The Real Lessons of Prohibition


In October, 1919, a heavily “progressive” Congress passed the Volstead Act enforcing the Eighteenth Amendment, prohibiting, for almost all purposes, the production, sale, and distribution of alcoholic beverages. There are two things everybody has learned from Prohibition. First, it is wrong to try to legislate morality. Second, you cannot do it, for Prohibition failed. But neither of these things is true, and the real lessons of Prohibition go unheeded.

First, law is nothing if not the codification of morality. All laws bear some relation, however distant, to a moral evaluation of good and bad. We cannot escape making moral distinctions. One man’s theft is another man’s redistribution of income. One man’s defense of family honor is another man’s murder. Even people who reduce law to utilitarian calculations cannot evade this truth. They may say, “It is useful to refrain from stealing, because then everyone’s goods will be secure,” appealing to self-interest. But why should security be prized higher than the thrill of danger? And how can mere usefulness bind my conscience? A man may fight to the death for justice, and to hell with utility.

Second, if Prohibition was intended to curtail hard drinking, it did work. It’s always easier to look at something that happened than to imagine what would have happened but didn’t. Most people obeyed the law. Of course there were speakeasies and bootleggers. The Kennedy family made their fortune on illegal whiskey. But there wasn’t a speakeasy on every street or a still in every backyard. Actuarial tables show that, shortly after Prohibition began, deaths from cirrhosis of the liver dropped considerably, and continued to drop through the twenties, leveling off by the time Prohibition was repealed in 1933. After all, Prohibition did enjoy some wide support. Billy Sunday, baseball player and itinerant preacher, campaigned for it. Even Irish Catholics were not uniformly in opposition. I recall a photograph of a parade held in my coal-mining town in 1918, to celebrate the armistice. Prominent were the Knights of Father Mathew, an Irish temperance society.

So, then, what does Prohibition teach us?

That amendment inserted into the Constitution a law that neither protected fundamental rights nor adjusted the mechanics of governance. It was a radical break from tradition. It is crucial to understand this. It took a juridical break from tradition to obliterate the customs, the lived traditions, of the American people and their forebears.

Granted, Prohibition addressed problems that certainly needed solving. Prohibition was sold, in large part, as a measure to protect women and children from alcoholic husbands and fathers. An evil-tempered workingman, coming home drunk after a day underground with a pickax or on the railroad with a sledgehammer, might beat his wife and children, or he might already have drunk half his money away.

But the avenue chosen was too problematic. It was an attempt to call on the national government, that lumbering giant, as Big Daddy to keep little daddy in his place. It was a national “answer” for a local problem, even a domestic problem, as if one were to ask the United Nations to impose a curfew on one’s teenager. That was a first in American history. Indeed, the people who campaigned for Prohibition knew it was so, else they would not have taken the extraordinary trouble to pass a constitutional amendment. Prohibition was repealed, but the precedent was not. Now we expect the national government to look to local problems, even domestic problems. No one blinks when that same government decides what goes on in your child’s classroom and what kind of Christmas display you can have in your borough building. Prohibition set the stage for national scrutiny of the folkways of everyday life.

Statists will appeal to the “general welfare” clause in the Constitution, but the context there is federalist: “general, in relation to the states.” A railroad from New York to California falls under the heading of general welfare, since it involves many states directly and all the states indirectly. But now, “general” means “diffuse,” and “welfare” means “welfare as defined by somebody fretting in a household,” or, “welfare as defined by your social and intellectual keepers.” The Welfare State justifies itself by filling the role abandoned by bad fathers, and then ensures that there will be as many bad fathers as possible, weakening the authority of all responsible parents in the process. It requires irony beyond my reserve—and I think my well is far from dry—to do justice to the harm caused to families with dependent children by Aid to Families with Dependent Children.

The need to enforce Prohibition gave rise to two things, both bad. One was a vast network of organized crime, because, although most people obeyed the law, many did not. The other was a vast network of organized police forces to fight the crime. Both have long survived the repeal of Prohibition. All organizations are, in one respect, like natural organisms. Their prime directive is to survive. Here the crime fighters had a big advantage over the criminals. Crime families reproduce; but bureaucracies metastasize. Each new crime family is a rival to the others, but each new federal agency is a tentacle and a feeder of the others. During Prohibition, Al Capone was a match for Eliot Ness, in power and in numbers. Now, a John Gotti is but a flea on the elephant’s hide. The average person suffers far greater encroachment upon his liberty, and far greater extortion of his earnings, from the elephant than from the flea.

So, Prohibition was a bad law because it was just what one of its supporters, Herbert Hoover, said it was: “A noble experiment.” It parted from American tradition. It nullified local customs and ordinances. It cleared a gravel path from the hearth to the Capitol—and began to pave a twelve-lane superhighway from the Capitol to the hearth, for that is the direction of most of the traffic. It was a bad law because of its immediate and dreadful unintended consequences.

And it was a bad law for the most obvious reason of all. It appealed to public welfare to outlaw something that was, in itself, not evil. Why do people miss this? Most people agree that drunkenness is an evil; but wine “gladdens the heart,” says the Psalmist, and Jesus at Cana did not turn wine into water. People would take a drink not to get drunk, but for conviviality and ease. What was so wrong with that?

So Prohibition is not analogous to laws against pornography. I oppose the spread of pornographic films not simply because these films ruin families and individual lives, but because pornography is itself evil, turning the human body and the marital act into impersonal objects of consumption. Nor is it analogous to laws against artificial contraception. You can’t hang a jug of apple juice outside for two weeks and end up with estrogen. There were no social customs built upon the trading of spermicides. Catholics opposed the pill because they believed its use was inherently wrong; others, because its use would be the direct, foreseeable, and widespread cause of a breakdown of sexual mores (and they were right). But the judges determined that they would rule from above. Prohibition wasn’t wrong because it simply prohibited. It was wrong because of what it prohibited (something inherently innocent, domestic, and local), who was doing the prohibiting (the national government), and how (via a new constitutional principle, and a national police force).

We have, then, the worst of both worlds. We have a Prohibitionary State that gives license to all kinds of evil, but that regulates and restricts actions that are not evil, to manage the chaos that results from the license. This is done without a glance at the Constitution, which was not a dead letter in the days of the Volstead Act, but is now.

Editor’s note: This essay first appeared October 21, 2013 in Public Discourse, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute and is reprinted with permission.

Anthony Esolen


Professor Esolen teaches Renaissance English Literature and the Development of Western Civilization at Providence College. He is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine and the author of many books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010) and Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). His most recent books are Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching (Sophia Institute Press, 2014); Defending Marriage (Tan Books, 2014); and Life Under Compulsion (ISI Books, 2015).

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Prohibition is merely the long shadow cast by the French Revolution and the levée en masse that changed forever the relationship of government and governed. Universal conscription and general mobilisation gave government a direct interest in the health, education and general efficiency of every citizen, as a potential soldier or as a worker on what came to be known, significantly, as the “Home Front.” Drunkenness is no longer a private vice, but a form of malingering and behind Carrie Nation loom the more formidable figures of Carnot and the Committee of Public Safety. Faith in the state—as planner, coordinator, facilitator, arbiter, provider, caretaker and guardian – is its logical consequence.

