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Prohibition (18th Amendment)

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/11/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,468 times Debate No: 54423
Debate Rounds (2)
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Prohibition..the most evident portrayal of the failure of government control in American history.

Contrary to popular belief, alcohol consumption after the establishment of the 18th Amendment actually increased (per capita consumption). Prior to 1921, there has been a steady decline in per capita consumption. However, in 1922 (one year after initiation of Prohibition), alcohol consumption per capita increased steadily up until the repeal of Prohibition in 1933.

Additionally, the budget of specific government agencies that were involved in the enforcement of Prohibition skyrocketed, while also suffering the loss of tax revenue due to no regulated alcohol sales. The Coast Guard itself managed to spend an average of $13 million a year.

In addition, rate of deaths due to alcohol poison related incidents increased dramatically. With the consumption of unregulated alcohol (example: moonshine), came the increase of people dying from consumption dangerously high levels of alcohol. In 1920, a mere 1,064 people were reported deceased due to alcohol consumption poisoning, compared to over four thousand recorded a minimal five years later.

Many believed that Prohibition would make it more difficult for consumers to purchase. However, there is evidence conflicting such assumptions. A New Jersey businessman was recorded as saying that there were ten times as many places to buy alcohol between 1921-33 in contrast to before 1921. As we can see today with marijuana- people will find ways to get what they want.

Next, many thought that Prohibition would lower violent crime rates, especially in the cities. As recorded, the homicide rate in a number of large cities averaged an increase from a mere 5.6/100,000 from 1900-1910, in contrast to 10/100,000 during the 20's.

In conclusion, Prohibition effectively did what our 75 year war against drugs has done- nothing. It consists of a decrease in tax revenue, yet includes a dramatic increase in spending.

So, the last question I leave with the reader is:
"Is government control worth the time and money?"


My source has its own sources entitled at the bottom of the document. I assume the sources listed by the author of my secondary source.


I thank my opponent for making this interesting debate, and I hope we each can get learn where the other is coming from.

First, it is important to note what the 18th amendment says.



After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.


The Congress and the several states shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several states, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the states by the Congress. [1]

Second, it is also important to note not only did state prohibit alcohol before the amendment, but afterwards too. "...just before the Volstead Act went into effect nationally, 27 states had enacted full prohibition laws" [2]. Some of those states even passed prohibition by state-wide referendum, such as in Oklahoma in 1907 [4]. The first prohibition law was passed in Tennessee on Jan 26, 1838 [3]. After Prohibition's repeal on December 5th, 1933 many states still had prohibition.
  1. Texas until 1935
  2. North Carolina until 1937
  3. Kansas until 1948
  4. Oklahoma until 1959
  5. Mississippi until 1966
Even today there are still many dry counties. "Nearly half of Mississippi's counties are dry; Kentucky isn't much better for alcohol lovers. Thirty counties are wet and 55 are bone-dry. The other 35 are considered "moist" -- they have some regulations but not complete prohibition. Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Kansas and Virginia also have a large proportion of dry counties" [5].

Source: <a href=; />

Now, to my opponents' claims.

1. Consumption
My opponent claims that consumption increased after the 18th amendment. First, it is important to not that the 18th amendment didn't ban consumption only "the manufacture, sale, or transportation". Second, the truth is "Immediately after the 18th Amendment went into effect there was a dramatic decrease in alcohol consumption that made many advocates hopeful that it would be a success. In the early 20’s the consumption rate was 30% lower than it was before prohibition" [6], and "it took years after repeal before consumption rates reached those of pre-prohibition" [6].

2. Budget
My opponent mentions budget problems. In 1925 the middle of prohibition the federal government spent 3,623.3 million [7]. That means that "big" coast guard budget was 0.36% of the federal budget. An this isn't all prohibition enforcement. Further, during the 20s federal government spending actually decreased [8]. As seen the enforcement budget wasn't that much, which contributed to it's failure. "During the depression the funding was not there and with only 1,500 agents nationwide they could not compete with the tens of thousands of individuals who either wanted to drink or wanted to profit from others drinking" [6]. It was next to impossible to enforce due to lack of funding. Also "if alcohol were prohibited today, would our government be saving money on social, health care, and criminal justice costs? Probably" [20].

