Friday, January 16

A Toast to Temperance

image = women of the 1920s

By Grant Davies

On this day in 1920, the US government enacted a law that sought to regulate human behavior on a scale not seen before in the country. The results were, of course, disastrous. The law was destined to fail because none of the people whose behavior it was designed to alter had any intention whatsoever of complying. And there were a lot of them.

The law in question was the National Prohibition Act, more popularly known as the Volstead Act. It gave teeth to the newly passed constitutional amendment banning the use of alcohol for recreational purposes.

But the new law didn't fail at everything. It succeeded fantastically in many ways. For instance, it worked great at turning law abiding citizens into scofflaws and common criminals. It turned run of the mill ruffians into multimillionaire booze barons. Imbecile thugs like Al Capone became business titans. It spurred employment changes as former bartenders became black market delivery men. It expanded government hiring by turning former productive citizens into enforcement officers and bribe takers.

And let's face it, it made drinking so much more fun! Getting bombed at home and falling asleep in the rocking chair was replaced by sneaking out to speakeasies where knowing secret passwords and escape routes was all the rage. Instead of snoring in that chair, men could go meet naughty girls who liked to smoke cigarettes and dance. Many didn't wear bras either, oh the possibilities.

No other government program caused so much fun to be had by such formerly boring people. Other bad laws  in the future (fill in the blank) never gave such joy. The government finally realized everyone was having too much fun and called the whole thing off in 1933. But don't worry, the government wouldn't make the same mistake twice with other intoxicating substances. They are way too wise for that.

To celebrate "Volstead Day", invite some friends over for a glass (or two) of wine on a Friday evening and propose a toast to temperance. That's what we are going to do tonight. I'd invite you to join us if I was certain you wouldn't show up.

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