    • Adam__Baum

      “Faith in the state—as planner, coordinator, facilitator, arbiter, provider, caretaker and guardian – is its logical consequence.”
      It occurred to me a few years ago that this is the new form of idolatry. We aren’t that far from the Israelites, and there is no shortage of those who know the temple arts, eager to take our gold to give us a golden calf to worship.

      • Ford Oxaal

        exactly — God’s Kingdom Come is being replaced with the golden calf of ‘Big Brother’. But maybe not for long. If enough Christians wake up one morning, we will have a truly golden age of renewal for many generations — replacing the culture of quantity / landfills that points to the mediocre with a culture of quality / art / philosophy that points to the excellent.

        • OnTheRoadAgain

          I wouldn’t count on it. I think it is going to be a very long time, if ever, for that “truly golden age of renewal” to arrive on these shores.

          Big Brother is on the cusp of absolutely crushing and abolishing Christian worship. He isn’t going to stop now, and there is nothing that any amount of Christians can do to stop him.

          “Shake the dust off of your sandals” is the phrase of the day. Better to regroup somewhere else than become just another statistic for the history books.

          • Ford Oxaal

            God wants you to blossom where you are planted. Make it happen!!

  • James

    One little fact that is forgotten by most is that the laws against contraception were a dead letter long before the courts struck them down. The first case to strike down anti-contraceptive laws, Poe v. Ullman, was dismissed because the law had been so rarely enforced. The arrest that led to Griswold v. Connecticut was a staged case for the specific purpose of getting a case before the Supreme Court.

    Second, the Comstock Laws, which prohibited sending “obscene” information through the mail was the exact same overbroad, nationally enforced, kind of measure as Prohibition. Not only were genuinely obscene material and information about contraception banned, but so were some anatomy textbooks. The United States Bishops even complained to Rome that the Comstock Laws made it difficult to teach couples about the nature and duty of sacramental marriage.

    So yes, the analogy is appropriate, although not for the reason most people think.

  • Ford Oxaal

    Even evangelical teetotallers would have to admit the Blood of Christ is an alcoholic beverage. Not only is alcohol not bad, it is good. They say that if it were a prescribed drug, it would be universally prescribed to reduce blood pressure, because it is miraculously effective in doing so. Relax, enjoy a family meal with wine, snap out of work mode and spend some time over a modest cocktail with your spouse, teach your children how to make eye contact and deliver a formal toast. The bland world of the vacant American draft animal is getting old.

    • Mark Hanson

      As a former member of an evangelical teetotal church, I have to disagree. One Palm Sunday our District Superintendent came to our church and preached how Jesus turned water to grape juice, not wine, because he couldn’t have made wine, because… well, because.
      Actually, he used a Biblical passage to back it up (or rather, a portion of one), but it was a pretext taken out of context.

      • Ford Oxaal

        Right — and they didn’t drink wine at the weddings back then, but went to a grocery store and bought Methodist Welch’s grape juice instead. And at the wedding at Cana, they saved the best Welch’s grape juice for last.

        • Mark Hanson

          Of course. You can’t let little things like history and science get in the way of your theology.

          • Ford Oxaal

            Melchisedek was only fooling around with that bread and wine. That was just a foreshadowing of anybody going into a 7/11 and getting a grape soda. Besides, that was one of those weird Old Testament things. And the Jewish Bread of the Presence has no significance. It had nothing to do with Christ or the Real Presence in all the tabernacles of the world. Besides, we took that book Malachi out of the Bible — 1500 years of Christian martyrs had it all wrong and died in vain. Stupid Catholic bread worshippers! When God said he made the world in seven days, that is probably for certain literally true cause it says so in the Bible. But when Christ said this is my body that you need to gnaw on or suffer eternal death, he was just worried about being crucified himself the next day. The bread has nothing to do with anything. There is no manna. So yeah, like I’m saved and stuff.

  • poetcomic1

    A rather sickening union of New England upper class ‘spinsters’ and effeminate liberal Protestant ministers set the ‘high-toned’ agenda for America after the Civil War and …. here we are. Henry James limned the milieu rather well in The Bostonians.

  • CadaveraVeroInnumero

    Thank you so, so very much. Our friend Elizabeth Scalia (The Anchoress) has been getting it all wrong. With her too easy tossing about of the word “christianists”.

    California, where I live, is in a state of feverish preparation as it, in a legislative session or two, eliminates the hard moral edge of its consent laws. Very little push back from Church leadership. We going soft on homosexuality has been the preparation for this preparation.

    But then who cares. There are plenty of “benches” in Purgatory to sit upon since, now (or, soon to be), there is little difference between a pedophile and a drunkard.

  • Jacqueline Y

    My Methodist great-grandparents, farmers in Ohio, were tee-totallers (total abstainers from alcohol). My great-grandmother was a member of the Women’s Christian Temperence Union, which lobbied for Prohibition. The WCTU was a mainstream organization which sincerely sought social betterment, albeit in a dictatorial and counterproductive way. We must not forget the role of free-church Protestants (Methodists in particular), for whom “temperance” meant Total Abstinence for Everybody. Thomas Bramwell Welch was the force behind the switch from wine to pasturized grape juice for Methodist communion services as early as 1864.

  • hombre111

    “Now we look to Federal Government to look to local problems.” Prohibition was responsible for that? The hole in the dike? Quite a stretch in the usual effort to hate the government. When the local community fails, and then the state fails, then somebody has to step in.

    • Ford Oxaal

      Preferably Christ :)

      • hombre111

        Preferably someone with a Christ-like heart.

        • Adam__Baum

          “If men were angels, no government would be
          necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”

          James Madison -Federalist 51

          • Thomas Storck

            Are you aware that St. Thomas taught the opposite of what Madison says in the first sentence that you quote?


            • Adam__Baum

              Are you aware linking to your own prose is a mere elaboration of an assertion, not supporting information?

              Tell me where you see the state exercising “supereminence in knowledge or justice” and we can talk. Those qualities appear rarely in humnity, and almost never in politicians. Even when the state might possess those attributions in some dimensions, doesn’t mean it possesses it in all dimensions.

              Your essay is quite frankly intellectually disordered and deeply disturbing. You want to elaborate on an imagined difference between the philosophical reasoning of St. Thomas and political rhetoric of Madison, men living in different times and writing for different reasons about different things as if there are mutually exclusive views. To borrow from a famous physicist, “you aren’t even wrong”.

              Thomas is talking about the existence of different authorities, which you want to invest in a state, and assume somehow this new state will somehow become omniscient, beneficent and incorrupt. When you find no support for the existence of police powers, you infer them with this: “Although Aquinas does not explicitly include the police powers of government or national defense in this latter category, implicitly he does, for this kind of dominium results from and governs all those human relationships which are the effect of sin.” Terrific. You attribute a sort of modern libertarian sentiment to Madison, not as an inference, but ex nihilo.

              But you take it farther saying government is a necessary result of sin and as long as it is dedicated to the “common good”, our job is well pay and obey.

              The frustrating thing about so-called Catholic statists isn’t the stubborn belief in a Catholic Monarch, (we had one, his name was Henry Tudor) or even their selective misuse of Saints writings to buttress their utopian fantasies, it is this ridiculous notion that somehow occupying political office removes the effect of sin. It doesn’t, it just manifests itself to the capabilities of the individual-and if somebody has an aptitude for poltics-libido dominandi rears it’s ugly head.

