Реферат: The Largest Drinking Game In History Essay

The Largest Drinking Game In History Essay, Research Paper

“Prohibition did not achieve its goals. Instead, it added to the problems it

was intended to solve” (Thorton, 15). 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, overlooking alcohol used for medicinal and

sacramental purposes. This act also set up guidelines for enforcement

(Bowen, 154). Prohibition was meant to reduce the consumption of alcohol,

seen by some as the devil’s 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”

(Thorton, 1). This, however, was of no benefit. 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


“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. However, 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 (Bowen, 159). 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

(Bowen, 160). As good as the ideal sounded, “…prohibition was far easier to

proclaim than to enforce” (Wenburn, 234). With only 1,550 federal agents

and over 18,700 miles of (Bowen, 166) “vast and virtually unpoliceable

coastline” (Wenburn, 234), “it was clearly impossible to prevent immense

quantities of liquor from entering the country” (Behr, 162). 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 (Wenburn,

234). Many bootleggers secured their business by bribing the authorities,

namely federal agents and persons of high political status (Bowen, 160). John

Hancock, one of the many curropt political figures, used to be a smuggler

himself. “No one who is intellectually honest will deny that there has not yet

been effective nationwide enforcement” (Behr, 161).

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 nine 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” (Thorton, 10).

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” (Thorton, 13). 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 (Bowen, 175).

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 O’Banions (Behr, 192). 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 Valentine’s Day, 1929. Because of business differences, Capone

had his henchman, “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn plot the murder of the

O’Banions, 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 (Bowen, 175). The organized crime alone that prohibition created

is enough to say that it was a failure, as well as damaging to the people and

society it was supposed to help.

“Seldom has law been more flagrantly violated. Not only did Americans

continue to manufacture, barter, and possess alcohol; they drank more of it”

(Bowen, 154). 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 so

Americans began to drink less of it. Instead, they began to drink more hard

liquor, which was more concentrated and easier to transport and therefore 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 confiscated booze were analyzed in New York, of that

ninety- eight percent contained poisons. Deaths from poisoned liquor rose from

1,064 in 1920 to 4,154 in 1925.

Although one would think that prohibition would enhance the difficulty

obtaining alcohol, liquor was actually very easy to acquire. The bootlegging

business was so enormous that customers could easily obtain alcohol by

simply walking down almost any street. Replacing saloons, which were all

shut down at the start of prohibition, were illegal speak-easies. These

businesses, hidden in basements, office buildings, and anywhere that could

be found, admitted only those with membership cards, and had the most

modern alarm systems to avoid being shut down. “There were twice as many

speak-easies in Rochester, New York, as saloons closed by Prohibition”

(Thorton, 6). Bootleggers, having very profitable businesses (one bootlegger

was worth more than five million dollars), either illegally imported liquor,

stole it from government warehouses, or made their own, making it readily

available to customers (Bowen 170). Many home products were sold to

those customers who wanted small quantities of alcohol. Vine-Glo, a type of

grape juice, turned into wine (15 percent alcohol) after sixty days of

fermentation. Wort, or near beer, was legally produced because it had less

than 0.5 percent alcohol. When added to yeast, this product quickly turned

into beer. Alcohol used for medicinal purposes, prescribed by a doctor, was

also technically legal. There were restrictions, such as only one pint was

allowed per person in a ten day period, but these rules were blatantly ignored

(Bowen, 164). The sales of medicinal alcohol, which was 95 percent pure

alcohol, increased 400 percent between 1923 and 1931. Another factor that

proves the increase of alcohol consumption is the increase in deaths and

drunkenness. The drop in alcohol related deaths before prohibition quickly

rose during prohibition. Arrests for drunkenness and disorderly conduct

increased 41 percent, while arrests for drunk driving increased 81 percent

during prohibition (Thorton, 7). How was president Harding so blind to have

not seen these problems arising in front of him?

“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” (McWilliams). 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 carelessly 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.

1. Behr, Edward. Prohibition: Thirteen Years That Changed America. New

York: Arcade Publishing, 1996.

2. Bowen, Ezra, ed. This Fabulous Century. 6 vols. New York: Time Life

Books, 1969.

3. LaGuardia, Fiorella H. “American Prohibition in the 1920s.” 1926.

Online. Netscape. 23 April 1998.

4. McWilliams, Peter. “Prohibition: A Lesson in the Futility (and Danger) of

Prohibiting.” Online. Netscape. 23 April 1998.

5. Thorton, Mark. “Policy Analysis: Alcohol Prohibition Was a Failure.”

July 17, 1991. Online. Netscape. 23 April 1998.

6. Wenburn, Neil. The USA: A Chronicle of Pictures. New York:

Smithmark Publishers Inc., 1991.

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