3. Alcohol Poisoning
The increase of alcohol poisoning was due to a lack a safe sources for alcohol [2]. This is actually prove how prohibition was at least partially effective since there was no legal place to purchase alcohol. "The poor found that alcohol became more expensive, because of the shortness of legal supply, and therefore working-class consumption declined. The saloons themselves were closed, and thus a source of potential temptation to working-class drinking was removed" [2]. Also, just because people died of illegal substance doesn't mean we should legalize it.

4. Obtainable
There has been many sources showing that consumption declined, so there may have been more place, but they were certainly smaller, more expensive place where most of the masses could not obtain alcohol.

5. Crime
My opponent mentions how crime was a problem. Crime did increase during prohibition, but crime was on the rise before prohibition [9]. Also, "Probably one of the most popular ideas of the time was that the mob held control of the majority of the illegal liquor trafficking. For the most part this is untrue, although in concentrated areas gangsters did run the liquor racket" [6]. Further, this ignores the point that a majority of states had prohibition before the national ban went into effect. It is true that prohibition did add some to the crime rate, but it was little, and many other factors contributed to the rise in crime rates more. Also, The consumption of alcohol can be directly related to violent crimes. "40% of state prisoners convicted of violent crimes were under the influence of alcohol at the time of their offense − the more violent the crime, the greater the likelihood that alcohol was involved" [10]. Concluding, Alcohol causes lots of violent crimes and prohibition would reduce this crime.

There are good reasons to support prohibition too.

6. Health
Alcohol has been linked to a multitude of long term diseases including Anemia, Cancer, Cardiovascular disease, Cirrhosis, Dementia, Depression, Seizures, Gout, High blood pressure, Infectious diseases, Nerve damage, and Pancreatitis. [11] There are also short term health effects too such as Unintentional injuries, Violence, Risky sexual behaviors, Miscarriages, and Alcohol poisoning. [12] There is annually 2.5 Million Alcohol-Related Deaths Worldwide. [13] There is even a website that counts alcohol related deaths. [14] Alcohol is also the most harmful drug. [15] With less health problems, health care cost would go down. During Prohibition there were significant positive effects. "Alcohol use decreased, cirrhosis of the liver was down 66% in men, and public drunkenness was halved." [19] Also increased savings, better provided and happier homes, and responsible citizenship. [20] Concluding, Alcohol should not be legal because of all the terrible health effects.

7. Addiction
"National Institutes of Health report that 15% of the people living in the United States are considered 'problem drinkers.'"[16] Alcohol is a very addictive substance. Addiction can easily ruin people’s lives, including their jobs, their friends, their families, and obviously themselves too. "Approximately 30% of people in the U.S. report experiencing an alcohol disorder at one point in their lifetime." [16] In conclusion, alcohol should not be legal because of the severe addictiveness of it.

8. Drunk Driving
"Over 1.2 million drivers were arrested in 2011 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics" [17] Drunk driving is a terrible occurrence. It doesn't help that children have easy access to alcohol. "According to the 2010 Monitoring the Future Study 89% of 12th graders, 78% of 10th graders, and 59% of 8th graders getting alcohol would be "fairly easy" or "very easy" for them to get alcohol." [18] Victims of drunk driving would have been at an extremely less chance of being a victim if alcohol was illegal because making things illegal decreases access to it.


Debate Round No. 1


First, thanks to my opponent for the acceptance, prompt argument, cleverity, and respect. I look forward to the aftermath, and hope I may adapt and adopt some of your perspectives.

Although my opponent is indeed correct that consumption was not banned by the 18th Amendment, the sole purpose of the bill was to slowly disband people from consuming. The government did not force the sacrifice of already purchased alcohol, as this would have been a violation of the 4th Amendment (unreasonable search and seizure). Doing such a thing as taking away the alcohol would be similar to taking candy from a child.