              People are not suspicious of government because of some liberal viewpoint, but because they can read the day’s headlines or crack a history book.

    • Carl

      “then somebody has to step in”

      Is this what Jesus meant when he said “render unto Caesar”

      History is replete when a central power governs the masses. Wide spread bloodshed and death of a culture. No turning back.

      • hombre111

        Why do Repubs hate government and then run to control government? So they can do what they did in my state. Government is much smaller. So are people’s paychecks and the amount of money put into education, public safety, health, and God knows what else.

        • Adam__Baum

          Why does H111 hate the Church but continue to live off it? So he can do what was done in my state. The Church is much smaller…

          • Art Deco

            You notice the state is not named so none of his factual assertions can be checked.

            • Adam__Baum

              Did you mean fatuous assertions?

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        Père Henri-Dominique Lacordaire OP who re-founded the Dominicans in France after the Revolution, said, “”Between the weak and the strong, between the rich and the poor, between the master and the servant, it is freedom which oppresses and the law which sets free.”

    • Adam__Baum

      And here is the state, not stepping in, but on the citizenry.

      Vee have vays…..

    • bethannbee

      It is crystal clear that faith in government has replaced Faith in God so we eventually end up in the hands of the biggest, badest, meanest tyrant in the world. If you put three maggots in a tin can and bury the can in the ground what will you find when you dig up in three weeks? One hugh successful maggot.

      • hombre111

        Sounds like a description of Walmart after it destroys all the smaller businesses in a community. For each business that folds, the manager of the new Walmart used to get a “road-kill” plaque. Don’t know if this still happens.

        • Art Deco

          Sounds like an urban legend.

          Value added in retail trade per the Bureau of Economic Analysis was $882 bn in 2012. WalMart’s operating income was $26.6 bn.

          Consolidation has a disagreeable aspect to it, but small time retail trade is still all around us. See the mall around the corner from me, which has a Rite Aid and a Starbucks and a post office but is otherwise composed of local enterprise.

        • bethannbee

          It’s not Walmart who has made it impossible for the mom and pop stores to survive, it’s the government who put all the crippling restrictions in place. Walmart has been a target of the Left and it’s only because they have enough money that they can continue to exist. It seems to me they provide a good service in the communities where they operate and they are fair to their employees. The “road-kill” plaque award is news to me. I’ll have to research that a bit.

          • Art Deco

            I grew up in a town of north of 500,000 but where nearly all the grocery trade had by 1990 collected in two sets of chain stores (neither of them WalMart). The grocery business has slim profit margins. A big retailer like Walmart can, up to a point, take advantage of concentrated expertise if it has a culture of innovation, negotiate with suppliers from a position of strength, and amortize compliance costs as well. I doubt that deregulation would have much effect in the grocery trade.

            Some sorts of retail businesses lend themselves to consolidation and some do not.

          • hombre111

            Oh, dear, Beth. I attended a meeting in a small town that was about to get a Walmart. One of its representatives invited the merchants who would be affected by their arrival to a meeting. The man looked the terrified business owners in the eye and told them, “We are going to get 75 cents out of every dollar spent in this town. You will either have to go somewhere else, for sell something we do not sell.
            Fair to their employees? Nearly minimum wages without benefits?
            Old Henry Ford once said, ” I will pay my workers enough money so they can buy the cars they are making. That was his business model and it helped drive American prosperity into the mid sixties. But then came Walmart with a new business model: We will force wages down (The story of Rubbermaid is a good example, where Walmart forced Rubbermaid to close its American plants and go to China for its low wages). We will force wages down so far that Walmart will be the only place where people can afford to shop.

            • Adam__Baum

              “A Republican wet dream.”

              Sure sounds like authentic pastoral teaching to me.

            • Carl

              Classic liberalism, that government bureaucracies and red tape can create booming economies and cost savings to the masses. You know the horse and carriage coalition claimed the same end of the world predictions when Henry Ford showed up!

              • hombre111

                In my long, long lifetime, the single greatest financial disaster was caused by the actions of unregulated business on Wall Street. In two short weeks, the entire world lost one third to one half of its wealth. This was due to the unbridled greed of a few thousand individuals who are still not in jail. It probably cost you dearly in terms of stocks, if you owned them, the value of your home, and your wages. Today, after I said Mass in the Cathedral, I had a long talk with a woman who demonstrates the tragedy. Her husband lost his job and never recovered psychologically as he looked and looked for work. Their marriage collapsed. All this is on the conscience of the worshipers of unregulated free enterprise.

                • Art Deco

                  You fancy the financial sector in 2007-08 was ‘unregulated’?

                  Wanna buy my bridge?

                  • bethannbee

                    You are very patient with H111. As for the husband who lost his job and never recovered psychologically a good dose of Fulton Sheen may have helped him get beyond his chronic whining. Christian Charity which is a virtue is often confused with “enabling” which is a serious character defect.

                  • hombre111

                    Read “After the Music Stopped.” a good historical summary. Also, I follow Krugman on this.

                    • Art Deco

                      If Krugman told you the financial sector was ‘unregulated’ in 2007 and 2008, he was lying. You can verify that for yourself by thumbing through the U.S. Code and the Code of Federal Regulations. The following federal agencies regulated the financial sector in 2007 and 2008.

                      Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
                      Office of Thrift Supervision
                      Securities and Exchange Commission
                      Commodity Futures Trading Commission
                      Supervisory Staff, Federal Reserve Board of Governors.
                      Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
                      National Credit Union Administration
                      Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight
                      Farm Credit Administration
                      Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

                      To that you might add state superintendents of banking and state insurance commissioners. IIRC, nearly all states have them. I think you will also find state regulatory bodies for pawn brokers and pay day lenders as well.

                      While we are at it, commercial finance was also subject to consumer protection measures adopted by the Federal Trade Commission.

                      You wish to complain that the institutional architecture is too fragmented or that the regulatory state failed to keep pace with financial innovation after 1995, be my guest. The financial sector has not covered itself with glory in the last 30-odd years and it is reasonable to guess that perverse regulation has been a problem. A bit of advice from Henry Paulson, asked to explain his behavior in 2008: Congress does nothing unless there is a crisis (and are often cat’s paws of sectoral lobbies.

                      Nearly the most appalling characters in the whole mess were Barney Frank, Christopher Dodd, and the crew from the Washington insider nexus reponsible for mismanaging Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (Franklin Raines, Jamie Gorelick, and James Johnson). The offenses of a mess of politically connected rent-seekers do not between them constitute an indictment of an ‘unfettered capitalism’ that did not and does not exist in the financial sector.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Have you thought about praying for wisdom and impulse control?

                      I did a quick search:

                      IN addition to the following, there are innumberable regulations and rules.

                      (I gathered this five minutes,
                      wonder else I’d have thought of in a hour)

                      1. The Securities Act of 1933

                      2. The Securities Exchange Act of 1934

                      3. The Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935

                      4. The Trust Indenture Act of 1939

                      5. The Investment Company Act of 1940

                      6. The Investment Advisers Act of 1940

                      7. The Securities Investor Protection Act of 1970

                      8. Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) 1970

                      9. Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act 1970

                      10. Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) 1974

                      11. Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) of 1975

                      12. Community Reinvestment Act (CRA)

                      13. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977

                      14. Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act 1980

                      (despite the name, it increased Federal Control over Banks)

                      15. Expedited Funds Availability Act (EFA or EFAA) 1987

                      16. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act (FDICIA) 1991

                      17. Truth in Savings Act 1991

                      18. National Securities Markets Improvement Act 1996

                      19. Regulation FD 2000

                      20. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act 2002

                      All in force in 2007.

