National Alcohol Prohibition

Wayne Hall’s article on the policy lessons of National Alcohol Prohibition in the United States, 1920–1933 starts off by implying that national prohibition on alcohol was a failure. “National alcohol prohibition in the United States between 1920 and 1933 is believed widely to have been a misguided and failed social experiment that made alcohol problems worse by encouraging drinks to switch to spirits and created a large black market for alcohol supplied by organized crime.” (Hall, 1164). Hall is indicating the fact that most individuals believe that it made everything worse but he then goes on later in the article to contradict himself by saying maybe it was not a complete failure. “It is incorrect to claim that the US experience of National Prohibition indicates that prohibition as a means of regulating alcohol is always doomed to failure.

Subsequent experience shows that partial prohibitions can produce substantial public health benefits at an acceptable social cost, in the absence of substantial enforcement.” (Hall, 1171) Taking both statements into consideration, one has to come to the conclusion that he is not an advocate of either side but just wants to clarify the pros and cons of national alcohol prohibition between 1920-1933 in the United States.

Hall tries to illustrate to the readers the views of both sides as to why the prohibition was not a completely failure and also why it was not a complete success. Hall took note of factors such as health, crime rate, respect for the law, the economy and he explains the adverse effects of these factors and subsequently their connection to national prohibition. Hall argues for the positives of national prohibitions when he states that “some have argued that alcohol prohibition, if considered as a public health policy, reduced alcohol use and harm.” (Hall, 1165) He explained in the article that some good did come out of the national prohibition even if the positive outcomes were not foreseen or intended to take place by the authorities.

Taking the issue of the economy, “Fisher estimated that it added $6 billion to the US economy…” (Hall, 1168) Positive effects of this nature promoted Hall to believe that even though these positives were not planned, the national prohibition was therefore in some shape and form a good thing. National Prohibition (NP) didn’t not bring the people of the United States because each and every state had its own laws and some chose to abide by the NP laws and go dry (not selling alcohol for everyday use) but some states decided to stay ‘wet’ states and this caused confusion in the law enforcement department of national prohibition. “The ‘join enforcement’ provision created major problems.

From the outset, some ‘wet’ states such as New Jersey failed to enforce the law…” (Hall, 1166). Other bad effects of NP were the rise in the black market through criminals and the illegal selling of alcohol to individuals and also brought about the corruption of policemen and its officials. Due to the restriction of alcohol, individuals had to find a new source or/and provider of alcohol.

With Halls conclusion, he rather states the opposite of his thesis having realized himself through the course of writing the article that national prohibition might not have been a complete fail seeing that there was a lot of unexpected good that also came out of it. In this scenario, the overall good outweighs the overall bad effects of national prohibition. Through the article, the takes the reader on a journey by dissecting national alcohol prohibition; what it is, the aims of NP, enforcement, national views and impacts of national prohibition. To Hall, for every positive, there was also a negative. He was not a biased author in that he gave the audience both sides of the pyramid and leaves it up to the audience to decide for themselves if the national prohibition was actually a bad thing or not. He basically played the middle man and gives the audience the liberty and freedom of our minds to wander and make the decision ourselves.

Hall’s arguments in this article persuade me to believe that national prohibition was a good thing. He lends me facts after facts of what good came out of the national prohibition and allows me the consciousness of mind to think that even though there were bad things that came out of prohibition, the good outweighs the bad in this situation. The economical growth due to the prohibition, the reduced crime rate, less alcohol related harm, harm in general, all these are a few examples of the good that came about through national alcohol prohibition. l tend to lean towards the positive aspects, whereas someone else might not see an advantage over the other but bringing all the positive factors together, we are led to believe that the good outweighs the bad.