The 18th Amendment stated:
After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

-By banning manufacturing, you allow now more alcohol to be produced, there weaning people away from the possibility of consumption.
-By banning sale, you illegalize the possibility of sales from any remaining alcohol produced prior.
-By banning transportation, the simple giving, sharing, or any other notion was banned, therefore allowing no possibility of consumption.

Conclusively, you can pick apart the official clause, however, it is obvious that the bill was intended to ban consumption, all while attempting to avoid violating the 4th Amendment.

In refute to my opponents objection pertaining to his/her point on Prohibition-similar laws nationwide. While this is true to a certain degree, lets not forget the differing circumstances. Prior to the 18th Amendment, many solitaire COUNTIES has enacted "dry laws". As we can all tell, there is a significant difference between a country and a whole nation. Additionally, in the situations in which states as a whole voted to enact such laws, this was a states choice. Again, looking back to the Bill of Rights, the 10th Amendment protects powers of the individual states. These states that voted in favor of such laws had their sole right to do so. However, the nation theoretically violated the 10th Amendment by enacting the 18th Amendment. Even to this day, most laws pertaining to alcohol are left to the state, and often to individual counties, as well.

In reference to the decreased consumption per gallon after initiation, this was only partially true. Alcohol consumption did indeed drop tremendously the first year of the law (1921), however, from 1922-, consumption increased dramatically, to levels eventually higher than prior to 1921. (Source: )

4) Although the stats my opponent brings to the table when it comes to the budget, the spending seems minimal. However, this spending by multiple agencies increasing in size, leading to problem we are often faced upon today; government control. The Customs Agency, for instance, increased overall employment by over 120%. The budget of the Coast Guard lept over 500%, and increased employment by over 100%. This is left to your personal views on government involvement. In my opinion: less government, happy me.

5) Alcohol poisoning solely increased during this time due to the lack of regulated and safe sources of alcohol. Regardless of your source, if you want alcohol, you will get it. Why abolish the legality of something, when you can rather regulate its safety, while simultaneously taxing the hell out of it? If the government wants control, it damn well be in order to protect the better good of the people; and deregulating alcohol left thousands dead.

6) The issue of obtainability is unstatistical on both ends. Useless to argue.

7) Although the crime rate prior to alcohol use was increasing, the ironic part was the steady decline after the revocation of the 18th Amendment. Soon after the revocation, crime, especially organized crime, suffered dramatic downfall. (Souce: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970 (Washington:
Government Printing Office, 1975), part 1, p. 414.)

8) In my arguments, I hate to mention personal voice. However, the time seems right. Let me make this clear to the reader and my counterpart: I do not drink, nor have I ever consumed a full alcoholic beverage. I. myself, just advocate for what this country was founded on; freedom, and the pursuit of happiness. Regardless of risks, what right does my neighbor have to tell me what I can drink? If drinking makes me happy, and you take that away from me, that violates the constitution. Additionally, if a group does, as a majority, wish to ban alcohol, let it be done on more minimal, smaller scales. As it mainly is today, let it be a country ruling. The nation is too different throughout to set one rule for everyone.

Lastly, I am beyond against the correlation of church and state. However, as displeasing as it is, we are directly connected to Christianity. The Bible itself mentions alcoholic beverages multiple times, allowing the consumption. Therefore, if we are going to relate to Christianity, it only makes sense to make alcohol legal.

Again, I thank my opponent.
I respect you and your clever perspectives.


I thank my opponent for his interesting response. There are a few issues with his points though.

1. Constitution

Firstly, a constitution can not violate itself. Further, they could have banned possession which would have made enforcement easier since they couldn't dispute when they purchased the alcohol. It would only violate the 4th amendment if the government went door to door confiscating it without warrants. Further, criminalizing consumption would not violate the 4th amendment just like the banning of heroin consumption.