            • Art Deco

              Walmarts create problems for local government in the realm of land use planning and aesthetics. The trouble you have in this country is planning and zoning decisions of a certain sort are too localized. People planning malls and office parks and big box development should have to get past a metropolitan and regional commissions before matters are assessed by local planning and zoning boards.

              That having been said, the notion that 75% of every dollar in a given community will go to Walmart is an indication that the merchant in question is off his head. Personal consumption in this country amounts to north of $10,000 bn dollars. Walmart is a large enterprise, but its total sales run to $450 bn dollars and, as noted above, their share of the value added in retail trade is smaller than their share of total sales.

              Alinsky said “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”. Once upon a time, the left in this country was liberally studded with agreeable and unpretentious men like George McGovern. Now, the standard issue leftoid or partisan Democrat takes the Alinsky principle to heart and has an amazing quantity of venom to distribute to designated enemies (some of them private citizens with the misfortune to end up in the media cross-hairs, like George Zimmerman and Collin Finnerty). One thing that impresses you about hombre111 is how much his reflexes resemble that of the contemporary secular left and how little they reflect anything even residually Christian.

            • Art Deco

              (The story of Rubbermaid is a good example, where Walmart forced
              Rubbermaid to close its American plants and go to China for its low

              Because, you know, no one in China should be earning wages working in a factory and no country should have an export sector in manufacturing.

        • thebigdog

          How many jobs have you created?

  • Carl

    Great Article!
    This article reminds me of my interactions with Protestants when they accuse me of “Church Teachings” NOT in the Bible. Prohibition was clearly a Protestants cause, sure some Catholics went along with it, but at the time the U.S. Congress was almost entirely Protestant.

    Blue Laws are another Protestant manifestation, Don’t get me wrong, I respect any kind of fasting and offering in union with Christ, but not being directed by Big Government.

    As Professor Esolen points out, now the state sacrifices the unborn and euthanizes the sick and old.

    • Art Deco

      Blue laws were state statutes.

      They were annulled by the usual power-drunk frauds on the appellate bench.

      • Carl

        My point was “Protestant Teachings” not in the Bible.

        And the state entity as defined in American Terms can be pretty offensive and oppressive as the Federal—albeit not as much. The idea of Federalism by our founders limited the states from too much power. And remember too that the state constitutions where the model for the federal constitution. Original State Constitutions are just as ignored as the Federal writ.

        Founding Fathers understood the principal of Subsidiarity very well. James Madison from Virginia the Author of The Bill of Rights and principal instrument of the U.S. Constitution borrowed much from the Virginia Constitution and Bill of Rights from his home state and others!

        • Art Deco

          No, Carl. The states retain general police power. The Constitution was concerned with (among other things) delineating the limits of federal power. The constraints on state power were as follows:

          No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation;
          grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

          No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it’s inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Controul of the

          No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such
          imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.

          This has little or nothing to do with the regulations one might find in a general commercial code (whether or not that code prohibits trade on Sundays).

          Article IV incorporates some obligations the states have to each other and to the citizens of one sojourning to another. The plain meaning of all but the 1st and last article of the Bill of Rights would seem to apply to the states, but the case law treated them as binding only upon the federal government prior to 1925.

          • Carl

            You just listed powers that States gave up in 1787! Yes, you’re talking about the “negative liberties” imposed upon the Feds and I agree. The 9th and 10th Amendments was supposed to limit the power grab of the Feds. Unfortunately it only slowed down

            • Adam__Baum

              If an Amendment falls and the Supreme Court refuses to hear it, did it really make a sound?

            • Art Deco

              States cannot coin money or impose tariffs or make treaties with Argentina. This should bother me why?

              • Carl

                How about allowing states to operate retirement and healthcare systems utilizing private enterprise and subsidiarity systems.

                Private enterprises and the subsidiarity principle as not been found wanting, it has been found difficult and untried.

        • Art Deco

          Original State Constitutions are just as ignored as the Federal writ.

          How do you know this?

          • Carl

            -17th amendment must be repealed, Feds dictate how states choose Senators, Democrats have dominated every since
            – abortion, contraception, marriage are state issues
            – main topic of this piece, prohibition
            For starters

            • Carl

              Feds monopolized student loans.
              Feds are in the process taking over health care.
              Personal liberty and the NSA
              Basically the 16th amendment, the power to tax, starves the states, leaving states to beg for “Federal money” to be returned to them, with the lose of personal liberty!

              • Art Deco

                It did nothing of the sort at the time it was passed and does nothing of the sort now.

                Since 1929, federal grants-in-aid have supplied a mean of 16.7% of state and local revenue (currently it is 21.7% courtesy the Democratic Party of Porkulus; in 1929, 16 years after the ratification of the 16th amendment, such grants amounted to 1.4% of state and local expenditure).

                Also since 1929, federal income tax collections and allied personal taxes have averaged 7.3% of gross domestic product (and are currently 7.1% of gross domestic product; in 1929, such collections amounted to 1.14% of gross domestic product.). The states are not ‘starved’ due to this revenue stream flowing to the federal government.

                • Carl

                  The first thing that pops in my head reading your federal grant-ins comment is the phrase, “liars figure and figures lie.”
                  * First the largest public expense is the Welfare system owned and run by the Feds. States are only administrators for the Feds administrating these programs. And the Feds wield this power like the hammer of Thor upon the states.
                  * Obama tried recently to pull Medicare payments to states who didn’t go along with his Health Care take-over. Then SCOTUS along party lines said Obama couldn’t do that fortunately.
                  * Then your 17 to 22 % total revenue number seems benign enough but when you figure the average family spends 60 to 75 percent of their income on basic necessities like house, car, insurance, utilities, that percentage is huge. The average family saves single digit percentages of their income.
                  * Now I would agree the average family is in desperate need of the virtues of humility, diligence, and especially temperance. But the average debt our government has placed upon the average family requires more family values.
                  * The original intent of our US Constitution and Catholic Teaching of Subsidiarity are the answer.

                  • Art Deco

                    Your response is irrelevant.

                    The dimensions of federal income tax collections are far too small to ‘impoverish’ the states and the states and localities have been responsible for 5/6ths of their expenditures. Conditional inter-governmental transfers create all kinds of problems and need to be restructured, but they are not indicators of a general impoverishment of state and local government nor would the abolition of federal income taxes help all that much.

                    • Carl

                      Unfunded federal mandates upon the states has our nation $ 17,000,000,000,000 in debt. We are living beyond our means.

                    • Art Deco

                      No. Federal expenditure in toto did that, not distributions to the states. Distributions to states and localities amount to about 18% of federal expenditure.

                      There are no unfunded mandates on state governments. State governments do that to counties and municipalities. States can voluntarily refuse the proffered funds. It is the federal courts who are coercive with state and local governments (and with regard to a different set of issues).

