More on America’s Ignoble Experiment

by Don Boudreaux on January 16, 2020

in Crime, History, Nanny State, Seen and Unseen

In my latest column for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review – published on this, the 100th anniversary of the start of nationwide alcohol prohibition in the United States – I lament some additional costs of such an obnoxious and officious policy. A slice:

The gang violence of 1920s’ liquor trafficking was a direct result of Prohibition which encouraged criminals to supply alcohol and gave them incentives to use violence. It’s no accident that Anheuser-Busch, Jack Daniels and other alcohol suppliers today don’t gun down their competitors or threaten violence on their customers.

Another cost of Prohibition is that it made alcoholic beverages more toxic and stronger.

Unlike today, if an American in the 1920s died or fell seriously ill from drinking tainted beer or wine, there was no one to sue. And no rival of suppliers of tainted booze could compete for customers by openly advertising its superior, safe product. Prohibition thus greatly dampened suppliers’ incentives to avoid selling toxic brews.

Relatedly, because the risk of getting caught rises with the volume of illegal booze being trafficked, alcohol sellers during Prohibition concentrated on selling high-proof spirits and steered away from selling low-proof wine and beer.

One final cost of Prohibition warrants mention — namely, its assault on personal freedom. If we truly wish to enjoy the blessings of liberty, we must accord to each peaceful adult the freedom to eat or drink as he or she choose. Each of us, in short, should mind our own business.

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