Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Paved With Good Intentions

George Will has really been on top of his game lately.  His most recent, on Prohibition, is particularly well done.  Here's a sample:

By 1900, per capita consumption of alcohol was similar to today's, but mere temperance was insufficient for the likes of Carry Nation. She was "six feet tall, with the biceps of a stevedore, the face of a prison warden, and the persistence of a toothache," and she wanted Prohibition. It was produced by the sophisticated tenacity of the Anti-Saloon League, which at its peak was spending the equivalent of 50 million of today's dollars annually. Okrent calls it "the mightiest pressure group in the nation's history." It even prevented redistricting after the 1920 Census, the first census to reveal that America's urban -- and most wet -- population was a majority.

Before the 18th Amendment could make drink illegal, the 16th Amendment had to make the income tax legal. It was needed because by 1910 alcohol taxes were 30 percent of federal revenue.

Workmen's compensation laws gave employers an interest in abstemious workers. Writes Okrent, Asa Candler, founder of the Coca-Cola Co., saw "opportunity on the other side of the dry rainbow." World War I anti-German fever fueled the desire to punish brewers with names such as Busch, Pabst, Blatz and Schlitz. And President Woodrow Wilson's progressivism became a wartime justification for what Okrent calls "the federal government's sudden leap into countless aspects of American life," including drink.

Categories > History

Discussions - 1 Comment

I agree, but also I think the legalization of pot is basically prohibition in reverse. We already have an income tax, but we are looking for greater sin taxes. The sense that the federal government has raised income taxes and foreclosed the ability of states to raise more income by income taxes will lead to more states going the way of California and Colorado.

Employers still have an interest in abstemious workers, and drug testing is not likely to go away. I am no big fan of prohibition, but clear thinking workers are best, and the size of the alchol caused externality is hard to figure. Previous to the BP disaster it was alcohol which was responsible for the largest US spill. How much it contributes to dui's, domestic abuse and violent crimes is still an open question.

I also wonder given our high unemployment numbers if many unemployed are busy smoking pot, and know they can't find a job until they can pass a urinalysis.

One of the worst things about pot is the time it stays in the system(30 days) so it isn't a great indicator of being work ready, a person who was drunk all weekend can show up to work and be sobber, supposing they maintain such a state a work related accident on a thursday would not be blammed on alchol, but the same isn't true of pot even if the proximate cause is just as tenuous. Technically you could be on a coke binge wen, be tired as a result thurs but pass the drug test on friday after the accident.

I will be interested to see how many workers on the BP platform if subjected to a drug test in the aftermath passed(provided the data isn't protected by work product).

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