Remnants of Prohibition, and Other Laws That Don't Work As Advertised


In my utopia, today's Cracked contributors will dominate the nation's leading opinion page while Thomas Friedman labors for a disreputable Mad knockoff. In this world, by contrast, you have to go to to read Robert Evans' excellent listicle (*) "The 6 Most Popular Crime Fighting Tactics (That Don't Work)." An excerpt:

What, me worry?

In the USA, Prohibition ended at the federal level in 1933, but there is nothing stopping individual counties from passing anti-alcohol ordinances. For the people who aren't really down with the whole liquor scene, these alcohol-free dry counties are a little slice of heaven. That is, if they can make it across the street without getting mowed down by rampant drunks.

Take Texas. The state currently has 22 dry counties, which you'd expect to have some of the lowest rates of alcohol-related traffic deaths in the state, what with there being no alcohol available.

Instead, data indicates that these counties have more than three times the rate of fatalities as counties where booze is readily available.

The explanation is simple, when you really think about it. Dry county or not, there are always people who just can't answer no to the question: "Would you like to get wasted?" And if they can't get the sweet stuff from their home county, they'll damn well get it from the neighboring one. People in dry counties don't drink less per se—they just drive farther to get drunk. And then they drive back home, completely sauced, muttering under their breath about stupid laws and stupid sober people upholding stupid dry counties. In that state of mind, it's easy to forget the concept of braking and, for that matter, steering.

(* Yes, "excellent listicle." Don't sneer. Many listicles are excellent. I'll take the average listicle over the average op-ed any day.)

NEXT: A.M. Links: Obama Warns Syria, Fifth Year of Trillion Dollar Deficits, Big Rip Could Come Sooner Than Expected

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  1. Working against human nature is often a losing scenario.

  2. Its worse than just driving further to get your booze. I used to live in a dry county, and when you have to drive 30 – 45 minutes each way to get some beer, you don’t get a sixer, you get a couple of cases.

    And when you have a stockpile of booze, guess what? You drink more, because its there, and you can.

    A dry county doesn’t just fail to reduce drinking, it actually increases drinking.

    1. Agreed. See the town of Whiteclay, NE, which is a few hundred yards away from the dry Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation, and is consequently one of the largest sellers of Budweiser in the United States. I totally disagree with Kristof’s call to boycott Budweiser; I’m not sure why it’s Bud’s problem that the tribe can’t police its members.

      1. Firewater! Next thing you know, the Comancheros will be running rifles to them redskins.

    2. My dad grew up in a dry county. He used to tell me stories about going out to buy moonshine and then drinking it all quickly at the seller’s house because they didn’t want to get caught “carrying” it. Then they would climb into the jalopy and go driving around.

      A dry county mostly means that the drunks on the road are REALLY drunk.

    3. In PA, you cannot buy a six (except from a bar). You have to buy a case. Somehow, this is supposed to reduce drinking.

  3. My annoyance over content-free lists doesn’t extend to Cracked, which is usually entertaining.

    1. Every time I’ve visited a Cracked listicle link, they’ve split up the article into at least two pages, no matter how short the list.

      I hate hate hate that.

  4. THIS is why we must protect from the tyranny of the majority. Local booze!

  5. Prohibition ended at the federal level in 1933, but there is nothing stopping individual counties from passing anti-alcohol ordinances.


    Actually, its true in my state. But, for example, in Indiana, the counties have no option, the state decides all alcohol policies.

    I think more states are like Indiana than Kentucky (in this way).

    1. robc, in the states that allow counties to decide, the decisions can be made at an even finer level.

      For example, I think Louisville is the only jurisdiction where alcohol can be sold on Sundays in Kaintuck. I know in Illinois prohibition of sales can even be decided at the precinct level. So there are hundreds of precinct in Chicago, several of which are “dry”. (No doubt these precincts are also the “food deserts” in Chicago because no grocer is going to bother opening if they can’t sell the highest-margin items.)

      1. In teh tiny little Texas town I used to live in, the front half of the town was dry, the back half was wet. This corresponded almost exactly to the radius around the Baptist church in the front half and the Catholic church in the back. And they finally legalized restaurant/bar service in ’06 while I still lived there.

        1. Oldham County, which is in the Louisville metro area, legalized restaurant service just a few years ago. They have I-71 going thru the county and really, really wanted an Applebees/OCharlies type place to move in.

          They got an Irish Rover instead. They did way better than they expected. (The Rover is an independent Irish pub, run by actual Irish immigrants, in Louisville. They opened a 2nd restaurant in Oldham Co when they passed the law)

          Shelby Co, also in Louisville metro area, is dry, but Shelbyville is wet. Everyone* in the county lives in either Shelbyville or along the border with Louisville, so no one cares that the county is dry.

