Monday, April 7, 2008

Repeal: rubbing it in

Realizing that yes, I'm talking about Repeal, the anniversary of which doesn't happen until December 5, I came across this quote (in the Wikipedia Prohibition article) from formerly ardent Prohibitionist John D. Rockefeller (yeah, that Rockefeller) on the occasion of Repeal, in which he admits the failure of Prohibition, and it was just too good to waste...because it nails the problems that Prohibition brought...and prohibitions always bring:
When Prohibition was introduced, I hoped that it would be widely supported by public opinion and the day would soon come when the evil effects of alcohol would be recognized. I have slowly and reluctantly come to believe that this has not been the result. Instead, drinking has generally increased; the speakeasy has replaced the saloon; a vast army of lawbreakers has appeared; many of our best citizens have openly ignored Prohibition; respect for the law has been greatly lessened; and crime has increased to a level never seen before.

John's actually wrong: contrary to general belief, there are no numbers to support the notion that drinking increased during Prohibition. Talking about drinking increased, wanting to be drinking probably increased, but there were enough people who did abide by the law -- and enough strangulation of source -- that drinking either dropped or stayed level. The rest of it, though, is dead-on. Lessons to be learned.

2 comments:

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

Lew, can you give me any authoritative cites for "drinking didn't increase during Prohibition"? I'm dealing with a couple "blowhards" that insist drinking increased during Prohibition and that "half the bars in NYC closed after Repeal"! I countered with your words, and they said "Oh, yeah, that's what they said, but we all know the truth!" Shall I just submit this to Snopes?

Lew Bryson said...

Damn, Sandy, I responded to this in the other post. Must be late. Long story short: we don't have solid numbers, but extrapolation from a variety of things like cirrhosis mortality shows a steep decline in consumption in the early 1920s, followed by a climb as the decade passed, but consumption in 1933 was still not it was in 1920. Besides, where are their sources?