If ever there was a single policy that represented everything wrong with government, it was Prohibition. The Noble Experiment, in which booze was banned in America for 13 years, was a testbed for practically every awful domestic policy: restrictions on what individuals can consume and put in their bodies, demands that businesses large and small cease or alter their operations, an overbearing police state, and even tax policy. A decade-plus of alcohol restrictions also made drinks and drink culture a lot worse.
Prohibition was enacted under the premise that government knows best—and that it should enforce that knowledge at the point of a gun. The result was one of the most socially and economically corrosive policies in American history.
More than 100 years after the start of Prohibition, we still celebrate its end every December 5, with Repeal Day.
There's a reason for that: The end of terrible government policy is always cause for cheer.
That's what Reason works for all year round. And that's why you should support us this Repeal Day.
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In 2022, we no longer have alcohol Prohibition. But we do have the eternal and unwinnable war on drugs, which looks an awful lot like Prohibition but for a different set of substances: There's the Government Knows Best mentality, the moralist's zeal that anything fun or pleasurable must be stopped, the regulatory overbearance—and behind it all, the stochastically violent police state that enforces the country's drug laws. Tragically, infuriatingly, and predictably, there's a body count too.
The war on drugs reaches into so many facets of American life, from tax policy to health care to criminal justice. Prohibition isn't really over. It just goes by a different name.
Today's prohibitionists are always looking to extend their reach, from sure-to-fail crackdowns on vaping, electronic cigarettes, and flavored smokes to proposals of new rules and restrictions on alcohol itself.
There are even links between Prohibition and pandemic policy. While COVID-19 raged, some distillers switched from making booze to making hand sanitizer, which in the early days of the pandemic was in short supply. In response, the Food and Drug Administration imposed a huge, unexpected fee on those distilleries. The decision was eventually reversed after coverage at Reason.
The links between Prohibition and the pandemic go even further. Prohibition was a radical social experiment, in which thousands of hubs of local social activity were suddenly upended. Yes, I'm talking about bars. Before Prohibition, bars were central to social and political life in many American cities. They were where people met to talk, make friends, share information, find work—and, yes, have a drink. And then, almost overnight, they were shut down, massively disrupting informal social networks and reducing innovation in the process.
Does that sound familiar? During the pandemic, forced closures and capacity limits shut down or severely restricted not only bars but schools, churches, professional gatherings, sports leagues, movie theaters, and just about every other form of in-person social activity. We're still tallying the cost, but it's already clear that the toll was enormous, especially on children.
So this Repeal Day, raise a glass and donate to Reason to keep today's prohibitionists at bay. Take advantage of that incredible $25,000 match!
Reason's fight against Prohibition never ends—and your support makes it possible.
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