          *statistically speaking

          1. Well, at least Louisville wasn’t founded so that people could marry their cousins while drinking prune juice!

            1. Turnip juice.

      2. Im well aware. 4 precincts in Louisville are dry.

        And KY also has the precinct level golf course, winery and historic district exception…in an otherwise dry area, the precinct in which a golf course is located can choose to vote to the golf course wet. Ditto for wineries and some weird rules for historic districts.

      3. I think Louisville is the only jurisdiction where alcohol can be sold on Sundays in Kaintuck.

        I believe Lexington has passed it too, but I could be wrong.

        Louisville is the only part of the state that allows 4 AM last call times though, IIRC.

        The license to stay open past 2 AM basically doubles the cost of the standard license though.

        1. Lexington has joined the light. A few years ago. You still can’t buy anything before 1pm for some strange reason.

          1. I grew up in Pulaski County, Kentucky which was, and I believe still is, dry. Nicholasville was a relatively short hop away as was Tennessee. I don’t remember a time when my parent’s house wasn’t fully stocked.

            1. Pulaski County is moist, according to the state.

              The county is dry, but Burnside is limited (restaurant sales). Burnside annexed a huge swath of the coast of Lake Cumberland a few years back in order to get ONE dockside restaurant inside the city. 🙂

              In June, Somerset voted themselves completely wet. Not sure when that goes into effect.

              1. BTW, this is big. With Somerset going wet, liquor sales of some kind or another are legal in the core of every metropolian and micropolitan area in KY.

                Somerset was the last holdout of any size.

    2. In Illinois the laws are not even county by county, they’re township by township. In Jackson County, Makanda township is dry. In Murphysboro township you can buy alcohol in grocery stores, but not on Sunday. In Carbondale, you can buy alcohol on Sunday, but only in liquor stores. I know this because I lived there for 25 years.
      Try explaining this to Europeans (who, in this sense only, are way more reasonable).

    3. Florida allows both cities and counties to pass alcohol laws.

      I don’t know how many dry counties there are in Florida; if there are any they’re likely in the Panhandle which is really part of Alabama.

      The most common rules in Central Florida are cities which limit hours and prohibit Sunday sales and the like.

      Orlando, for example doesn’t allow Sunday sales. But it’s not that long a drive to unincorporated Orange County (sometimes, across the street) where you can buy seven days a week from 9AM til 2AM (the hours are state law, IIRC).

      1. You know, I don’t know of any dry counties here, but you’re right–if there are any, they’re in Northern Florida.

        Never mind, I looked it up–all Panhandle: Lafayette County, Liberty County, Madison County, and Washington County.

        1. That’s funny, I seem to recall buying beer in Chipley, which is in Washington County.

          Maybe it was Bonifay, next door in Holmes County. I remember they had restrictions on hours, and no sales on Sunday.

          I remember feeling that I was in the Bible Belt and everyone was casting disapproving glances at me. I wouldn’t have been there at all except I had access to a pretty nice hunting lease.

          1. My BF’s parents were born and raised in Bonifay, and I spent a month there one weekend. Actually, my BF’s uncle owns a tree farm there, and we spent the whole weekend skeet and target shooting on his uncle’s land. I also spent some time there when his grandmother died, and it’s still very quaint to see small town southern hospitality, where the neighbors drop off pound cakes and deviled eggs and fried chicken to the deceased’s family. On my dad’s side I’m fifth gen native Floridian, but native to St. Pete and we’re Episcopalians to boot. And NO Episcopalians have any objections to drinking–pre-dinner drinks are absolutely de rigeur. Often times the drinks ARE dinner. So my experience with the anti-drinking crowd in Bonifay was an absolute shock, considering 12 years of private Episcopal school had taught me that Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine and that Jesus, being a Jew, had no objections to alcohol. Bonifay is wet, but everything there revolves around the churches. And that means Methodists or Baptists (if you’re white.) My BF’s parents’ good friend opened THE liquor store in Bonifay, and they immediately kicked him out of the church (the Methodist church, which really doesn’t have any official prohibitions against alcohol, unlike the Baptists) I still don’t know how one can get kicked out of a church, unless you’re excommunicated by the Pope. I don’t remember if Chipley is wet, but we only went there cause it’s got a WalMart.

      2. Yeah, I think the 2 am, at least, is state law. On the other hand, South Beach is just getting going then. I’m not sure how they get around it, but they must somehow.

