The cause and effects of Prohibition

The Noble Experiment lasted from 1920 to 1933. By all accounts, it failed utterly. Its proponents believed Prohibition would stamp out crime. During the first ten years, the murder rate increased 78 percent nationwide. Proponents believed abstinence would promote greater morality. Al Capone pulled in $60 million in untaxed income annually while honest workers were lucky to earn more than $1,000 a year. What America learned during 14 years of forced abstinence is human beings absolutely despise absolutes and will do everything in their power to circumvent them.

Yet, the Noble Experiment lives on

There are more than 200 counties in the U.S. that are completely dry and more that are partially dry. The dry counties are primarily in the Bible Belt, that hotbed of evangelical Protestantism in the south-central and southeastern U.S. It is not an exaggeration to describe this part of U.S. as God’s country. Of the ten most religious states, only Utah is north and west of Texas.

Today’s Bible Belt Christians owe their views on alcohol to the tenets put forth by the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). This organization was the impetus behind Prohibition. Founded in 1874, the WCTU had noble aims. In addition to trying to keep their husbands sober, WCTU members campaigned for suffrage, education, prison reform and more humane labor laws. But it missed the mark with Prohibition.

Can’t versus don’t want

Prohibition failed, but dry counties persist for the same reason: desire. The WCTU and evangelicals believed they could legislate sin out of existence. Or, as Abraham Lincoln put it, “Prohibition goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation and makes crimes out of things that are not crimes.”

It escaped the evangelicals’ notice that people enjoy sin. Shortly after the 18th Amendment was enacted, people built home stills out of parts from the local hardware store and from plans printed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. No doubt, temperance leaders were gratified by the increase in church attendance until they realized people were flocking to communion service for the wine. One of the greatest unintended consequences of Prohibition was it gave birth to organized crime. But Capone and other bootleggers only flourished because citizens wanted what the government outlawed.

Bible Belt Christians choose not to drink because abstinence accords with their faith. Dry counties exist because of the will of the people. Prohibition failed because of the will of the people.

Alcohol is not a problem until we make it one. If your problems with alcohol or any substance have resulted in legal problems, Sovereign Health’s Court Services can help. Contact our 24/7 helpline to find out what we can do for you.

About the author:

Darren Fraser is a content writer for Sovereign Health Group. He worked two and half years as reporter and researcher for The Yomiuri Shimbun until they realized he did not read, speak or write Japanese and fired him. Undeterred, he channels his love of research into unearthing stories that provide hope to those dealing with addiction and mental illness. Darren loves the Montreal Canadiens hockey club and horror films and would prefer to enjoy these from the comforts of his family’s farm in Quebec. For more information about this media, contact the author at

February 23, 2016

Leave a reply