“…it should not be used as a pain reliever.” [Bill Childs]
— Bill Childs (@billchilds) December 25, 2015
Julia Vitullo-Martin in the New York Post and Joseph Bottum in the Free Beacon review Lisa McGirr’s new book “The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State.” “Is there another American story, another account of a major American era, that has been so completely hijacked and turned against its actual history?” writes Bottum. “The truth is that Prohibition, in its essence, was a deeply progressive movement.”
In the drive for alcohol prohibition in the United States, as in many other paternalistic crusades to this day, a major theme was to demonize business; that somehow helped in shaking the sense that the main point of banning something was to restrict the freedom of the customer. Memes absent, opinion cartoons were the most persuasive tool available. “In the late 19th century, the cartoonist Frank Beard (not to be confused with ZZ Top’s ironically clean-shaven drummer) was among the most influential of those illustrators. He was a committed ‘Dry,’ whose images of seedy tavern owners, corrupt officials, and neglected children gave the Prohibition movement a moral force and an instant visual power.” [Joanna Scutts, Tales of the Cocktail]
Meanwhile, yesterday was Repeal Day, celebrated each year as the anniversary of the nation’s rejection of the Great Experiment. As David Boaz recalls, Cato has done two discussions commemorating the event, including one with me last year. Here is the other, from 2008:
…and Arizona responds by stiffening regulation instead. [Coyote]
Very few countries have a national age as high as 21, argues Jeffrey Tucker at Newsweek (originally FEE), and women of college age may be more vulnerable if the only drinking venues available are dorms and fraternities. R.J. Lehmann of the R Street Institute says that even if considerations such as individual liberty make a cut in the age advisable, we should go into the process with eyes wide open about the safety impacts, not all of which will be positive. Earlier here.
[Charles Murray, author of the newly published By the People: Rebuilding Liberty without Permission] is quick to add that he is perfectly fine with a wide range of sensible regulations, and that only a narrow subset of regulations ought to be disobeyed, offering this rule of thumb: if the matter in question were to become a news story in the mass media, the vast majority of Americans would side with the rule-breaker. He offered the example of a bartender with whom he corresponded––she was fined $3,000 for failing to card a customer, and while he granted the legitimacy of requiring alcohol sellers to check the ages of customers, he felt it was unfair to fine the bartender in this particular situation as the customer was her father.
“Iowa Supreme Court Says Porch Drinking Is Not a Crime” [Jacob Sullum]
Which won’t, of course, be the last step as prohibitionists work out the implications of what they call a “tobacco-free” America. But it does at least raise a slogan-atic question: Old enough to fight, old enough to vote, why not old enough to drink and smoke too? [Debra Saunders, San Francisco Chronicle, who also reminds us that for all the nostalgic talk of Reagan and individual liberty, Reagan was the one who signed the bill (passed by a GOP Senate) arm-twisting states into putting the drinking age up to 21]