What Pivotal Role Did Prohibition Have in the 1920 Research Paper

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¶ … role did prohibtion have in the 1920's.

Prohibition of spirits in the United States was based on a set of moral principles as well as a series of convictions that lowering or eliminating the use of strong alcohol would reduce criminality and, further more, prostitution. Unfortunately, the effect of prohibition was exactly what it aimed against. This research paper will focus on answering the question if prohibition resulted in more criminality or in its reduction, starting from the hypothesis that it decreased consumption of alcohol but increased the leverage and influence of organized crime, thus creating violence than before it was implemented.

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The Prohibition movement in the United States goes back to the middle of the nineteenth century which asked for making consumption and producing of alcohol illegal, as well as distribution or buying. The beginning of the twentieth century sees the creation of many of what was called dry laws in various states and in 1917 the Congress provided for Wartime Prohibition. Under the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, the Prohibition Movement gained momentum and the National Prohibition came into being in 1920, lasting more than 13 years until December 1933. The period is marked by violence and the growing of a significant black market of alcohol with a major increase in criminal activities and organized crime networks that covered the entire United States. Although "the inability to restrict the illegal trade and the inevitable accompanying corruption eventually led to widespread public disenchantment" (Miron and Zwiebel, 1991, p. 2) the Congress did not take the necessary measures to stop the widespread dangerous creation of alcohol severally lacking man-power in securing border and internal corruption of the system. The original idea did not seem to have in the future such negative effects, so the Congress pushed even more the Prohibition measures increasing funding from 6.3 million dollars in 1921 to 9,2 million in 1925 and the 13,4 million in 1930.

Research Paper on What Pivotal Role Did Prohibition Have in the 1920's Assignment

The main purpose of the supporters of Prohibition and the Congress for that matter was the decrease in criminality resulted from over consumption of alcohol, so the natural conclusion began to be that by eliminating high alcohol products from the market; social and intra-family tensions would lower and dissipate.

The Prohibition movement started on morality basis though, not on the necessity of lowering urban criminality, especially pushed ahead by women. The 1873 Woman's Christian Temperance Union, formed by women with drinking problem husbands, began to promote actively the closing of saloons and bars that not only offered alcohol but also promoted the exploitation of women. Even if the successes of this initiative were lower than expected and focused more on local problems, it created the necessary societal change for the more successful Anti-Saloon League to take place.

The Anti-Saloon League steps to achieving its final goal of liquor consumption and making were closely built with the support of both Democrat and Republican individuals and political figures. They advocated for banning of liquor at local level and then pushed on the basis of successful closing of saloons to the state level. The main rupture in the American nineteenth century society and later on in the twentieth century began to grow shape as the middle class White Protestant communities began to collide with the growing number of poor, lower class immigrant or ethnic/racial communities. The philosophy of saloon had little to do with morality or the lack of it, or even worse, distrust in the values and words of the Church. The saloon, especially in large multicultural cities "provided entertainment, socializing opportunities and a way for the working class to build community" (Peck, 2009, p 10) with local unions and mutual aid societies meeting here to discuss ways to alleviate poverty, housing and working conditions.

The Prohibition supporters and promoters failed to understand that banning successfully something so embedded in American culture was not only difficult but also impossible. Alcohol itself was not the only enemy to fight for the Anti-Saloon League and the rest of the Prohibition promoters. They were fighting with something bigger than that, they were fighting with a social mentality that was related to drinking. The cultural divide between the upper class, and even parts of the middle class, and the lower semi-urbanized combined with immigrants one began to be visible at the end of the nineteenth century. For a large part of Americans, since the early days of the eighteenth century, liquor "was attendant to so many activities of the time that it sometimes seems as if the activities were but an excuse for the booze, a kind of cover story" (Burns, 2004, p 8) This is not to say that a large part of eighteenth and nineteenth century had severe alcoholisms problems, but it is vital for this analysis to understand the cultural and even personal importance of drinking. Taking away alcohol would have meant a severe disruption in the every day life activities of so many Americans, and this is one of the reasons for which the Prohibition had not chance of success since its inception. It was created on the basis of a belief that human mentality and customs can be changed immediately by law in a country that was built on the premises of personal freedom and equality among all.

In order to understand the effects of prohibition and the role it played in the U.S. socio-economic environment in the 1920s and 1930s, an analysis on whether the 18th Amendment reached its targets is very illustrative. The immediate results of the 1920 regulations seemed positive for the U.S. Government at the time. Yet while months passed, the levels of cirrhosis deaths, alcoholism, psychosis, drunkenness arrests and incidents caused by drunk individuals, began to rise dramatically. The highest of them all is alcoholism, as compared to the period before 1920 and, as Miron and Zwiebel's analysis shows, "alcoholism overstates true consumption during Prohibition due to decreased alcohol quality (…) the consumption of wood or denatured alcohol likely produced more alcoholism deaths for given consumption" (Miron and Zwiebel, 1991 p 5). Statistically, in what regards the immediate effects of alcohol, the Prohibition period failed utterly in creating an environment with a zero tolerance for consumption and distribution. It also created serious health problems as a results of the lack of verified qualitative liquor on the market, as low quality alcohol began to circulate and create health problems to a large number of Americans.

The desirable effects of the Prohibition measures can be separated into four areas: cost, trust, morality and law abiding citizens. As Miron and Zwiebel divide them in a late 1980s analysis from the National Bureau of Economic Research, only the first two can be traced as significantly having an effect on the overall consumption. Making a product illegal automatically increases its supply cost as manufacturing and distributing require extra funding for protection and bribery schemes. The second effect, trust, is connected with the consumer's lack of trust in purchasing alcohol that, without a neutral checking might have a poor quality and might have an overrated price. The other two desirable effects that the U.S. Government was aiming for in reducing criminality through elimination of consumption, morality and law abiding citizens proved that the American normal citizens involved in distribution and consumption had little respect for morality or law in general. (Miron and Zwiebel, 1991)

Besides the decrease in criminality activity and decrease in alcohol consumption, as well as far deeper issues of restrictions on individual freedoms for a more moral society, Prohibition was "the rearguard action of a still dominant, overwhelmingly rural, white Anglo-Saxon Protestant establishment" (Behr, 1996, p 3) One of the most significant reasons for the creation of such a ban by what Behr argues to the rural Protestant communities is the massive influx of immigrants that began to populate and even over-populate the urban environment, bringing with them some of the worst habits of European and Asian societies. Looked from a religious-xenophobic point-of-view, Prohibition created even more problems for the creation of better multicultural tools to integrate a poor majority of immigrants. Other points-of-view, although not that influential in the United States in the Prohibition period, are the Marxist analysis and discourse that were becoming a fashion in Europe and Russia. As Behr points out, Marxists view Prohibition as a tools used by Government to deflect attention from the real problems of society which were poverty, housing, exploitation of immigrant and local working class, all in the name of the Industrial Revolution. As the noble goals of the alcohol ban were put on the table, Marxists argued that these were a "plutocratic weapon" to ensure that workers would renounce drinking and work harder. (Behr, 1996) Looking at Prohibition from this point-of-view, the most visible cultural and class shifts took place in New York City. Although other cities were clearly visible in the war with alcohol like Chicago, Detroit or New Orleans, New York was the epicenter of the anti-Prohibition movement. The first breakers of the law were… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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