Prohibition. A wicked, progressive ‘great experiment,’ began 100 years ago

In our age, the Puritan impulse — let’s discipline humanity into perfection! — is rampant again. It’s now mainstream to propose the outlawing of everything from gambling to tobacco to meat.

Washington Examiner: Exactly 100 years ago, on Jan. 17, 1920, America’s liberal “progressives” imposed the “great experiment” of Prohibition. It was the culmination of the Left’s crusade to reshape human life.

After 13 disastrous years, Prohibition was abandoned. But that wasn’t to be the last experiment. Nowadays, the same arguments and attitudes lie behind attempts to control how we speak, what we write, read, and look at; how we hire; whether we smoke; and what we eat.

Therefore, we need to take Prohibition seriously. It might seem quaint that drinking alcohol was ever criminal — as quaint as trying to banish the wearing of shoes. And of course, the era of Prohibition possesses a certain glamour. When we contemplate the Roaring ’20s, we know “the great experiment” will end and smile at its idiocy.

But it’s worth restating the truth: Prohibition was not just absurd and impractical but wicked.

The so-called temperance movement of the late 19th century was part of a wider tendency to remake humanity. Radical social reformers dreamed of getting rid of personal property, the traditional family, armies, the church, capital, wine, government; and they realized that such revolutionary change implied abolishing traditional notions of freedom. read more

15 Comments on Prohibition. A wicked, progressive ‘great experiment,’ began 100 years ago

  1. Taxation of alcohol, prohibition of alcohol, resumption of taxation of alcohol.

    Seems taxation by the government is the natural, baseline state of ethanol.

    Poor spirit.

  2. I’ll give the temperance people one thing, and one thing only. Unlike today’s progressives, they understood that to grant the govt the authority to outlaw alcohol they had to pass a constitutional amendment.

    I’m very glad it was scrapped.

  3. A pretty good history of Prohibition is “Last Call”, by Daniel Okrent.

    He is, or was, an editor for the NY Times, and manages to keep any liberal bias out of it, until the subject of ending Prohibition comes up. He can’t ignore the facts, which is that substantial opposition came from conservative men. He claims that they opposed it out of the profit motive.

    I believe conservatives saw Prohibition as a prohibition against freedom and independence. Plus, it was making criminals of ordinary citizens by using the power of the state to suppress free people and their human rights. It is clear after just a couple of years that the experiment was doomed to failure.

  4. I would have been philosophically opposed to a Constitutional Amendment for Prohibition on these grounds: the Constitution is tell the government what it can’t do, not the people.

  5. The temperance movement just plan didn’t understand human nature, much like people advocating Socialism.

  6. “A wicked, progressive ‘great experiment,’ began 100 years ago.”

    Yet another wicked, progressive ‘great experiment’ …

    … fixed it

    btw, is there any other kind?

  7. Progressives are a paradox of hypocrisy. They are the first to disclaim God and the last to give up all the sins of human nature. Yet their inner totalitarian always shines through ready to take charge of the deplorable’s.

  8. It’s kind of creepy how they managed to pass a Constitutional amendment on this. It should have been harder. MUCH harder.

  9. When I became crew leader on a hand line fire crew, my Fire Boss requested a rules list for behavior in the bus without the word ‘No’
    ‘Because No is not a word for Americans’
    Thus sayeth Jose Zoylo Tapia
    Best Fire Boss in the known Universe

  10. @Rick,

    She has got a beautiful profile.

    But she’s not some dowdy dame from the 1920’s, for sure. She’s a modern girl.


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