                    • Carl

                      What’s your point?
                      An endless argument about the tangled web of politics and their hidden money trails of deceit?
                      You argue and offer no solutions. I’m not impressed at all that you may have more knowledge than me about bureaucracies that I despise. It appears to me you believe if we could only fine tune the bureaucracy we would be just fine—pure folly.
                      We are being crushed by social engineers in Washington and they are being abetted by individual state administrators. That’s how it works, states administer the Social Programs that the Feds mandate and don’t have the funds for.
                      Technically, your right, unfunded mandates are bankrupting individuals and not the states. But you can’t separate the individual from his state of residence. The Feds are bankrupting all fifty states. If forty-nine states practiced free-market-enterprise and the Socialist Republic of Massachusetts were to go bankrupt the people of Mass. would feel most of that burden.

                      When we create the Socialist Republic of the United States we’re all going to feel the pain. Whether you are an individual or state. You can type all these arguments about the particulars and correct definitions that these money changers use to hide and obscure their shady deals—for what point?

                    • Art Deco

                      I will repeat my point one more time, and we’re done. I can explain this to you, I cannot comprehend it for you.

                      1. State and local governments are largely reliant on their own revenues and could conceivably be fully self-reliant, though there is an argument for revenue sharing. The reason they are not fully self-reliant has to do with inertia and the various and sundry interests at stake among federal legislators and more particular legislators. It does not have a frigging thing to do with them being ‘starved’ and having to ‘beg’.

                      2. Federal income tax collections sequester about 7% of gross domestic product. That makes it marginally more difficult for states and localities to raise revenue. It does not ‘starve’ them.

                    • Carl

                      “There are no unfunded mandates on state governments.” That is NOT an absolute statement, the UMRA of 1995 has reduced the “unfunded” mandates to a “reported” small amount.

                      Here’s the trick!
                      A distinction must be made between voluntary and mandated programs. Being there’s very little distinction between the typical state and the federal government there is in fact De Facto Unfunded Mandates. Many times these Federal Programs only pay for parts leaving the states to pick up the rest.

                      Medicare is the biggest example. States administer this Federal Program and also typically fund large portions with state taxes in into this program. So technically it’s a [Voluntary Unfunded Mandate]. This is just one example. Civil rights legislation, EPA, No Child Left Behind, Unemployment Comp, and many others. Few if any are fully paid by the Feds—they offer “grants.”

                      It makes little sense to send tax dollars to Washington to pay the federal bureaucracy to return a smaller amount back to the states. Governors should demand that the federal government substantially lower its taxes so that states can raise their taxes to keep a greater share of the overall tax burden. With increased funds, states can properly take care of their residents without the federal mandates, strings, and interference that always accompany federal funds.

                      And hopefully states would practice true free market capitalism, which is the only path to prosperity. I’ll be honest, I don’t see this happening.

                    • Art Deco

                      Medicare is a federally administered program.

                      Medicaid is administered by state governments. There is a distribution of grants to the states supplemented with the states’ own revenues. States are not required (‘mandated’) to erect this program within their borders. They elect to take the grant and administer the program. It is not mandated and it is not unfunded either. The same applies to every other grant-in-aid program you named.

                      As for civil rights legislation, the statutory legislation binding on state and local governments is that governing elections administration. There is explicit constitutional warrant for this in the 15th amendment. There is some other antique legislation which prevents state governments from setting up parallels sets of commercial and labor law (passed in response to postbellum ‘black codes’), and has the 14th amendment as its warrant. For the most part, coercion of state and local government resides in the chambers of federal judges. Ordinary civil rights legislation is binding on private parties.

            • Adam__Baum

              As long as there is a 16th, the federal government will have virtually unlimited money to do as it pleases. That is the real source of their power. The 17th Amendment was bad, the 16th is worse.

              I say that as a CPA.

            • Art Deco

              You can repeal the 17th amendment if you care to. You will get Senators adept at building relationships in state legislators rather than Senators adept at fundraising and publicity campaigns. That might get you better Senators. It will also likely get you more Cornhusker Kickbacks and Louisiana Purchases. Alphonse d’Amato and Deirdre Scozzafava would have prospered in a system of election by state legislature. Neither is notable as a meticulous steward of public funds.

              • Carl

                Interesting you list two republicans, Freudian slip? LOL

                • Art Deco

                  No, I’m a kid from New York listing two New York pols. They were both enrolled Republicans, though rather different in the milieux in which they lived and rather different in their sensibility. Neither one was anyone for a non-pathological Republican organization to be proud (and the New York Republican Party is nothing if not pathological). Alphonse d’Amato was a local executive in Hempstead, N.Y., the country’s largest suburban blob; he was also the principal enforcer of Joseph Margiotta’s shakedown schemes in Nassau County. For whatever reason, he avoided even and indictment while Margiotta and his other lieutenants had to negotiate plea deals. As for Scozzafava, she was a mayor turned state legislator from St. Lawrence County, N.Y. and her career was testimony in favor of the proposition that state legislators get away with anything because the papers report nothing. When Douglas Hoffman sent out a simple mailing offering a precis of her voting record and such over two decades, she burned up like a fly under a magnifying glass. She has been called ‘Dede Scuzzyfavors’ because her modus operandi is to be an inveterate people pleaser, including and especially her union official husband. People pleasers placate special pleaders; they do not make good policy.

            • Art Deco

              Again, you are making very little sense.

        • Adam__Baum

          “The idea of Federalism by our founders limited the states from too much power.”
          No, it principally limited the federal government from excessive power. As as practical matter, if some state decides to use its general police powers to proscribe the twiddling of thumbs, and then begins enforcing it, you can move to another state, a burden, but not the burden required to emigrate to another country.
          Other than the fact that Romneycare’s initial (and vaporous, as it turned out) fiscal solvency was in part achieved through using the federal government, it would have been great if the Peoples Republic of Massachusetts got to show us how centralized direction in complex markets is invariably a recipe for increased prices, shortages, excessive at times and rationing.

          • Carl

            Yes, the Bill of Rights, limits the power of government, as do most state constitutions.
            But everything enumerated in the US Constitution, tariffs, treaties, military, coinage, amoung others are powers granted to the Feds only.
            States only agreed to the constitution after the Bill of Rights was attached for the reasons including what you cite.
            The problem is that the Feds have slowly circumvented state rights ever since.

      • Carl

        Not all Blue laws are “annulled”

        • Art Deco

          So what? They were so annulled in New York, Illinois, Virginia, among other loci.

          • Carl

            So what? So Dad’s better off shopping for a car, drinking at the local bar, and generally spending less time with God and family?

            Where’s the harm really being done here? Blue laws or no Blue laws?

            • Art Deco

              Now you have slid into complete incoherence.

              • Carl

                Not at all, State government laws can go to far too.

  • Doug

    Where do you come down on laws prohibiting marijuana production and use?

    • bethannbee

      All that God created He saw was good. Marijuana is part of that creation. People make a mistake talking about “legalizing” marijuana like one would talk about legalizing sugar if Michelle Obama makes it illegal if she thinks it’s bad for the children. It’s all about government control….

      • Simon D

        Is “steak and eggs” part of God’s good creation? God created Steak; it’s good. God created eggs; they’re good. If I combine two good things created by God, does the goodness of the components attach to the product?

        • bethannbee

          Sometimes yes and sometimes no; for me bacon and eggs would attach to the product but not steak. I’m not a fan of steak and eggs.

