Prohibition: Modern-Day Influence

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The ultimate failure of the prohibition and eighteenth amendment provided a lot of repercussions, mostly negative. With the ban of liquor sales and distribution came a lot of room for new crime and ways to break the law; this left law enforcement to become stretched very thin while simultaneously paving a path for the future of America. Without the experiment that was the prohibition one could argue that the United States would not be the same is it is today. Though some might say that the prohibition was just an unsuccessful effort at making America sober, actually the amendment and the public’s response is closely related to modern day legislature and the public. From how people identify politically, to the widespread popularity of organized crime; the prohibition directly influenced modern day society.

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Although the Volstead Act was ultimately a failure, it left America with a lot of everlasting consequences. For instance, the prohibition increased the popularity of organized crime throughout the nation. Speakeasies and bootleggers became a prominent among the states that adopted the amendment. One of the most notorious members of the organized crime family was Al Capone. Al Capone was one of the first criminals to master organized crime. Capone was a brilliant criminal, as he focused on organizing an international bootlegging system. He coordinated the importation of alcohol from different locations, including other states and even Canada, as well as the operation of hundreds of breweries and distilleries, many of which resided in Chicago. Capone also developed a system to dispense his alcohol, which involved distribution truck drivers, salespeople, speakeasies, and even body guards to protect his supplies. Capone did not get caught because he would bribe the majority of the police departments in the Chicago area. This type of organized crime was popularized and the same tactics used by Capone are still used today. The use of bribery in Capones operation was crucial in regards to his overwhelming success in bootlegging. The brief article by Sonia Benson entitled Organized Crime says, With bribery, or buying favors, gangs manage to protect their activities from law enforcement. Illegal businesses operated by organized crime gangs involve drugs, gambling, prostitution, and, during Prohibition (1920“33), alcohol (Benson). The article goes on to reference Al Capone as one of the most notorious gang members of the era. One can not argue that bribery itself was solely brought into popularity because of the Prohibition and Al Capone, but the entire concept of organized crime as in modern society can be attributed to Capone along with other mobsters from the prohibition. This was the first instance of major crime organizations coming to be, and if not for the prohibition there may never have been such large crime rampant through American streets.

When the eighteenth amendment came into law, there was an increase in alcohol consumption and sales. This can be attributed to people becoming concerned their civil liberties were being compromised. One could find that the increase in individuals who consume alcohol and the increase of alcoholism also brought about an increase in criminal organizations to regulate bootleg liquor and speakeasies. These criminals had almost no resistance from law enforcement because they were either bribing the police departments or the police were to busy cracking down on simply liquor transactions. With the widespread availability of bootlegged liquor there was no reason why someone could continue growing their unhealthy drinking habits. In an article by Bob Batchelor, simply entitled Bootlegging, the author says, the prohibition instigated a national drinking spree. This quote shows that 18th amendment brought about a sense of urgency within the American people to consume alcohol. The principle of if something is taken away from you then you just want it more can be tied to modern day issues like gun control. Studies have shown that after major public shootings in America occur there is a spike in gun sales throughout the country. This can be credited to the threat of taking or banning all guns. Some of the American people are afraid that the government might implement a ban on guns so the urgency to purchase a firearm is increased. Jerome R. Stockfisch of the Tampa Bay Times reported that, Gunmakers’ shares surged on Friday. Smith & Wesson Holdings Co. shares climbed 2.8 percent to $29.07, while shares in Sturm Ruger & Co. closed up 4.9 percent at $67.65 (Stockfisch). This quote shows that after major shooting in America the stock in major gun companies sky rockets as more and more people purchase guns. The eighteenth amendment and how society reacted to it closely relates to modern-day issues, in terms of societal division and trying to find a suitable middle ground.

Throughout the 1920’s and prohibition era, there was a clear divide between those who were for the prohibition and ban of liquor and those who believed it was bad for American society. These two groups identified themselves as either wet or dry in regards to which group they identified as. The Wets were the citizens who were against the Eighteenth Amendment. This group was all for selling and drinking alcohol, they enjoyed it. The Drys on the other hand, were for this law. The Drys agreed that heavy drinking should be banned. In the article Alcohol and Crime: The Prohibition Experiment by Joseph R. Gusfield, the author discusses the parallels between how the eighteenth amendment divided people: Such an explanation ignores the fact that issues of drinking and its controls were very much in the foreground of American political, social, and legislative life from the 1820s through the 1920s. ‘Dry’ and ‘wet’ have been almost as essential in American politics as ‘left’ and ‘right'(Gusfield). This quote demonstrates the parallels that American society has had throughout history. The prohibition can be looked at as simply just another piece of legislature. The eighteenth amendment went through all the same processes to become law as any other piece of legislature and because of this was scrutinized the same. There were people for the amendment as well as against it. This shows the similarities of modern day political topics to the prohibition.

With widespread alcoholism throughout the United States during the years leading into the 1920’s, came the passage of the Eighteenth amendment in 1919, causing a nation-wide ban on liquor. The Eighteenth amendment caused the American public to start finding other ways to acquire once was such a pivotal part of American society, alcohol. This produced a new type of crime throughout the United States. In many ways the prohibition and consequences that followed can be related to modern day issues and politics. Although some might say that the prohibition was just a failed attempt at making America sober, actually the amendment and the publics reaction is closely related to modern day legislature and the public.


Batchelor, Bob. “”Bootlegging.”” Dictionary of American History, edited by Stanley I. Kutler, 3rd ed., vol. 1, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003, pp. 503-504. U.S. History In Context, Accessed 11 Apr. 2018.

Benson, Sonia, et al. “”Organized Crime.”” UXL Encyclopedia of U.S. History, vol. 6, UXL, 2009, pp. 1189-1190. U.S. History In Context, Accessed 22 Apr. 2018.

Stockfisch, Jerome R. “”GUN SALES SPIKE IN WAKE OF VIOLENCE.”” Tampa Bay Times [St. Petersburg, FL], 9 July 2016, p. 4. U.S. History In Context, Accessed 22 Apr. 2018.

GUSFIELD, JOSEPH R. “”Alcohol and Crime: The Prohibition Experiment.”” Encyclopedia of Crime and Justice, edited by Joshua Dressler, 2nd ed., vol. 1, Macmillan Reference USA, 2002, pp. 44-50. U.S. History In Context, Accessed 11 Apr. 2018.

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Prohibition: Modern-Day Influence. (2019, Oct 30). Retrieved September 28, 2022 , from

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