Prohibition

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On the 18th of December 1917, Congress sent to the states the 18th Amendment, which one-year after ratification on the 16th of January 1818 banned the manufacture, sale or transport of intoxicating liquors. In 1919 the Volstead Act defined as "intoxicating" all beverages containing more than 0.5 percent alcohol, which then became illegal once the 18th Amendment went into effect in 1920. Prohibition of alcohol in America between 1920 and 1933 was undertaken to reduce crime and corruption, solve social problems, reduce the tax burden created by prisons and improve health in America. The benefits of Prohibition depended on the amount of alcohol consumed being reduced. At the beginning of prohibition alcohol consumption fell but then it began to increase again. Many ordinary people who were not that interested in alcohol before Prohibition now saw alcohol as glamorous and dangerous. Crime increased and now became organized. The courts and prisons were stretched to the limit, and many public officials were corrupt. There were no marked improvements in productivity or absenteeism in the country and the absence of tax on alcohol due to Prohibition greatly increased government spending. Many drinkers turned to dangerous drugs, marijuana, cocaine, opium and other medicines in the absence of alcohol. The average amount of annual income spent on alcohol before Prohibition had been steadily falling before Prohibition. During Prohibition the average annual amount spent actually began to rise. Alcohol was being illegally produced and distributed throughout Prohibition by the bootleggers despite more resources to enforce the act. The fact that alcohol consumption did decrease for awhile at the beginning of Prohibition didn't make it a success. Illegal acts of producing, distributing and consuming alcohol were going on in a country where prohibition was supposed to reduce crime and corruption but this was obviously not the case. Before Prohibition Americans had purchased weaker alcohol such as beer and wine but during Prohibition most of the illegal production and consumption was of spirits and fortified wine. Beer, a once inexpensive beverage became more expensive than spirits mainly because of its bulk and it may have disappeared altogether had it not been for the home made beer being produced. Prohibition made it more difficult for the underground to supply weaker more bulky products such as beer and so they concentrated on the stronger compact products like whiskey. The largest cost of selling an illegal product is avoiding detection. Therefore the price of whisky rose more slowly than that of beer.

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