          • Simon D

            Well, okay, feel free to change the examlpe around to taste, but you see where I’m going at with this. If using marijuana is good because marijuana is good because God created it and all God created is good, and if the goodness of the ingredients transfers to products made by combining ingredients, why does goodness not also transfer to the combination of refined ingredients? Refining is no less human industry than combination. If we must accept marijuana as good, what rational distinction can be made between it and, say, heroin? After all, all that God created He saw was good, and opium poppies are a part of that creation; is it refining that breaks the “chain of goodness”? Is that the idea? And if so, how is refining distinguished from combination, as in the bacon-and-eggs? What if we add toast to our breakfast—isn’t that a refined product?

            What I’m asking you to consider, fundamentally, is whether there is a logical stopping point to the argument that marijuana must be good because it’s a part of creation, or whether that argument also sweeps in everything from bread to methamphematines?

            • Carl

              Keep it simple silly, everything has a correct purpose, THC is a poison, alcohol is not used in moderation.

              But THC can be used for medical purposes you say, well so are chemotherapy drugs, which are poisons also. For all our advances in modern medicine much of what we do is not much different today than blood letting and ingesting mercury was two hundred years ago.

            • bethannbee

              Yes, it does include all creation. What human beings do with the elements of creation determines the outcome of the product. Guns are not evil, not do they kill people. People using guns for evil purposes does not make guns evil which are made from elements of God’s creation. Does that make sense?

              • Simon D

                Some sense, yes, but I’m still struggling to understand your argument. I thought that your argument was that we shouldn’t criminalize marijuana because marijuana, being a created thing, is good. Is your argument this: Marijuana, because divinely-created, is intrinsically-good and therefore morally-neutral as an object, just as a gun, though a product of human industry, is made of divinely-created things and is therefore intrinsically-good and morally-neutral as an object, susceptible of being used to both good and evil purposes?

                • bethannbee

                  Yes, that is essentially what I am saying.

      • Adam__Baum

        All that God created He saw was good. Marijuana is part of that creation.
        So is nightshade, but I wouldn’t imbibe that.

        • bethannbee

          So are mosquitoes part of God’s creation but I wouldn’t imbibe them either but the birds that live in the bird sanctuary LOVE them. In fact, I hate mosquitoes. You’re missing the point.

          • Adam__Baum

            Make it clearer.

        • redfish

          Well, on that point, nightshade was once widely used in medicine as an anaesthetic and as a sedative. I’m not sure bethannbee is talking about using cannabis medicinally, though.

  • Pingback: There are two things everybody has learned from Prohibition, but neither of these... - Christian Forums

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  • Bonnie G

    This is an excellent article and pointed out things I’d never thought of. My mom would be in her mid-nineties now and grew up in Butte, Montana when it was big and busy and there were people from many parts of the world living there. My Irish Catholicgrandmother was widowed at a young age with three little girls and my mom on the way. I grew up knowing my grandfather was a kind and loving man with a great personality who unfortunately had a habit of drinking on the way home on payday. Sometimes there wasn’t much left in his pay envelope when he got there. One night while out with his brother the two got into an argument and his brother hit him. My grandfather fell, hit his head on the street and died instantly and his brother disappeared. My grandmother relied on help form her extended family and sometime after my mom was born she went to work as a bookkeeper and her own mother took care of mom and my aunts.
    When mom was about three Grandma married an Italian man who owned a little club in a mostly Italian community three miles from Butte. Their marriage was short-Irish women aren’t real tolerant of affairs, at least not the ones in my family-but mom loved him dearly and Grandma let her spend weekends with him and new wife which meant my mother was a fixture at the club. (I don’t think there were any “no one under 21” laws, I don’t know when those came along, they’ve only been enacted in some parts of the country in the past thirty or so years.)
    Then along came prohibition. The federal agents would pull into Butte around payday and start their rounds and runners would go out to the outlying communities warning everyone. Someone would come flying into the club, “The feds are coming!” At the end of the bar there was a small laundry chute door to drop towels through into the basement laundry area. The alarm now raised, someone would plunk my mom on the bar next to the chute, open its door and start sliding bottles down the bar as fast as they could while saying, “Fanny, down the chute!” When government meddles where it shouldn’t there are always unintended consequences. These days my mom would have been arrested, a five year old felon.

  • Daniel O’Connor

    Prohibition’s primary error was not so much its violation of subsidiarity (I do like your twelve-lane superhighway imagery), but its violation of Christian tradition.

    Marijuana is(/was) rightly outlawed, even though you can simply put a seed in the ground and there it is, and this prohibition is on a national level (hence two of the three counts you give as reasons for prohibition’s wrongness).

    • Art Deco

      Is marijuana prohibited on the national level, or is shipping it across state lines and the international border prohibited? I believe it is the latter. Possession of quanta of marijuana has been legal in Alaska for thirty-odd years.

      • Farmer Joe

        In Wickard v. Filburn, a (1942), a farmer grew extra “wheat for his own use and had no intention of selling it” but the federal court ordered that he destroy it because, the court reasoned, wheat in general is traded in interstate commerce and if everyone grew wheat in their backyards for their own personal use that would substantially affect the interstate wheat market. Not surprisingly, the Supreme Court has since used that case to uphold the power of the federal government to prosecute individuals who grow their own “medical” marijuana pursuant to state law, explaining in Gonzales v Raich (2005) that “Wickard thus establishes that Congress can regulate purely intrastate
        activity that is not itself ‘commercial’, in that it is not produced for
        sale, if it concludes that failure to regulate that class of activity
        would undercut the regulation of the interstate market in that

        • Carl

          Hey Art,

          Another example of State’s rights lost.

          • Art Deco

            Why are you addressing me.

        • Adam__Baum

          Wickard was one of many SCOTUS holdings that proves that Samuel Johnson was right when he said “The Law is an A**”.

  • James Patton

    “Actuarial tables show that, shortly after Prohibition began, deaths from cirrhosis of the liver dropped considerably, and continued to drop through the twenties, leveling off by the time Prohibition was repealed in 1933.”

    Actuarial tables also show that for the last 13 years that deaths from cirrhosis of the liver are lower than ANY time during Prohibition.

    • Farmer Joe

      Alcohol consumption is not the only cause of liver cirrhosis, and many people can suffer from liver cirrhosis without it ultimately being listed as their official cause of death. Deaths from liver cirrhosis and the incidence rate for liver cirrhosis are not the same. In addition to liver cirrhosis, alcohol consumption reportedly may cause or contribute to anemia, cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression, epilepsy, gout, high blood pressure, immune disorders, nerve damage, pancreatitis, etc. Consequently, the final result of alcohol consumption may be a fatal heart attack, stroke, cancer, etc and that or “chronic alcoholism” could be the reported cause of death, not liver cirrhosis, even if the person also suffered from liver cirrhosis. Actuarial tables reporting deaths from liver cirrhosis are not a reliable standalone indicator of the effects of alcohol consumption, especially as you have implicitly done by comparing events a century apart.

      • thebigdog

        “Consequently, the final result of alcohol consumption may be a fatal heart attack, stroke, cancer, etc”

        Or it may be tuning out people like you.

    • redfish

      If you’re actually interested in the subject, there was a general perception that Prohibition was having some positive effects. Cases of alcohol related illnesses in general dropped, not just liver cirrhosis but a whole range of diagnosed illnesses, domestic crime was down, as were arrests for public drunkenness and brawling. There were also less alcohol related problems on college campuses.

