ills, as people sought a means of escape from appalling conditions and lack of opportunity. (Auerhahn)
The period of prohibition marked further disenfranchisement for the immigrants and poorer classes because not only did they not have the expendable income to get alcohol, because it was very expensive now, they were subject to all the violence that came with the period and their conditions hardly improved. It is also really important to discuss the Mafia in the U.S. As we talk about prohibition because many would argue that the Mafia was not really even a strong player in society until prohibition, because the illegal production, sale and distribution of alcohol fed the Mafia's revenue and created countless opportunities for further development. The Mafia organized and created a substructure that would be hard to counter, after prohibition as prohibition lasted just long enough for the Mafia to gain a foothold in society and then was stopped in just enough time for the Mafia to find other ways to make money and wreak havoc on society. The mafia itself cannot be discussed without at least some history.
Initially, the American Mafia was a prominent supplier of bootlegged liquor. That required good connections with the local police department and political machines. Paying off the local beat cop provided a speakeasy, with its conspicuous and regular flow of traffic, little effective protection. Instead, it was necessary to guard against any cop who might be on that beat; the efficient solution was buying the whole department, if it was for sale. In many cities it was. (Reuter 89)
The mafia became large and respected as a result of prohibition and many would argue that once alcohol was re-legalized in the U.S. The mafia lost its cash cow and began to devolve. The mafia altered its source of income by providing illegal services, money laundering, white collar crime, illegal gambling and other illegal services after the close of the bootlegging trend. Once this occurred the mafia needed to develop extensive roles and front men and this largely began its decline as the trail of activities was far more traceable and most importantly far less profitable. Bootlegging was also relatively well tolerated in many places as a result of the fact that alcohol was a desired commodity among almost every class and providing it was glamorized and supported by a thirsty public. The reason other games were less profitable is because they held less public need and required far more men to support. (Reuter 89) Others argue that the logical progression of the Mafia into the illegal drug trade was as a result of the repeal of prohibition and made societies issues regarding the consumption of drugs and alcohol far worse and the crimes that surround it far more violent. (Behr 29, 165-170)
The Mafia and its legacy provide a great deal of interest for the media, as the legacy of the Mafia is often a popular movie plot. The Mafia was a huge player in the increase in violence and in adopting alcohol trafficking as a profitable and in some…[continue]
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