Term Paper: Alcohol How Effective

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[. . .] He suggested that laws controlling drinking are self-defeating if their objective is to instill responsible drinking. For one thing, he said that underage drinking has, in fact, gone up since these laws were introduced and enforced (Watulak). Making it more difficult for those below 21 to acquire alcoholic drinks instead encourages binge drinking. In Europe, drinks are mere part of other activities. But in the United States, the law against them because it makes drinking "an event in and of itself."

It was, moreover, emphasized that the very fear of getting caught drove these under-aged people to take alcohol in distant places where the laws against it are not enforced or are not too strict. These are places where the threat of injury is also higher. And because those are distant places, the youngsters must drive farther and take more risk while pretending not to have drunk. And the alcohol law also deters free communication within the family, which is forced into merely stating that it is illegal for their children under 21 to drink, instead of intelligently opening the subject with these children.

The alcohol law not only proves to have become a disastrous failure, but also interferes with family life by encouraging disrespect for the rule of law in general. An 18-year-old bartender cannot develop respect for the lawmakers if he or she cannot take his own product. Neither can a 20-year-old who shares his or her 21-year-old brother or sister's beer (Watulak). Crossing the limits of the law makes it easier to break it and commit greater crimes. If a young man or woman violates the law every Saturday night, how can he or she easily justify the avoidance of other wrong actions merely on legal grounds? This age of prohibition that puts up an "absurd" and "unenforceable" law that prohibits young people from drinking only induces infraction of that law. What is worse, it paints the majority of Americans today as technically criminals (Watulak).

This law, furthermore, transgresses the American principle that every man shall be entitled to equality before the law and to be judged on individual merits, not by group terminologies or limitations. It underscores a strong message that discrimination is a good thing, and this goes against the very principle upon which America was founded. It is a presumption that young people cannot drink responsibly.

A newspaper reader sent in his comments along similar lines (Abbe 2002), stressing that children and other young people should be adequately informed by their school that alcohol is not good for the body. He maintained that airlines should be stopped from serving alcohol, the military basis should be restrained from condoning it, and sports programs should stop endorsing it. In his opinion, anyone who has ever been drunk knows that liquor does not make anyone healthier, more able and happier. Whether a social, economic, clinical or moral question, alcohol should be avoided and everyone will be better off without it, more peaceful, more intellect and happier (Abbe).

The national prohibition of alcohol - the so-called "noble experiment" -- from 1920 to 1933 was undertaken to reduce crime and corruption, solve society's problems, minimize taxes burdening prisons and poor houses, and improve the overall health of Americans (Thornton 1991). But the consequences of this experiment deliver the clear message of its failure on all grounds.

While the Prohibition managed to reduce the consumption of alcohol, it strongly increased afterwards. It became more pernicious and dangers and crime increased and became "organized." It led the courts and prison systems to stretch to breaking point and corruption among public officials to further spread. It has failed to prove that it discouraged and reduced absenteeism. All it managed to do was decrease government revenue and increased government spending (Thornton), and succeeded only in driving youngsters to drugs, such as opium, marijuana, cocaine and other harmful substances. And because economists and social scientists supported the stand of prohibitionists, their case became seven much stronger.

Prohibitionists contend that alcohol control will benefit the drinker and society by reducing alcohol intake. but, first, the claimed decrease was not that significant. It was found that sold alcohol fell 20% in prewar years 1911-14 and 1927-30, but prohibition was unable to decimate it. Second, consumption even went up after dropping for a while. There may have been a decline since 1910 up to the depression of 1921, but it lifted again in 1922 (Thornton), even outdoing pre-prohibition levels. Alcoholic drinks continued to be illicitly manufactured and distributed despite vigorous action against them.

Third, those resources intended for the enforcement of prohibition actually increased alongside consumption, but the strongest prohibition did not stop consumption. The Bureau of Prohibition increased its budget from $4.4 to $13.4 in the 20s and the Coast Guard spent $13 million yearly in addition to other expenses of state and local governments. And fourth, even a decrease in quantity consumption did not make prohibition a success. Lessening consumption did not necessarily make society better off. The overall social consequences of prohibition must be considered along with reduced alcohol use.