      President Taft, who had once argued against Prohibition — and was still against it on principle — famously turned from a “wet” to a “dry” because he changed his mind about its enforceability. Recognizing some of the improvements, he said Prohibition had both “brought a lot of harm but also a lot of good.” He thought with the proper government support behind enforcement and prosecution, the harm could be reduced and the good could be increased. With that in mind, he privately supported dry candidates and — now as Chief Justice — publicly urged expansion of the judiciary so more Prohibition-related prosecutions could be pushed through the courts.

      • James Patton

        Thank you for your reply, redfish. I have a Taft quote for you…:D

        ‘Taft once wrote, “I don’t remember that I ever was president.”‘ – W.H.Taft Biography

      • Adam__Baum

        Prohibition had both “brought a lot of harm but also a lot of good.”

        And Mussolini made the trains run on time.

        • redfish

          The point would be just that Prof. Esolen isn’t wrong in saying it had some effect in lowering alcohol consumption. And President Taft wasn’t necessarily wrong that more effort in enforcement could have eliminated the crime that had sprung up. The real problem — besides the wrongness of the law — is that the enforcement wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth funneling increasing government resources into fighting ever more powerful gangs gangs and corruption just to stop people from making bad moral decisions. Eventually, I think that’s what the public realized. Prohibition fell when the Great Depression started and nobody had patience for it anymore.

          • bethannbee

            I don’t know if this is true but my mother told me that alcoholics faired better during the flu epidemic of 1918. In fact, she said that the doctors recommended it as a remedy.

            • redfish

              Moderate use of alcohol can help during sickness because its a sedative, helps relieve stress, and will help you sleep it off. Medicinal preparations were often made with spirits for that purpose…

              But heavy use will definitely weaken your immune system, and alcohol will also lower your body temperature. Chronic drinkers are known to catch colds and flus more often.

              • bethannbee

                The fact that alcohol lowers body temperature would be a positive factor with an infection. And, it is used as an antiseptic so it may have some sort of adverse effect on germs in the body. I’m just saying…

                • redfish

                  The body breaks down alcohol before it enters the blood stream, so it wouldn’t work as an anti-septic that way. Alcohol puts you at greater risk for hypothermia, which suppresses the immune system.

  • Tony

    To one of the commenters below:
    The Comstock Acts were not analogous to Prohibition, in these ways:
    The Comstock Acts were statutes, not an amendment to a Constitution or judicially imposed theories.
    The Comstock Acts were passed by the people’s representatives, state by state, and were thus subject to revision or repeal, state by state.
    The Comstock Acts prohibited things that were genuinely wicked.
    The Comstock Acts enjoyed broad popular support from both parties.
    The Comstock Acts prohibited evils that were essentially social and not domestic.
    That still does not prove that the Comstock Acts were prudent. But they were emphatically NOT a departure from previous American jurisprudence. States already had laws curbing or prohibiting pornography. The Comstock Acts put teeth in them.

  • Farmer Joe

    Perhaps Prof. Esolen can tell us the names of the multiple fallacies he uses in his statements.

    For example, he says, “People would take a drink not to get drunk, but for conviviality and ease. What was so wrong with that? So Prohibition is not analogous to laws against pornography.”

    Perhaps SOME “people” would take “a” drink not to get drunk, but that does not mean that all or most did so. Many “people” may also drink to get drunk, and many take more than “a” drink, and intentions can change after “a” drink, perhaps because of the drink, as alcohol is a drug. Even “a” drink may lead to “evil” consequences.

    Similarly, I don’t believe everyone views pornography to get “drunk” (or to fall to ruin) or that everyone who views pornography gets drunk (or falls to ruin). Perhaps some people use it for “ease”. I have no special ability to know people’s intentions.

    He goes on to say “I oppose
    the spread of pornographic films not simply because these films ruin
    families and individual lives, but because pornography is itself evil.” However, he does not (nor can he) prove that “a” pornographic film “ruins families and individual lives” any more than drunkenness or “a” drink. In regard to the religious belief that “pornography” is “evil”, there is also the religious belief that God permits evil and that we are to be perfect like God.

    Prof. Esolen then states, “You can’t hang a jug of apple juice outside for two weeks and end up with estrogen.” While you don’t end up with estrogen, you still end up with what is considered a drug and a carcinogen, and a substance that is regulated by law. And I don’t believe proper regard of drugs and carcinogens have been established by “social customs”.

    • Ford Oxaal

      Alcohol is not a drug. Unlike drugs, alcohol permeates the blood. Pornography is intrinsically evil because it necessarily demeans all parties involved. Alcohol can be used well, and for good. Pornography is something you cower in the corner with like a cockroach.

      • Farmer Joe

        Many drugs, including alcohol, “permeate the blood”. Many drugs, including alcohol, also permeate the heart, lungs and other vital organs. Alcohol, like some other drugs, even crosses the blood/brain barrier. Many drugs can be “used well, and for good.” Drugs, including alcohol, can also kill you. But perhaps you define “drug” differently.

        Likewise, the word “pornography” has a variety of definitions. Perhaps, for you, “pornography is something you cower in the corner with” and “intrinsically evil”. If that’s how you interpret the ink on a page, that’s your doing.

        Perhaps you are like Humpty Dumpty. “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose
        it to mean — neither more nor less.”

        Or perhaps not.

        • Ford Oxaal

          We agree that drugs and alcohol are not always bad. I would argue that pornography is always bad. Let’s define pornography as media which when consumed makes a reasonable man’s reproductive system unduly aroused. I would say that such media is intrinsically evil because it renders all involved either perverted or hypocritical — perverted if you have no remorse, hypocritical if you would have remorse if the subject were your mother.

          • Farmer Joe

            I didn’t say and I don’t know that alcohol is “not always bad”. I don’t know what you mean by “always bad”. For all I or anyone knows, consumed alcohol always has some harmful effect of some kind, whether on a cellular level, individual level, societal level, etc.

            As to your definition of “pornography”, I find it to be vague, subjective, twisted and silly. How does one “consume” a photograph? Your brain interprets your perception of a photographic image, and it is your perception, interpretation, circumstances and physiology, not the mere photograph, that might or might not “make” you aroused. Different people, or even the same person at another time, may have different perceptions, interpretations, circumstances and physiology, and consequently, different arousal. Which man is “reasonable”? And which “arousal” is “undue”, i.e. excessive, inappropriate or unjustified? According to whom? The “consumption” and “arousal”, if any, might not even be an act of anyone’s will. Indeed, according to your definition, the photograph “makes” you aroused, and “makes” you sin?

            • Ford Oxaal

              OK, for ten points, give us a definition of pornography that is not vague, subjective, twisted, and silly, and tell us whether you would mind if your mother were pictured therein. Then we can determine whether you are a pervert, hypocrite, or reasonable man.

            • Adam__Baum

              “..I or anyone knows, consumed alcohol always has some harmful
              effect of some kind, whether on a cellular level, individual level,
              societal level, etc.”

              Google “Resveratrol”

              • Farmer Joe

                I’m already knowledgeable on the subject. And it remains as I have said.