2. Dry Laws
Actually, as stated earlier before the 18th amendment 27/48 states (56%) of states had statewide prohibition. This just shows you can not link such things such as a rise in crime due to the 18th amendment since prohibition was already here, and is still here and there are no claims that these are causing rapid crime. Once again a constitution can not violate itself. The 18th amendment didn't violate the 10th amendment any more than 13th amendment, which abolishes the states ability to have slavery, does.

3. Consumption
That source my opponent provided uses the same information as my opponents first reference to consumption. It is the only source that claims this, most sources say something like "alcohol consumption declined dramatically during Prohibition. Cirrhosis death rates for men were 29.5 per 100,000 in 1911 and 10.7 in 1929. Admissions to state mental hospitals for alcoholic psychosis declined from 10.1 per 100,000 in 1919 to 4.7 in 1928. Arrests for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct declined 50 percent between 1916 and 1922. For the population as a whole, the best estimates are that consumption of alcohol declined by 30 percent to 50 percent" [1].

4. Budget
My opponent brings up budget issues again, but it important to note increases in such agencies like the coast guard were not all to enforce prohibition. It is also strange my opponent complains about increased employment, such employment could have help people in the depression have jobs. My opponent has not proved that prohibition was excessive spending.

5. Alcohol Poisoning
True, it did increase because there was a lack of a legal supply. However, to claim people will get what they want anyway is a self defeating way of thinking. In that case why prohibit any thing such as Murder, we could just sell licences to kill, and regulate the process? People are going to do it anyways. Also, it is important to note my opponents opposition to abortion, which is strange since people are going to do that anyways why not make is safe and legal? Anyways, the reason the government prohibits such things because they have immense social cost which are not covered by excise taxes. Social cost include addiction, health issues, and drunk driving. Further, excise taxes are incredibly poor at raising money because that is not their intent. For example, the excise tax on tobacco, the most revenue generating excise tax, made 17.5 Billion in 2010, and is estimate to decrease every year [2]. This contributed 0.8% of the federal budget that year. This could not even fund the department of Justice.

6. obtainable
Then this should not influence the winner of this debate.

7. Crime
It is true that homicides dropped in the early 30s, but "Organized crime may have become more visible and lurid during Prohibition, but it existed before and after" [1]. Megan Sasinoski of the Carnegie Mellon University explains why homicide rates dropped in the 30s [3]. She list many possible factors including "the government began to provide those who were unemployed with financial relief and new jobs, and the National Recovery Act was enacted to help stimulate the economy. Additionally, the government began to recognize the rights of unions, issue loans to businesses that were struggling, and grant subsidies to farmers, all of which helped to ease tensions that had been rising along with the homicide rate in the decades earlier" [3]. Also immigration could have played a role "First, people began to feel the economic impact of the Great Depression and immigration decreased as a result. Second, there was a drastic change in government enforcement at the time" [3]. Further, "it is important to consider and account for the impact of racially motivated lynching crimes in the American South before and after the Civil War" [3], and such lynchings dramatically decreased during this time also [3]. Sasinoski goes on to state that is probably was a combination of these factors that contributed to the decrease in homicides in that time.

8. Drunk Driving, Addiction, Health Issues
It is strange to justify such things as freedom. Drunk driving isn't a freedom it is crime and menace to society, and such things should be prevented. Your neighbor has the right to tell what you can drink when it interferes with their rights. Further, banning alcohol doesn't violate the constitution or all those counties with dry laws would be illegal, but they are not. Further, the government can restrict "freedoms" in cases where it can hurt society such as having opposition to euthanasia.

9. Religion
Christianity and alcohol is a interesting perspective. It is important to not that the bible condemns drunkenness as a sin in Ephesians 5:18 [4]. Further, religion was one of the driving forces behind prohibition. For example, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Which is "concerned about the destructive power of alcohol and the problems it was causing their families and society" [5].

In conclusion, there are many myths surrounding prohibition, and I hope some were exposed here. There is a compelling case to support prohibition such as drunk driving, health concerns, and addiction.


Debate Round No. 2
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by Guidestone 7 years ago
I would do it if there was more than 3 hours for making the arguments.
No votes have been placed for this debate.

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