One critical consequence has been called the "Iron Law of Prohibition," which states that the more intense the law enforced, the stronger the prohibited object becomes. The more it becomes stronger because it induces the infusion of adulterated substances. It will also cease to be produced and taken under normal market conditions. This Las, therefore, undermines the intention of prohibition and reduces or outweighs the benefits of decreased consumption.

Prohibiting alcohol only led to more drinking and intemperance by increasing the availability of alcohol (Thornton). It was observed that there were 10 times more places to drink in during the prohibition period than before it. Prohibitionists lost control over these locations, whereas before, they used local ordinances, taxes, licensing laws and regulations to prevent or discourage the purchase or sale of alcoholic drinks in the city, near churches and schools on Sundays and other special days. Prohibited, moreover, induced people to turn to more acceptable or "legitimate" alcohol, like patent medicines, which contained high alcohol concentrations, medicinal alcohol and sacramental alcohol.

Despite inducements, people did not switch their spending from liquor to dairy products, appliances, life insurance, more savings and education. While expenses for alcohol remained, additional money was also poured on these suggested substitutes. And prohibition simply shifted people to the use of narcotics and tobacco, potentially more dangerous and more addictive than alcohol.

Neither did prohibition improve health and prolong life. Cirrhosis, for example, was a risk, especially to women who had more than four drinks a day. But deaths due to cirrhosis and alcoholism account for only a small percentage (1.5%) of deaths yearly. There are many who develop cirrhosis who do not drink, and records, like those of May Clinic in Minnesota, show that very many hard drinkers do not develop cirrhosis (Thorton).

There is hardly any evidence of health benefits from Prohibition. What has been long established, instead, are the harmlessness and health benefits from the consumption of moderate alcohol. As far back as in 1927, several studies backed this position up. And psychologists found nothing to suggest any scientifically sound evidence to demonstrate deleterious effects from the temperate intake of alcohol by normal adult men (Thorton). Quite the contrary, there have been observations of the beneficial effect to the heart and cardiovascular system by moderate drinking, to the point that the American Heart Association has ruled that modest consumption has established those beneficial effects.

What Reverend Billy Sunday declared at the start of the prohibition was disproved because it never became real. Those early harbingers blamed alcohol for most of society's ills from disease to broken homes. They thought that abstinence would reduce the burden of taxes and crimes. The gradual decline of serious crimes in the 19th and early 20th centuries was, instead, offset by the Prohibition Movement. Homicide rose in big cities from 5.6 per 100,000 population in the first decade to 8.4 in the second decade when state laws began prohibiting alcohol. Homicide continued to increase to 10 per 100,000 population in the 20s, which represented a large 78% increase over that of the pre-Prohibition period.

With these statistics and findings, the prohibition against alcohol has proved to be ineffective and, as a matter of fact, has failed.


1. Abbe, Winfield. Toughening Liquor Laws Will Do Little to Sober Our Drunk Culture.

Athens Banner Herald, February 2002. (accessed 25:03:03). http://www.*****/stories/022202/let_letter4.shtml

2. Alcoholics Anonymous. Alcohol. (accessed 25:03:03). http://soc.qc.edu/aa/aager.html

3. Davis, George. Why Crime? Action Sunshine Coast Crime Prevention Program. Crime Prevention through Community Building, 2000. (accessed 25:03:03). http://www.suncoastcentral.com/crimeprevention

4. Kelley, Doris. Understanding the Nature of Alcohol. Kelley Training Systems, Inc.

November 2001. (accessed 25a:03:03). http://www.nonAlcoholic.org

5. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol. Society as a Whole: Who Bears the Costs of Alcohol and Drugs, 2000 (accessed 25:03:03). http://www.nida.nih.gov/EconomicCosts/chapter1.html

6. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Minimum Drinking Age Laws. Sanction issues, 2000. http://www.madd.org/stats/0%2C1056%2C4565%2C00.html


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