        When I was in high school in the 70s, there was no closing time in Cocoa Beach, thanks to Kennedy Space Center running three shifts. The Cape Canaveral ABC used to have a 7 am happy hour for people getting off third shift. Lots of other bars were open until 4 or 5 am.

        1. Florida has pretty liberal laws, except the cities with no Sunday sales and dry counties. Certainly more liberal than Ontario, where I lived before moving there.

        2. When I lived in NC, the bar down the road from the Kelly tire plant was insanely busy at the end of third shift, which was like 7 am. So at 8 in the morning, the bar was packed.

      3. Escambia County (Pensacola) has no sales before 12 on Sunday. The local navy population finds the rule to be most annoying.

  6. Great snap of Thomas Friedman. His earnest, sincere stupidity is captured perfectly

    1. I was looking for a history book (on tape) for my commute, having just finished Massie’s Catherine the Great. During my search, Friedman kept coming up. I’m not respecting a list that includes him prominently.

      1. I was disapointed in the Catherine book. In the end, she just wasn’t that interesting. I found her childhood and life as a virtual prisoner of Elizabeth and taking the throne to be interesting. But after that I just kept thinking “how many more men can this broad screw”. I was disappointed.

        1. I actually said something to the book on tape about that while driving–“Dude, I don’t care about her boyfriends. More history!”

          The rest of it was interesting, and I didn’t know that much about the inner workings of her reign, so I’m glad I got it. His Peter the Great was much more interesting, but, then again, so was Peter.

          I’m surprised Massie’s never done anything on Catherine’s grandson, Alexander, who was a very interesting figure, too. Freed the serfs, almost went to a constitutional monarchy (having a little more of that Enlightenment thinking that Catherine dabbled in), fought Napoleon, etc.

          1. I think her other grandson Alexander I would be really interesting as well. He fought the Napoleonic wars and died mysteriously in 1825. The rumor was that he faked his death and went to a monastery because he didn’t want to be Tsar anymore.

            IN 2010 a really good book came out called Russia against Napoleon, which told the Napoleonic wars from the Russian perspective. Very good book that puts Alexander II in a very good light.


            1. You mean Alexander I, right? Alexander II was after Nicholas I, if I remember correctly.

              1. No. Alexander I was the eldest son of Paul (Catherine’s son) who took the throne after Paul was murdered in 1801. He was on the throne until 1825. Then his younger brother Nicholas I took over. And he ruled until 1855. His son was Alexander II. And he ruled from 1855 until 1881 and was the one who freed the Serfs. And was the one who was murdered.

                1. You’re right–I’m crediting Alexander I for something he didn’t do. Russian history is confusing to me for some reason.

                  1. Too many Alexanders and Nicholases. It is like French History, too many Louiss and then one really important one named Henri IV.

            2. I liked the author’s introduction where he talks about growing up in the Soviet Union. He was at a museum which had exhibits concerning the Napoleonic Wars with the Communist version of events which for the most part had no bearing on reality.

              He tried to educate a few other museum goers about the lies the Communists had told, and none of the museum goers wanted to listen or believe him. My impression of the museum goers reactions was “The Party can never be wrong!”.

          2. I thought the serfs weren’t freed until 1861, which would be a different Alexander, I believe.

            (Looking it up, Alexander II who emancipated the serfs was born in 1818, just a bit to young to have fought Napoleon.)

      2. Is it true that Catherine the Great died when the horse she was having sex with fell on her?

        1. Absolutely not. And she wasn’t even that promiscuous. She was one of those women who had to have a b/f at all times. As she got older she would pick a piece of eye candy and bang him for a few months, make him rich and move onto the next one.

          1. Believe it or not, I first heard this story from a Russian literature professor at FSU. It sounded so far fetched that I actually believed it for years (you know, so crazy it must be true). Of course the internet did little to dispel the notion.

        2. That was a story made up by her enemies, of which she had a great many.

          Not only was she exceedingly progressive (in the real sense, she corresponded with many enlightenment figures) she was also a foreigner (German). This made her unpopular with the Russian aristocracy, though she was poular among the common people.

          1. She wasn’t that unpopular. If you were unpopular with aristocracy, they just killed you. That is what happened to both her husband and her son as Tsars.

            That story didn’t come from the Russian aristocracy. It came from the European aristocracy. They were the ones who didn’t like her because it was thought she murdered her husband to get the throne, which she didn’t.

            And she talked a good game about being progressive. But she brutally put down the worst peasants’ revolt in Russian history and ended up being very conservative in her old age, especially after the French Revolution put the fear of God into her.

            1. She also carved up Poland in conjunction with Prussia and Austria, to the shock of the rest of Europe

              1. Russia became a pretty scary power during her time, getting a permanent foothold on the Black Sea and pretty much taking on all comers. She helped finish Peter’s work of bringing Russia into Europe.