    • Tony

      I think it is pretty safe to say that most Americans were not drunkards, and that most Americans did take a drink now and then.
      With regard to porn — the act itself is a gross evil. Are you forgetting about the people who have to perform in it, and film it?
      God permits evil; He does not condone it. And this is an evil that people have to go well out of their way to produce and promote and consume.
      There is one overriding reason why men view pornography. You know it, and you shouldn’t try to pretend you don’t. Do I have to say it?

      • Farmer Joe

        I don’t know what you mean by “drunkards”. Are the effects of alcohol not a problem unless 51% of Americans are “drunkards”? Likewise, I don’t know what you mean by “pornography” or “gross evil”. Whatever you might mean by those terms, and even if “people have to go well out of their way to produce and promote and consume pornography”, who am I to judge them or you? You can pretend to know the hearts and minds of others, but I’m reminded of the prayer of Jesus, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Likewise, “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.”

        • Tony

          Hard drinking was a problem for a small but visible and economically disadvantaged portion of the population.
          You are here arguing in bad faith, because you don’t really believe in the Scriptures — am I right about that? I am not judging persons but actions. If we cease to judge actions, we cease to be human. If you want to defend Playboy, which is about the tamest of the porn that’s out there, from what people tell me, then go ahead. Understand that you are defending something that most people at most times in this country would have condemned as degrading and foul; you are defending the reduction of a human person to an air-brushed picture of a body, and of the body to the body-parts of interest, so that gawkers can abuse themselves right then or later on, with the images in their memory. It’s a form of prostitution, without even the warmth of an embrace. There’s no such thing as a private sin, since we are meant for one another; we are social beings. And if you think that pornography is not a tremendous and now ubiquitous evil, you ought to talk to priests about what they hear from the sad people to whom they minister, or to men and women whose marriages have been ruined, or to women seduced or cajoled or enticed into the pornographic life.
          You’ve read, perhaps, what Jesus said about adultery?

          • Farmer Joe

            You claim “hard drinking was a problem for a small portion of the population”, but “hard drinking” was a problem for all of society, even for people who didn’t drink at all, not just “a small portion of the population”. And perhaps just as importantly if not more so, “hard drinking” wasn’t and isn’t the only problem of alcohol that afflicts society. The problems of alcohol are not reducible to “hard drinkers” or “a problem for a small portion of the population”, not even if all “hard drinking” were eliminated.

            As to your judgmental remarks about “arguing in bad faith” and beliefs, I recognize that you’re actually talking about yourself and your interpretation of whatever you think I’ve said, which is -your- action that you judge.

            As to “defending something that most people at most times in this country would have condemned,” I don’t know what you’re talking about, and that’s so whether you say “pornography” or “Playboy”. “Playboy” is a trademark that applies to many things. Likewise, “pornography” is a word that many people use in apparently different ways. What one man may consider “art”, another may call “pornography”.

            And if you believe a human person can be “reduced” to a photograph (air-brushed or not), that’s your belief and perhaps you want to “defend” it and “embrace” it, but I’m not much for defending or embracing your fantasies.

            You might opine that “pornography” (whatever that is) is a “tremendous and ubiquitous evil”, same as others might opine that the problems of alcohol are just as “tremendous and ubiquitous” if not more so. But you know what they say about opinions. Everyone has them. The same applies to opinions from “men and women whose marriages have been ruined,” etc.

            • Tony

              One argues in “bad faith” when one presents oneself as caring about what one does not care about, in order to win a point in an argument, or win standing to engage in the argument. If you do not believe in the Scriptures, but you use them (and selectively) to attempt to prove a point, then you are arguing in bad faith.
              You evade the issue. Unless you are a complete amoralist, you must either engage the issue or hold your peace. The issue is the evil, or the permissibility, of pornography — pictures of naked people peddled en masse, solely for titillation; an appeal to prurience in exchange for money. Argue for it if you can. Tell us here that you would be proud to learn that your mother had engaged in it. Tell us that you would encourage your daughter to make skin flicks if the money was right. Tell us then why. But you cannot evade the argument by saying, “Well, THAT’s your opinion.” Sure — but the question is whether that opinion is correct.

              • Farmer Joe

                Your “bad faith” is your concern as you argue with yourself and your ideas about what you think I’ve said. What I’ve said, and as you and others have demonstrated, is that different people apparently have different ideas as to what allegedly is “pornography”. For example, you appear to premise it on a variety of subjective things including other people’s intentions (e.g. “solely for titillation”) that you purport to know along with a profit motive (“in exchange for money”). But as I don’t know other people’s intentions or motives, how then can I see your alleged “pornography”?

                You’ve repeatedly attempted to enroll me in your fantasies, even requesting that I tell you how I’d feel and act in your fantasies about my family. Do you not understand that I’m never in your fantasies or anyone else’s? You even say “Argue for it if you can” after I just finished telling you that “I’m not much for defending or embracing your fantasies” including any playful notions you might have about “points” and “winning”.

  • ben9rant

    Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness
    for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and
    sweet for bitter!

  • Augustine

    Hopefully the Drugs Prohibition laws will find the same fate as the Alcohol Prohibition.

    PS: no, I’m not in favor of consumption of drugs and, like alcohol addiction it destroys persons and families, but the criminalization of drugs, like the criminalization of alcohol, created massive crime cartels and required brutal enforcement that results in more violent deaths than those by overdose.

    • Carl

      Not very Augustinian, so following your logic, if we decriminalize traffic laws we will improve the safety on our nations highways?

    • redfish

      I’m in favor of decriminalization, but I feel a responsibility to point out that in both the cases of alcohol and marijuana, the criminal cartels in question were not created by prohibition. The gangs in the 1920s arose back in the 1800s as waves of mass immigration led to the creation of poor ethnic ghettos. These became controlled by corrupt political machines. In fact, one of the arguments for Prohibition is that the it would help get rid of these gangs, because, even before Prohibition, they made their money off of alcohol and narcotics sales. The gangs in Mexico likewise exist because of poverty in Mexico and the corruption that existed with the socialist government there.

      People need to understand this so they’re not shocked when legalization doesn’t instantly make organized crime disappear. Cartels won’t just pack up their bags and go home. Mexico will need continue law enforcement and programs for economic improvement.

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  • Citizen_Jerry

    The wizards of smart in government found out the same thing when they went after guns last year — banning stuff never works.

    • Art Deco

      So you wish to toss state and federal penal codes in the trash?

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  • James_Kabala

    There’s actually surprisingly little evidence that Joseph Kennedy was involved in bootlegging. The accusation seems to have first surfaced in the 1960s and only become commonplace in the 1970s.

    • Art Deco

      Well, that’s a relief. There’s just the chicanery in the securities markets, industrial scale adultery, rearing all of his children to be hyper-competitive clowns, and rearing his male children to be aggressive and unscrupulous satyrs (and dodging the draft during the Great War).

      • James_Kabala

        Accuracy is its own reward.

        • James_Kabala

          No, seriously, as a historian, I actually find it fascinating how rumors get started and grow to the point where they become “common knowledge.” Not everything has to be filtered through “Is this guy on our team or the other team?” (Especially since Joe was actually rather conservative.)

 (N.B. Through an editing error, a sentence about Kennedy-Capone rumors appears both in its proper place on page 2 and in a wrong place on page 1, where it completely contradicts the author’s point. Ignore it the first time you see it.)

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