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More moderate Prohibition

Ricardolindo

Well-known member
Location
Portugal
Suppose Prohibition in the US had only banned hard liquor, allowing most beers and wines? Would things have been better than in our timeline? Could this version of Prohibition last until the present day?
 
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Polyphemus

Active member
Pronouns
they/ them
A lot of the more lurid violence and organized crime was based around hard liquor- Caribbean rum and Canadian whiskey were the most profitable products for bootleggers due to high demand and relative ease of transport. A lot of the more sophisticated operations (such as those run by Capone, Trafficante, Remus, etc) brewed their own beer, so in this version they're not having to pay that overhead as well.

It might soften the blow somewhat, but ultimately the crime is going to follow the demand and I feel the gangsters would keep operating as before.
 

Nyvis

Token Marxist
Location
Paris
Pronouns
She/Her
There would be some crime, but with most people being able to just drink beer or wine, they'd find a lot less clients. And it would definitely not accrue the unpopularity it had OTL. In fact that's what the average prohibition supporter outside of a few thinking heads wanted.

So yes, I think it could endure even if it would have to handle a few smugglers.
 

napoleon IV

Khanstitutional Amendment
Location
Washington, Douglass Commonwealth
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he/him
Isn't there a bit of a catch 22 situation in terms of a long term semi prohibition as there is in all compromises like this. A wet government would reverse it and a dry government would expand it. You need neither to happen.
It's also worth noting that Prohibition came about because of a constitutional amendment, and the American Constitution is difficult to amend. You need 2/3rds of both the House and Senate to vote for the amendment and 3/4ths of the states to ratify it. Given that the temperance movement had enough political power to get an amendment passed there's no reason for them to settle for half measures.
 

Ricardolindo

Well-known member
Location
Portugal
Isn't there a bit of a catch 22 situation in terms of a long term semi prohibition as there is in all compromises like this. A wet government would reverse it and a dry government would expand it. You need neither to happen.
It's also worth noting that Prohibition came about because of a constitutional amendment, and the American Constitution is difficult to amend. You need 2/3rds of both the House and Senate to vote for the amendment and 3/4ths of the states to ratify it. Given that the temperance movement had enough political power to get an amendment passed there's no reason for them to settle for half measures.
But the 18th Amendment did not specify which alcoholic drinks would be banned from being sold. It was the Volstead Act that did so. Also, a poll at the time showed a plurality of people supported allowing the sale of beer and wine while banning that of hard liquor.
 
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napoleon IV

Khanstitutional Amendment
Location
Washington, Douglass Commonwealth
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But the 22nd Amendment did not specify which alcoholic drinks would be banned from being sold. It was the Volstead Act that did so. Also, a poll at the time showed a plurality of people supported allowing the sale of beer and wine while banning that of hard liquor.
Right, but the fact that the temperance movement was able to pass an amendment shows their political power. This political power was further shown when the the House and Senate overrode a Presidential veto of the Volstead Act. Basically the Prohibitionists have no reason to compromise because they were able to get everything they wanted.
 

Ricardolindo

Well-known member
Location
Portugal
Right, but the fact that the temperance movement was able to pass an amendment shows their political power. This political power was further shown when the the House and Senate overrode a Presidential veto of the Volstead Act. Basically the Prohibitionists have no reason to compromise because they were able to get everything they wanted.
@Nyvis said that only a few in the Temperance Movement wanted to ban wine and beer. Couldn't we find a way to sideline them?
 

Ricardolindo

Well-known member
Location
Portugal
I would put a major health warning on any 'poll' from as far back as the prohibition era.
I know the problems with such polls, as they were before the era of scientific polling. I'll also admit that it was a Literary Digest poll and I know that their 1936 election poll was laughably wrong, but it's worth noting that most of their polls before that election were accurate. Also, a reason for their error in 1936 was that they polled the middle class more than they did the working class. In contrast, the fact that many working class people liked beer may indicate that support for the allowing its sale was even higher than the poll indicated.
 
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Venocara

Britain expects that every man will do his duty...
Location
My house, in the middle of the street
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He/him
Isn't there a bit of a catch 22 situation in terms of a long term semi prohibition as there is in all compromises like this. A wet government would reverse it and a dry government would expand it. You need neither to happen.
Do you think that if Prohibiting only spirits worked for say twenty years it would make full Prohibition more likely to succeed?
 

