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Prohibition: When Alcohol Was Illegal

The government banned alcohol for 13 years, but it failed to end drunkenness.

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Did you know alcohol was once illegal? The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banned alcohol across the nation in 1920, beginning the time called Prohibition.

The idea of making alcohol illegal in the United States was nothing new in 1920. During the 1800s and early 1900s, many anti-alcohol groups sprang up. Eventually, Congress listened, and alcohol was made illegal.

Prohibition Just Didn’t Work

A lot of people simply ignored the laws. To make matters worse, Prohibition gave rise to illegal, hidden bars called speakeasies, which served alcohol to customers in secret. Bootleggers were people who made and transported alcohol during Prohibition. A lot of this alcohol was made as quickly and cheaply as possible, and thousands of people were poisoned.

The Rise of Organized Crime

Prohibition helped create organized crime. Thousands of gangs sprang up or became more powerful thanks to the money they made selling alcohol. By the 1930s, this had spread everywhere. Rival gangs fought each other – and the police – in the streets.

A Government “Solution” to a Government-Created Problem

The law didn’t work, so it was repealed in 1933 with the 21st Amendment, making the sale of alcohol legal again. Prohibition only lasted 13 years, officially, but in practice it never fully went away.

Ten states still have dry counties, where the sale of alcohol is illegal. Gangs and other organized crime problems never went away. All in all, it was a huge failure that we’re still paying for today.

James is our wordsmith extraordinaire, a legislation hound and lover of all things self-reliant and free. An author of politics and fiction (often one and the same) at and, he homesteads in the Arkansas wilderness.

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