The Failure of ProhibitionCould you imagine what government officials were feeling when the amendment they fought so hard to enact resulted in the absolute, opposite outcome? The process for a proposed amendment to become a part of the constitution is quite tedious. The amendment must either be proposed by the Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures. Even then, a proposed amendment only becomes a part of the constitution when it is ratified by three-fourths of the States. (archives.gov) From 1920 to 1933, Prohibition banned the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol as imposed by the 18th Amendment.
Prohibition was supported even ratified by three-fourths of the states; nonetheless, the results of this ban clearly illustrate that Prohibition was a colossal failure on all counts. Despite being approved by the people, Prohibition failed because of the rise in illegal activity, lack of enforcement, the timing of the Great Depression, and humans’ natural inclination to resist authority. The nation-wide prohibition of alcohol was established to lower crime rates and corruption, reduce tax burdens, solve social problems, and improve the overall health for Americans. (Mark Thornton) Instead, Prohibition actually opened the gateway for organized crime involving the smuggling and bootlegging of alcohol into the country. (mtholtoke.com) Prohibition provided members of little league street gangs with a tremendous opportunity to quench the country’s escalating hunger for alcohol. In Janet Lisle’s, Black Duck, she conveyed Prohibition as a law that “pitted a poorly funded assortment of policing agencies against a black market driven equally by the country’s mounting thirst for liquor and the enormous profits up for grabs to those who could supply it.” ( 251) The vast demand for and simultaneous illegalization of alcohol opened up a new unauthorized market for gangsters to conquer and monopolize.
(umich.edu) Alcohol producers would sell alcohol to anyone and everyone who desired it and was prepared to pay. Speakeasies, underground clubs that purchased and sold illegal alcohol to patrons, arose as a place to sell the illegal mass-produced alcohol. The upswing of illegal activity due to the massive want and subsequential illegalization of alcohol was pivotal in the defeat of Prohibition.It is naive to believe that a law would prosper without any sort of enforcement.
Prohibition was left to be administered by the Bureau of Prohibition. In 1920, there were only 1,500 Prohibition agents in charge of patrolling thousands of miles of borders to stop smuggling which was a very unfeasible task. They were also in charge of locating and shutting down the countless speakeasies that were rapidly popping up around the country. To worsen the problem, those who worked to enforce Prohibition received little reinforcement from the federal government. The government agencies contributed little cooperation and inadequate funding. Most field enforcement agents were poorly paid and unqualified. (osu.
edu) Additionally, agents were easy targets to be bribed by gangsters because of their meager salary. Indisputably, the lack of enforcement do to poorly equipped and supported Prohibition agents had a major impact to the downfall of Prohibition.The Great Depression was a central aspect to the repeal of Prohibition.
Before Prohibition, the federal government relied heavily on taxes on alcohol. (Bishop-Henchman) When the Great Depression hit, the amount of money the government earned from income tax plummeted significantly. There was question about why the government was foregoing all of the feasible tax revenue and jobs from alcohol sales and productions.
Prohibition was repealed in order to reinstate economic balance after this deficiency. With the repeal of Prohibition, alcohol was able to be taxed which improved our country’s economic situation. The timing of the Great Depression resulted in the failure of Prohibition because of the need for income tax on alcohol. Romans 13: 1-2 says that “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.
So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.” (New Living Translation) God establishes authority; therefore, we should submit to who God has instituted over us. Why is this always so hard? Galatians 5: 16-17 provides the answer: “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires.” (New Living Translation) These verses clearly state that our sinful nature leads us into evil. Instinctively, because of our sinful nature we rebel against authority.
The truth from this passage is evident through the failure of Prohibition. The intent for this amendment was to ban the drinking of alcohol. In reality, telling our country that they couldn’t drink roused our country to drink even more. Galatians 5: 19-20 states that “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” (New Living Translation) This verse provides evidence reasoning that our sinful nature leads us into sins such as drunkenness. During the Prohibition movement, the human sinful nature led many to drunkeness. To conclude, the bible states that we should submit to our governing authorities, yet it was hard for people to submit to the law of Prohibition because of our habitual sinful nature.
There is no doubt that Prohibition failed to institute what it was created to do. Instead of lowering crime, organized crime skyrocketed. Instead of fostering temperance, more people ended up drinking which gave Prohibition agents a run for their money. Instead of reducing tax burdens, Prohibition deprived financial opportunity which eventually resulted in its repeal.
In conclusion, Prohibition was a monstrous flop due to the rise of organized crime, lack of enforcement, the timing of the Great Depression and humanity’s tendency to resist authority.