Nyvis

Token Marxist
Location
Paris
Pronouns
She/Her
Do you think that if Prohibiting only spirits worked for say twenty years it would make full Prohibition more likely to succeed?
I think less honestly? It'd feel like a settled issue. Unless it's working terribly, wets wouldn't burn themselves trying to reverse it, but the momentum behind prohibition candidates would have dried up too (heh). The leadership of the prohibition movement wouldn't think of it as enough, but the popular support who brought them to success would.
 

SenatorChickpea

The Most Kiwi Aussie of them all
Patreon supporter
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There's still the problem of the fact that so long as the rest of the world doesn't ban spirits, smuggling is going to be extremely lucrative for organised crime.

This is especially a problem because the upper classes didn't violate Prohibition for beer, or even so much wine- they did it for spirits. This the great age of the cocktail! Smuggling whiskey in across the Canadian prairie or via St Pierre et Miquelon, or running rum across the Caribbean is going to be extremely good business. That in turn will- as per our timeline- incentivize any entrepreneurial American to start a still.

What are you going to do, raid your congressman's campaign party to see if they and all their donors are only drinking iced tea?
 

TheIO

Orangutan who understands Trotskyism
Patreon supporter
Wasn't part of the reason for the spirits focus the fact that, since it was all prohibited anyway, if you're smuggling you'll want to maximise the amount of alcohol you're carrying? If you can get your beers and wines legally you're probably not gonna be as fussed about the spirits.
 

Nyvis

Token Marxist
Location
Paris
Pronouns
She/Her
There's still the problem of the fact that so long as the rest of the world doesn't ban spirits, smuggling is going to be extremely lucrative for organised crime.

This is especially a problem because the upper classes didn't violate Prohibition for beer, or even so much wine- they did it for spirits. This the great age of the cocktail! Smuggling whiskey in across the Canadian prairie or via St Pierre et Miquelon, or running rum across the Caribbean is going to be extremely good business. That in turn will- as per our timeline- incentivize any entrepreneurial American to start a still.

What are you going to do, raid your congressman's campaign party to see if they and all their donors are only drinking iced tea?
The upside is that if it's just for the ruling class' consumption, you don't need a war on the crime it generates, you just politely ignore it, which reduces the level of escalation drastically.

Wasn't part of the reason for the spirits focus the fact that, since it was all prohibited anyway, if you're smuggling you'll want to maximise the amount of alcohol you're carrying? If you can get your beers and wines legally you're probably not gonna be as fussed about the spirits.
Yep, definitely part of it, especially when smuggling for lower class consumption.
 

Gary Oswald

Old and Foolish now
Sea Lion Press staff
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The upside is that if it's just for the ruling class' consumption, you don't need a war on the crime it generates, you just politely ignore it, which reduces the level of escalation drastically.
Reduces the escalation, sure, but also risks a Kray like situation wherein the gangs are left to rule a neighbourhood because they're useful for the elites and a blind eye is turned to all the bodies.
 

Nyvis

Token Marxist
Location
Paris
Pronouns
She/Her
Reduces the escalation, sure, but also risks a Kray like situation wherein the gangs are left to rule a neighbourhood because they're useful for the elites and a blind eye is turned to all the bodies.
Smaller and narrower but more establishment-accepted organized crime? Yeah that sounds likely. I could even see the elites drawing on those connections when they need muscle down the line.
 

Death's Companion

General Ugg Apologist.
I'm not sure how interested prohibitionists were in compromising on an issue they saw as enforcing Christian virtues, reducing poverty and in the case of women not getting beaten to death.

I think there would need to be a real reason for them to try a different tac. Especially since OTL Prohibition succeeded in reducing alcohol consumption. It's not Prohibitionists fault that law enforcement and the various layers of local government were deeply vulnerable to corruption. I don't think they ever imagined that they would stop all consumption of alcohol just the lion's share.
 

Nyvis

Token Marxist
Location
Paris
Pronouns
She/Her
Yeah you're right, the main drivers of the movement were hellbent on this. I guess the most likely way would be compromise to pass it with some politicians on the fence on the issue but willing to consider the moderate version?
 
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