December 8, 2008

75 Years After Prohibition Repealed

We recently saw the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition in the United States. We know that Prohibition was an attempt by well-meaning Christians to legislate their version of morality, imposing it on their neighbors without regard to whether they shared their beliefs. We also know that it did little good and was not to be tolerated by the people on whom it had been imposed. What have we learned from this experience? Not a hell of a lot it seems.

I live in a "dry county" in Mississippi. Many small business owners periodically try to get this on the ballot so it can be overturned. Imagine running a restaurant and not being able to serve alcohol. Imagine owning a gas station/convenience store in a town with a university and not being able to sell beer. As for those of us who do not own such businesses, we would benefit from the increased tax revenue these businesses would generate if they were permitted to sell alcohol. It would be a boon to the local economy.

Unfortunately, none of this matters because the local churches, most of which are Southern Baptist, are able to mobilize voters who are all too eager to push their religious morality on others. It is not good enough for them to refrain from using alcohol; they want to prohibit others from doing so too. And because there are far more of them who show up to vote, they keep us dry.

Today, many people call for ending another form of prohibition - the war on drugs. We recognize that this effort has been a dismal and expensive failure. But again, a large segment of our population believes that drugs are immoral and has no problem with criminalizing drug use.

Even if I drive to a nearby county where it is legal to buy and possess alcohol, I am not allowed to buy beer on Sundays or after 2:00 am. I must go to a liquor store to buy liquor because grocery stores in my state are not allowed to sell it at all. I am not allowed to posses even small quantities of marijuana.

These restrictions do not inconvenience me much, especially since I no longer drink alcohol; however, I am not particularly thrilled with my government wasting money to enforce such laws simply because some religious believers are willing to turn their preferences into commandments and laws they then impose on others.