This Day in History: Prohibition comes to an end

On this day in 1933, Utah becomes the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, thus bringing an end to Prohibition.

YES! Bad ideas can be repealed! Which law(s) have been the worst congressional mistakes in recent memory, in your opinion? If Prohibition can be repealed, then they can be, too.

Prohibition began with ratification of the 18th Amendment in 1919. Herbert Hoover, one supporter of Prohibition, called it a “great social and economic experiment, noble in motive and far-reaching in purpose.” But some Americans supported the amendment without really knowing what they were getting: They thought it would ban the manufacture and sale of only hard liquor. They didn’t realize that wine and beer would also be included in the broad sweep of the law.

Needless to say, the Prohibition experiment failed. Liquor sales didn’t go away. They were still made, but on the black market. People who used to drink beer began drinking easier-to-smuggle hard liquor. Crime increased. And, of course, tax revenues were lost.

FDR supported repeal of Prohibition in the presidential campaign of 1932. The 21st Amendment was soon approved by Congress, on February 20, 1933.  The amendment was ratified in only 288 days.

In 1930, Senator Morris Sheppard, an author of the 18th Amendment, had claimed that there “is as much chance of repealing the Eighteenth Amendment, as there is for a humming-bird to fly to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail.”

It took only three years to prove him wrong.

We are a free people! Perhaps the failed experiment in Prohibition demonstrates at least one important principle: If a free people really want to take their liberty back, then they have the ability to do exactly that.