On this date in 1919, Government proved fallible; lesson still not learned

On January 16, 1919, thirty six states ratified the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ushering in the era of Prohibition, bathtub gin, speakeasies and organized crime. The new law became effective January 17, 1920 and was repealed on December 5, 1933.

But the growth of criminal empires isn’t the only lesson in unintended consequences that our country’s short, torrid affair with abstinence provides, as prohibition itself may have been an unintended consequence of the adoption of the Sixteenth Amendment, which allows the federal government to directly tax income.

They ripped off our name, so I ripped off their graphic.

Prior to the Sixteenth Amendment’s adoption, liquor taxes supplied up to one-third of the federal government’s income; by 1920, the federal income tax had far outpaced liquor taxes and Prohibition became economically feasible.

In honor of Chicago’s storied past in the organized crime industry and as a reminder of the unintended consequences that inevitably accompany legislative action, Chicago restaurant Old Town Social teamed up with Goose Island Beer Company to steal our name honor us by naming a beer after us.

The Beer Almanac reviewed us our namesake beer:

It smells metallic and sour with unripened fruit.  Not inviting but not disgusting.  It tastes of … an almost mildewy quality.  An interesting affair, but there are many better choices out there.

Sounds about right.

12 comments

    • I Miss the 90s says:

      I think the point of the post was to underhandedly poke at Chicago. I am sure Todd wanted to spin a bunch of “government sucks” rhetoric into the message, but he, like all right wingers, probably forgot that we live in a democratic republic and The People can make bad decisions.

      I wonder why a similar post was not made in early October and on October 29th? Markets are fallible too (one could easily argue more fallible given the number of actors involved) and do not forget that prohibition was an event that took place in a political market (really an exchange).

      • I Miss the 90s says:

        “There’s are”? Nice English.

        The points are not subtle. You are not some brilliant political philosopher…you are just another run of the mill right-wing ideologue. Stop pretending you are so special.

        Prohibition was not a government take over or a conspiracy. A bunch of evangelists (you call them social conservatives) and women that suffered domestic abuse because of abusive and alcoholic husbands formed a campaign and sought to ratify a Constitutional Amendment, as is their right and duty. They were incorrect and I will not defend their logic, but I will defend their right to pursue such action. Prohibition was not a progressive conspiracy to institute an income tax like many right-wing fanatics believe. In fact, most that favored prohibition were not likely progressives. Was it Mark Twain that said: “Southerners will always vote for Prohibition, even if they have to stagger out of the tavern to do so.”

        Sure prohibition changed things. Excise taxes, estate taxes and tariffs were very important after the civil war, but the income tax preceded prohibition. At the time Congress could have decided on taxing in many available ways…they could have gone back to property taxes like they did in the 1790s, they could have focused more on tariffs like they did throughout the 19th century, or they had the option of using history’s most efficient method of taxation that carries with it some notion of democratic justice and make a more progressive income tax…which they did.

  1. Harry says:

    Around 1900 or so it’s said the liquor industry paid excise taxes which covered 70% of the federal budget – drinking was endemic in urban areas of the country. When the Depression hit in the early 1930s, the government needed to regain that revenue. If you want to understand why Prohibition was repealed, it had nothing to do with a libertarian renaissance. It had to do with raising revenue.

    • I Miss the 90s says:

      You mean being responsible.
      Liberty is not the only American virtue. We have to pay for what we use.

  2. SallyForth says:

    Of course government is fallible – who ever said it wasn’t? Last time I checked, the government is we, the people (aka, fallible, feet of clay.) With all it’s imperfections, the good old U S of A still runs better than most other governments. We the people need to get off our butts en masse and vote for people who have OUR best interest in mind (instead of corporations and other nonhuman entities).

    Then we pay attention to what they have the government agencies/employees do (instead of spending all our spare time on facebook and other time-wasters), phone and write en masse when they don’t do what they say they will, then vote in a new bunch if the current does not favor we, the people, and common sense regulation of white-collar, blue-collar, green-collar, any-color criminals. After 2 or 3 election cycles, the people we hire and pay in all three branches of government – legislative, executive and judicial – would be in tune with us, the electorate.

    • saltycracker says:

      I like what you say…but the signs indicate you are 180 degrees off the true direction….
      the scales have tipped against equal opportunity, folks want politicians that get them a better slice of the pie….

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