                1. It was the height of Russian Arms. It was all down hill after the Napoleonic Wars.

              2. She also carved up Poland in conjunction with Prussia and Austria,

                I thought that was pretty much a requirement to be taken seriously as a Russian ruler.

          2. Thanks for the correction, John.

      3. Try A World Undone by G.J. Meyer if you haven’t already read it.

  7. The government’s laws always work as intended.

    They just lie to us about what their intentions are.

    1. I think there’s an RC Law for that.

    2. The intent is to create criminals where none previously existed so as to justify the police state.

      In that respect they work very well.

  8. In college, I worked as a guard in an art museum. My co-worker was a WWII vet and former bronco riding chamption. He divorced his indian wife by taking the truck, a case of beer, and driving back home to Virginia from Nevada.

    He drove for 8 hours straight and stopped to buy more beer and sleep. The hotel manager told him that he was in a dry county. He hopped back in his truck and drove to the next place that sold beer.

    He was a hero to the rest of us security guards.

  9. My grandfather and his cousin were drivers for Pinkie Roden (West Texas bootlegger) back in the 1950s. At that time pretty much all of West Texas was dry. Never stopped people rom drinking but it did make Pinkie one of the richest non-oilmen in Texas.

  10. If we could just be more like the Chinese, these laws would work as advertised.

  11. http://www.realclearpolitics.c…..ranny.html

    Ice T defends gun laws as the last defense against tyranny. I always knew there was something I liked about him.

    1. Oh sure. Copy my links next time.

    2. But then I had to follow the link to this:


      Bloomberg ads cop fellator to his resume:

      “Because when you or I hear shots, we run away. They run towards it.”

  12. DONDEROOOOO promised me that it was Muslims, not Christians, who wanted to ban booze. So there must be some kind of Muslim takeover happening.

    1. Muslims are bigger teetotalers than Christians ever were. Most majority Muslim countries ban alcohol, though not all.

      1. Most majority Muslim countries also have a very lucrative black market for alcohol.

        1. So did we. But that didn’t make prohibition any smarter. And black market or no, there is no danger of those country’s changing their ways anytime soon.

        2. My Mom’s home county is dry.

          The biggest house in the end of the county she grew up in was owned by the guy who was the bootlegger when she was young. He put something like 12 kids thru college — they all became lawyers and doctors and etc.

          Apparently the day the last one graduated, he quit the business.

          The guy who owned the farm next to my grandfather and the general store/gas station in the area took over from him.

          1. Lukenbach Texas was a town created by four local ranchers who wanted to have a store that sold booze on Sundays. So they got together and incorporated a town at the spot where their lands intersected and built their own store on it.

              1. I get all my history from country songs. Are you saying you don’t, you pinko queer?

              2. Yes. And it is a real place too. It is where they originally held the Willie Nelson 4th of July picnics back in the 70s.

                1. Used to ride my motorcycle up there a few times a year. There’s a gift shop/bar and a stage. That’s it.

                  1. That is funny Coeus. I used to do the same when I lived in San Antonio. The stage is pretty nice.

                    That is where the Jerry Jeff Walker live record Viva Terlinqua was taped. AT one time Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother was on about every jukebox in Texas.

    2. A succesful take-over; they ain’t firing Scuds from Mexico into Texas which is Dondero’s other major prediction.

  13. Results don’t matter. It’s how we feel about the law that matters.

  14. Another tidbit from PA: the state rations liquor licenses for bars and restaurants, so some bars would build an attached motel of 10 or so rooms to get a hotel liquor license.

    You’ll see a lot of these in the older towns of the state. But, trust me, you’ll never want to stay over for the night.

  15. The biggest house in the end of the county she grew up in was owned by the guy who was the bootlegger

    When my Dad was at Annapolis he dated a girl from Baltimore who’s dad had owned a speakeasy. She had had a very comfortable life until Prohibition was repealed.

    By the time my Dad met her (1935 or so) they were barely scraping by.

  16. Look, it’s pretty obvious what the solution is, dry counties need to be surrounded by other dry counties.

    And then we’ll lick this drug war when we can get Mexico and Colombia to enforce drug laws as well as the US.

    1. Cumberland Co, KY (the county I mentioned above that my Mom is from) is the only entirely dry county in KY that borders only counties that are entirely dry.

      1. Well, here in Czechia, drinking is not a big deal for a teenager, and there seems to be very little of a binge culture. Not that it doesn’t exist, of course. So there’s certainly something to the allure of forbidden fruit.

  17. lol, dude is blowing a lot of hot air, thats for sure.

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